Friday, January 24, 2014

What You Say Doesn't Matter...But What You Mean Sure Does

I think as humans, we are genetically programmed to always say the exact wrong thing, at the exact wrong moment. 

At what moment in history did someone decide that the right thing to say when someone was missing their partner/husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/mom/dead/whoever, was "You should get out and do something, it's what X would have wanted." I mean really, who came up with that? That is so not helpful. 

I went to Vegas this past weekend with my friend Kattie and her sisters. Her youngest sister, Sarah, recently lost her husband, and apparently that is the response she keeps getting from people when she doesn't feel like doing anything, or when she feels guilty about having fun instead of grieving, or just whenever. The point being, she does not appreciate the response. And understandably so, because it is truly an idiotic thing to say. 

But it is no one's fault that somewhere a million years ago, someone decided that it's what you should say in that moment. I explained to her - because she is 21 and I am 30 and therefore I know everything - that people just want to say something, anything, to provide her with comfort...and that truthfully none of us have a clue what to say, so usually we will say something that is, in fact, idiotic. 

Additionally, when did we decide that after a funeral, you're supposed to feel better, to move on, to be ready to let go? Um, no. That is not how it works. A funeral is not a magic place where we go to get over the earth shattering loss of a loved one. I think a loss stays with you forever. A funeral is just a place to be supported and feel the love while you attempt to feel a little peace. But I feel like people forget that, and they expect you to "be better" after you've held the service and said your final farewells. I don;'t know about any of you, but I have never felt instantly better after a funeral. In fact, I usually feel worse after a funeral - probably because I am programmed to think I should feel better, or that I should have been prepared to say a final goodbye, lay someone to rest in the back of my head and get over it. And that just isn't how the mind works, and that isn't how grief takes place. 

Again, I think people just want to say something, they want to provide comfort, they want to say the right thing...but in reality, when you are suffering the loss of someone you love, words mean nothing. At least not to me. A hug means so much more to me than an awkward sentence about how my being happy would make my deceased friend happy. Don't. Say. Dumb. Shit. 

I have lost a lot of people in my life in sudden and unexpected ways, and several of them are still with me, still make me sad, still bring me tears sometimes. These are people whose funerals I attended, and did not feel better after. These are people who surely would not "want me to go out and have fun." These are people who died too soon, too young, and who I will never stop grieving the loss of. And that's fine. Grief becomes a part of you, a piece of your soul that you live with, that changes who you are. Grief has made me a more compassionate soul, has made me better able to express love and emotion, and has allowed me to cherish time better. I have also learned, through my own experience, to never tell any grieving person that it'll be ok or that they can find peace or closure after a certain number of days/weeks/months. I know that isn't how it works. 

My mom told me recently that the reason bad shit happens to us is so that the next time something bad happens to someone we love, we'll know how to help them. I love that. It's true. After losing a dear friend in high school, another in college, a man I was in love with, grandparents I cherished, an aunt who always made me laugh...I know that nothing but time will make a difference. Time is the only thing that helps grief fade into your soul. And I know all I need to do is be a reminder of love and support, even if that means I have no words, just a hug with good intentions behind it.