Saturday, October 13, 2012

Good grief, Charlie Brown!

Let's face it. Grief makes us uncomfortable.  Particularly other people's grief.  It's hard to know what the right thing is to say or do to bring someone else comfort when they're grieving. 

Yesterday I went to a viewing for a good guy who I didn't know very well.  But what little experience I had with him impressed me.  He was a father who volunteered to be a coach in the league I was directing.  When no-one else would. 

I also went to the last game of his season on Monday.  The 12/13 girls wanted to win it in honor of the coach they had lost.  And they did.  It was bitter sweet.  The girls were excited about the victory, and yet, there were moments of pause about the loss they experienced. 

In the middle of the game, at half-time, both teams, and the coaches, gathered in the middle of the field for a moment of silence, and a prayer for peace and comfort for those who were suffering loss.

And after the game, the girls on the team gave his daughter flowers to express their support for their team-mate.  There were tears and smiles.

I went to show my support.  I hadn't ever met his mother before, and I don't know that I knew who was his fiance.  There was a bit of awkwardness on my end, and yet, I knew it was important to show up.

And that's why I went to the viewing. 

I didn't have the perfect words.

And I have come to understand that there are no perfect words.  Any words are sufficient.  You just have to show up.

I have been experiencing my own grief - and displaying it quite broadly here in the blog and elsewhere.

And there's that awkward silence from many folks, uncertain what to say.  And then there's the others who just show up, just step in not knowing what to say, but nonetheless they just show up.

And my grief is no comparison to the grief that this family is experiencing.  I don't mean to suggest they are the same.  Just to explain where I have gained some of my perspective.

This evening I discovered that a childhood friend passed away.   One of the few boys I kissed before I realized I prefer kissing girls.  His sister and I were good friends, and I fooled around with him a little as sometimes kids do.  I haven't seen him or spoken to him in 25+ years, but have stayed in touch with his sister.  His loss is one step removed from me.  But at one time I knew him much better than the man whose waxy visage I viewed yesterday, and so it strikes me differently. 

It is easy to hesitate and say nothing because you are worried you will say the wrong thing.  And heck you are one of many - who will notice if you show up or don't?  But that's not the reason we support someone experiencing grief.  We support them to let them know they are not alone.

Because, ultimately, that is the core of grief.  Feeling alone.  Feeling left behind. 

I feel a need - Lord only knows why, but there it is - to clarify a little about my grief.  I do miss certain people in my life that were important to me.  I am grieving the loss of the relationships that I shared with these folks.  And even though their absence, in some ways, seems to remain with me, it isn't something that is so painful.  It just is something that is.  So, I don't want you all to worry so much that I am "sad" when I say I miss my friend, or express my grief.  The sore is not so raw, it is not bleeding.  It is not an outstanding wound.  It's merely a scar at this point.  And even then, I put aloe vera on it every day, and it fades.  I'm okay.  I'll be okay.  It just like, every once in awhile, I like to be reminded I am not alone rather than remember being left alone by some folks. 

I don't know if that makes more sense, or clarifies things for folks out there who support me, but I hope it does.  I am okay.  I will be okay.  But these people marked my life, and I carry those marks.  And I look down, every once in awhile, and see them.  :)  Don't worry too much... ;)  And don't worry about what words you use.  Ultimately, the words don't matter.  Just showing up matters. 


  1. I hear ya.

    I used to commute into Boston every morning for work, and the whole trip was close to two hours. We took the commuter rail, and on this trip I met a fellow. (Several, but this story is about only one).

    This fellow and my group (which consisted of myself, a friend who I started this commuting trip with, and a bunch of folks who took the same train, at the same time in the mornings, and sometimes in the afternoon) got to know each other fairly well, and stayed friendly for a couple years.

    Eventually, jobs changed, commutes changed, I no longer work in Boston, nor does he, but we kept in touch via email, and subsequently Facebook.

    Five or so years later, I'd seen him exactly once when we met for lunch. The tragedy is that he lives in the same city as me, and works less than a mile away, but life gets in the way.

    Anyhow, his wife's folks both died within days of one another a couple weeks ago. I saw a post on his Facebook wall, and asked for the service specifics. I went.

    It was beyond awkward. I knew him, and VAGUELY knew his wife. She'd come on a few of the commutes with him, but I probably never said more than a dozen words to her.

    But I went, knowing it would be very strange.

    The deaths were expected, I think, and a relief, as they'd been sick. This friend of mine is a Rabbi, so he was rather at peace with it. I'm generally eloquent enough to get by, and such, but I could feel the eyes on me. Nobody knew who I was. I didn't go to the bodies, because I didn't know them, they never knew me, and I was there for two people. I spoke with them, and shook a hand or two in the line, but I kinda edged my way out to the outskirts.

    The friend of mine talked with me for a little bit, and the conversation inevitably went to Dungeons and Dragons, as it's apt to do with geeks like us, but I kinda cut it short cause I wasn't sure how the folks around us would take it, etc...

    But yes, I had to go. It was important.

    Good post, sorry to drop a word bomb in your comments. :)

    1. No need for apologies, my friend! You illustrate my point beautifully...

  2. Well said. Sometimes, ther just are no words; in those times, a quiet presence speaks volumes. (((hugs)))