Death is a shock even when I see it coming.
I never know what to say. “Umm…. Sorry your mom is dead.” I grasp for words that will ease their grief. The truth is that there aren’t any. Words won’t change that. The person will still be gone. Those words, though tender in their escape from your lips, serve only to make you feel better. This time is not about you.
I am a socially awkward walrus even at my best. Grief and mourning adds a special layer of anxiety to an already emotionally heightened situation. I verbally vomit platitudes (best left to crocheted throw pillows and bathroom art) all over the loved one of the deceased in an effort to fill the spaces.
She’s in a better place.
This too shall pass.
Grief is but a season.
Time heals all wounds.
Don’t cry. He would want you to be happy.
I know exactly how you feel.
Let me know if there is anything I can do.
Look at all the good things in your life.
Everything happens for a reason.
It was her time to go.
How are you doing?
My instinct is to serve up sterile platitudes to plug the holes in the silence. The reality is that a human’s response to loss isn’t sterile. Human emotions are messy and complex. Platitudes are a Band-Aid on an arterial wound. You feel like you are helping but it does nothing to stanch the bleeding. It is cheap white bread. It is immediately accessible but fails to satisfy. The needs of the grieving call for substance. This is not the time for the fast food of human interaction.
What if there are no right words to say?
What if love in the face of loss is showing up?
Showing up means moving past what feels uncomfortable and standing in the emptiness of loss with another. “I see that you are hurting. I know I can’t take that away, but I am here. You are not alone.”
Perhaps showing up is a hand to be held, or a shoulder to lean on. Perhaps it is scrubbing a toilet or going grocery shopping. Showing up might be putting gas in a car, or sitting in companionable silence. Love, just like pain, shows up in many flavors. Let your actions do the talking.
Here’s the thing: grief and the work of mourning are tasks for the living. We need one another to find our feet. We weren’t meant to go it alone.
I see you.
Even when words fail me, I will show up for you.
Love is showing up.