Sympathy.

Its easier to think about death, write about death, imagine it even, when you aren’t in the throws of grief and loss.  The mind can noodle ideas and theories around about what happens after we die all day long, as long as it isn’t your loved one who just transitioned.  Even though on a conscious level we know that death is perhaps the only sure part of everyone’s life, when it arrives, I find there is still an element of surprise, disbelief, and resentment that comes along with it, even when its expected and mixed in with a little relief.  The questions come.  Why her?  Why him?  Why now?  Why in this way?  I sort of did this when one of my dearest family members was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer last year.  He is cancer free today, but at time, it was an impossibly hard diagnosis to accept, as was the idea of his possible death, which for the record, I never even allowed in my conscious thoughts.  Even though I knew it was a possibility, I didn’t sit with the idea, feel the weight of it or let it pass through me.  I focused on manifesting his health and wellness and didn’t indulge in the dark side of the what if’s.  I don’t know if this was wise, or the right thing to do in these cases, I’m just sharing my experience and level of denial.  Even in the middle of his chemo treatments which cruelly transformed him from a strong man with enough swagger to go around to a thin and constantly nauseous shell of his former self, I remember telling my crumbling family members,  “that is what chemo looks like” or “that is what recovering from cancer looks like”.  It turns out I was right (as usual), but had it gone the other way, you can bet I would be a different person today. (FYI: in the minute it took you to read that paragraph, 108 people around the world have died.  Source: CIA World Factbook)

Last week, two friends of mine lost parents.  One lost mom, one lost dad.  In addition, this summer, a dear friend lost her sister to ALS and my best friend lost her dog of 13 years. There are really no words when a catastrophe like this hits.  I find myself lamely saying one word.  Sorry.   But here’s the thing, I really am sorry.  I wish there was something I could do, but there isn’t.  I can only stand by and feel the loss along with them.  Jodi Picoult wrote in her novel Change of Heart, “words are like nets – we hope they’ll cover what we mean, but we know they can’t possibly hold that much joy, or grief, or wonder.” In my opinion, no wants to hear cliches about them being angels now, this being God’s will, or them being in a better place.  Even if these “words of comfort” are true, I’m pretty sure if I had lost my loved one to cancer last year, I would have socked anyone who tried to comfort me with that bullshit.  Grief leaves you brokenhearted.  Or just broken.  J.K. Rowling wrote in Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix, “You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”  True that.  My point is, when comforting others, less is always more.  Trust.

I do have a small collection of ideas and thoughts on the matter.  I will share a few of them now, and hope it comforts those who are searching for answers, mourning, or needing to hear words beyond the typical condolences.  If you aren’t grieving, great!  Perhaps this post will inspire you think about life’s big questions like, What is the purpose of your life?  Do you want to know the exact moment you are going to die? If you only had one hour to live, what would you do?  How do you want die?  What do you think happens when we die?  What things in life should always remain a mystery? (questions taken from  Rainn Wilson‘s book, Soulpancake )

“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief.  But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” ~Hilary Stanton Zunin

This one comes from my friend who lost her sister.  She heard this in her spiritual group.  When she shared it, I wrote it down.  I feels like truth to me:                                                “In the end, you will find no sin, no guilt, no retribution.  Only life in it’s endless transformations, with the desolation of the personal I.  All suffering disappears and all that remains is the great sadness of compassion and the horror of unnecessary suffering.”

“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.” ~John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars.  The deeper the grief, the closer is God.”         ~Foyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

“Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.”                                                                                                                                     ~Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha 

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.” Jose N. Harris, Mi Vida

“See, as much as you want to hold on to the bitter sore memory that someone has left this world, you are still in it. And the very act of living is a tide: at first it seems to make no difference at all, and then one day you look down and see how much pain has eroded.”    ~Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

“Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope”               ~Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

“My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.”                                                              ~Jandy Nelson, The Sky is Everywhere

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