Expressing concern for someone’s grief always leaves me wordless… I am mindful not to deliver the usual cliché condolences as these phrases can instigate more suffering and be invalidating.
“I understand how you feel,” is often used even when it’s not comprehensibly possible to know what someone else is experiencing.
“There is purpose in everything,” ouch – while true – not important to hear about in the midst of grief.
“Things will get better,” not helpful in the present moment when loss is so fresh and suffering is so painful.
Being fearful of saying the wrong thing leads me to say “I’m sorry,” and then stare blankly in the absence of something profound or the necessary empathetic expression which actually may help.
The reason this is on my mind is because of an e-mail I received from a friend last week. She and I met several years ago in school, we work in the same field several hours away from each other and keep up with each other’s lives sparingly through Facebook, phone conversations and the occasional lunch. My friend was elated to report of her pregnancy this spring, shared pics of her pregnant belly via Facebook and asked me questions about labor and planning for a newborn. To say there was no baby daddy drama would be like belittling the Clinton sex scandal. Regardless of no stable relationship she was glowing with excitement about this growing miracle. From a distance it appeared her life revolved around preparing, planning and providing for the little one, and her smile in the pictures could not have been any brighter.
Her e-mail indicated she had gone into pre-term labor last week and delivered her baby at only 22 weeks gestation. The tiny 1lb 1oz girl was too premature to survive and passed with less than an hour in life on earth.
The thought of what she is experiencing right now takes my own breath away and puts me in a state of grief considering with how devastating the experience would be. I want to hug my friend, I want to be able provide the explanation she doesn’t have as to how this could have happened, I want to fast forward to the point in life where she can feel some happiness again. I really want to know what I can say to bring her some comfort because I am without words right now.