Recently I was in a conversation about how so many people do not know what to say to the loved ones of someone who is ill, or who have just lost someone dear.
I understand this. I used to be so uncomfortable with loss. I would panic, and I would avoid. How do you talk to someone who has just lost a parent, when you still have both of yours, and life isn't fair? How do you make them feel better?
And then I learned that they do not expect you to make them feel better; in fact, the odds are you will not, in any large way. You might momentarily, though.
And here I should note that I do not mean to sound preachy, and if you have anything to add, I would welcome it.
Because here's the problem with not saying anything, or with crossing the street to avoid talking to someone you would previously have chatted with: it comes across as uncaring, unkind. Maybe even rude and weird.
I know from my own experience with my dad's suicide attempts, and then from his death, that many people do not know what to say. There were people who weren't close friends, but who I knew cared about me, who did not say anything.
By then I knew that it was lack of knowing what to say, rather than not caring about me. But it still creates some awkwardness.
Sometimes they will avoid you. Or if they don't, it would be easier if they did, because there is this big THING hanging there unspoken, and your conversation is all kinds of trivial and odd.
A couple people said something like, "I feel weird..." or I just don't know what to say..." and that works perfectly. Grieving people understand this. Nobody really knows what to say.
It just fucking sucks.
You can also say, depending on the person's profanity tolerance, exactly that: It just fucking sucks.
But the simplest thing to say, I think, is this. "I'm so sorry." If you are a hugger, and you want to give the person a hug, ask if they would like one.
If you don't know the person well, but well enough that bumping into them and not saying anything would be awkward, you can say, "I heard the news. I'm so sorry."
You don't need to ask any questions. You don't have to offer to cook them dinner. You don't need to share your experience or feelings.
I would add that unless you are friends and you know the grieving person is religious and will be in agreement and be comforted by this thought, do not say, "They are in a better place."
Because that can make a person stabby, because they are probably feeling like, no, in fact, the better place would be STILL HERE WITH ME.
Also do not say things like, "You're strong. God only gives people what they can handle."
It turns out that I can handle a fuck-ton, but I don't believe God has dished out extra helpings to me because I'm strong enough.
So if you're someone who gets flustered, who wants to run away, just remember: "I'm so sorry."
That's all you need to say.