“I am sorry for your loss.” I have said it myself many times, and continue to say it myself to this day. After a significant loss, this is a phrase you will hear it over and over, and for many years to come. It is uncomfortable, and even 8 years later, I am not used to hearing it. Does the actual phrase help?…well no…there are no magic words that heal or make things all better. But it does acknowledge that someone sees your pain, the pain you have gone through, are going through, and the pain that is yet to come. People may not have lived your life or shared your same loss, but they are acknowledging that you have had significant loss, and the wish is that you had never had to endure such grief.
I have said this before, but it deserves to be repeated. The people in your life do not know what to say or do, and truly there is nothing that is going to “take it all away” or “make it all better.” Friends, family, co-workers, and strangers on the street feel awkward at the mention of a significant loss. The phrase “I am sorry for your loss” is not intended to make you feel better, it is intended to acknowledge. Please do not judge the content but accept the spirit with which is was intended. Do not find offense in words that do not comfort you, but instead find comfort in the fact that people care.
After the loss of husband, I received many sentiments of care and concern. I received calls, texts, emails, letters, cards, posts, and if I took the time to look at the sky, I may have even seen a smoke signal or two. Sympathy cards and notes of sentiment are not comforting to everyone. Honestly, I have polled other widows and widowers, the results were pretty close to 50/50. It actually shocked me a little, because honestly, I felt uplifted by the outpouring of support I received from others. I was so appreciative of people that cared and took time away from their busy lives to write and to reach out, and believe it or not send money, or donate to the charitable cause we recommended in my husband’s honor. It brought tears of joy to my eyes daily for a number of weeks. I have since been shocked to learn that others, in similar situations, did not experience the same appreciation. But then again, everyone’s grief journey is so very different.
I have heard from other widows/widowers that they have yet to even open a single card or letter, months, or years after they were delivered. That even the thought is still too painful to face. And others still that find no comfort at in words of sympathy And yet an albeit smaller group that almost seem angered by the outreach, and perhaps at life in general since the loss.
I for one, was so moved by the letters and notes I received. Friends and family that took time to expose the most vulnerable sides of themselves, those that shared their own loss experiences with me at the most vulnerable time in my life. I hold those words dear to my heart, and even though to I do not necessarily interact with these people every day, I will always feel joined to them and blessed to have them in my life.
It is because of this vulnerability, shared bond, and comfort that I felt, that I now take time to write my from my own personal experience to those in my life that go through loss. I do hope that they take my words for the spirit of the intention, and recognize that although I cannot make things all better, not that I exactly understand their experience, but that I recognize the pain they are in and hope that they can find comfort in that or an ear to listen if needed.