Grief is a funny thing. Watching people trying to deal with your grief is an even funnier thing. Also an irritating thing. Sometimes even an infuriating thing.
I've been starting to go out more, trying to conquer the hurdle that is hanging out with large groups of people, people who aren't my family or my very dearest friends. In today's pages, Alex writes about not being ready to see casual friends and acquaintances after being released from prison. I guess we have that in common, as the level of anxiety I feel about those very kinds of interactions is humiliating and near debilitating.
The worst part about seeing these kinds of friends, friends who are close enough to know that my brother died, but who are not so close that I'd give them my HBO NOW password, is that they don't seem to know what to say to me during this aftermath, so instead, they say nothing. Since the last time I saw these people was when Alex was still a pain in my ass and not a blip in the obituary section, I guess I expect some sort of small acknowledgement of this fact. I mean, the last thing I want to do is pour my guts out over beers at a party, but I guess I was hoping people may think of something better to say to me than, "How's it going? What's new with you?" What's new with me? Gee, not much I guess. Just questioning everything I ever thought I knew while mourning my best friend THANKS FOR ASKING.
I don't mean to sound angry, because I'm not, really. I understand that being around sad people is hard. Humans are pack animals, after all. We have a tendency to isolate the weak, because if we associate with the lethargic, skinny, watery-eyed outcast, we may be next. I get it. It's hard to know what to say and what to do when someone you know is grieving. I understand how one could think that, in cases like mine, saying nothing could be better than saying the "wrong" thing. I'm sure my very presence is making people uncomfortable right now, and I hate that. If I'm going to make people feel uncomfortable, I want it to be because I'm dressed as Madonna and "Like a Virgin" just came on and I'm three drinks in and starting to reenact Madonna's 1984 MTV Awards performance where she humps the floor.
Yep. That happened.
But I think that we'd all be more comfortable if we just said what was going on. When you see a friend who just lost someone, please don't ignore that fact. It's all they are thinking about, and by making them ignore it, you're making them pretend it didn't happen. Since asking a grieving person what they want you to say would be Spock-level blunt and inappropriate, allow me to suggest some more sensitive, less Vulcan things to say to someone going through the grieving process.
"I am so sorry about your ______."
"We don't have to talk about it, but if you'd like to talk about what you're going through, I'd like to listen."
"Your _____ died and that's really, really terrible."
"It's good to see you. I'm sorry you're going through this."
"I don't know what to say."
"It won't make this better, but here is a beer/cookie/kitten/mixtape."
"I've been thinking about you."
"Remember that time you grinded on the floor to 'Like a Virgin?' What feels worse, the morning after that, or losing your brother?"
J/k on that last one.
Here are some things you should definitely NOT say:
"Time heals," or any variation of that.
"He/she will always be with you."
"He/she is in a better place."
"It was their time."
"At least it's over now."
"Everything happens for a reason."
"Can I have their _____?"
Yep. I've actually been asked that last one.
Because I've never grieved like this before, and therefore have never had to watch people watch me grieve before, I think the fair thing for me to do is to help people help me, and help people help others. Sitting on the sideline and hoping people meet my unspoken expectations is making all of this awkward for everyone. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather leave the awkwardness for when I walk out of a bar bathroom with the back of my skirt tucked up into my tights, exposing the entirety of my butt, and not noticing until a strange drunk lady tells me as much, okay? Let's all just say the words. We'll feel better for it.
(That also happened.)
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