There was a time, and oh how I long for it again, when I never knew what to say to someone in grief. Somehow "I'm sorry" never felt like enough. But then I lost my dad. I know now that any gesture of kindness is appreciated by a grieving person. Well, I guess I shouldn't speak for all grieving people, but for me, the simplest acknowledgement was comforting.
And yet, even now that I know how much your heart can hurt when you've lost someone you adored--more than you ever thought possible, and in a much more physically painful way than you ever imagined it would be--I still search for the perfect thing to say. I know that "I'm sorry" is probably sufficient, yet I still feel the need to say something more, something that conveys how truly sad I am. I still try. Most of us probably do.
Today I was shopping at the Powell's Books web site and saw that Lauren Weedman, whom you may recognize from those funny "I love the [whatever]" shows on VH1, was a recent guest blogger. She wrote this piece on interesting ways some people react to others' suffering. I thought it was funny and heartwarming and real. Here it is:
November 5th, 2007: Posted by Lauren Weedman
Noooooo. Is this the last day of my blogging for Powells? I hate that.
I may have to start my own website called "Blogging for Powells" just because I've loved the mere idea of waking up and the first image in my mind is a bookstore in Portland. It replaces the image of me naked and sobbing on a scale. I guess that one's not an 'image'... more a memory.
At the hair salon place yesterday I was lying back to get my hair washed by my hair lady Sashiko — and I heard the lady next to me say, "My brother died in March and this November is his birthday. And it's the first birthday without him. And with the holidays coming right after that — it's going to be so —" And the lady who was washing her hair chimed in — loudly and with a crazy cheerful voice — "Isn't Emily's Birthday in December?"
Apparently she didn't want to hear this sad news as she deep conditioned. So she just chirped her way past it. I should have leaned over and chirped in a, "Hey! Did I hear March? MY birthday is in March!" That's the way they do it in the Midwest.
I remember right after I got divorced and I called my parents and started crying about how it was all so much harder then I thought it was going to be — and my mom brought her voice up into a happier octave and sang, "Oh my gosh — it's just tough all over! Are you still liking your car?"
Her idea is always that she wouldn't want to upset me more by saying something like "That must be hard," just in case I'd completely moved on in the half a second since I MENTIONED IT and she was just bringing up all these painful memories. That I'd moved on from... in that half a second.
But I love her. I can tell stories like that about her on a blog for all to read — BUT YOU BETTER NOT TALK SHIT ABOUT MY MOTHER.
The woman in the salon — she was so sad. Oh, her voice... I wanted to reach over and grab her hand and tell her that something like, "Yeah, that's tough," but she had on this giant smock that they give us to wear — this big poncho to protect us while we get our hair cut. I'd have to pat around for a while to find her hand under it. I imagined myself patting away — pat... pat... pat... pat... "That's not your hand... okay, there's your belt... now I'm going in the wrong direction — where's your damn hand so I can... comfort — GOT IT!"
I thought about the lady and her brother as I got my hair cut — and as I was walking out I passed her buying some shampoo — and I really wanted to tell her something so I told her that her hair looked amazing.
I should work in grief counseling.
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Lauren Weedman made her television debut on Comedy Central's Emmy Award-winning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in 2001 as a featured correspondent. She is the author of A Woman Trapped in a Woman's Body.
Totally unrelated fun fact: Lauren Weedman was once a cast member of Almost Live!, the Seattle sketch comedy show. One of my all-time favorite sketches: Cops in Ballard. Man, I miss that show.