Something I’ve discovered is how many stock phrases are said to bereaved people. One of my least favourite is the question “Is there anything I can do?" Now, think for a moment about what the other person can’t decently say because it would seem too presumptuous or needy.
They cannot even say:
You could invite me round for a meal.
You could just ask me round for a coffee.
You could phone me for ten minutes on a Friday night because that’s when I feel such despair at the weekend stretching ahead.
It may be that they do have someone they can say these things to but as the enquirer you need to a. assume that they don’t b. ask yourself if they can really say them to you. If you think they can’t, YOU ask them round or phone them for a chat.
In the end, when people asked me if there was anything they could do, I would respond:
Not unless you can think of anything (fuckwit.)
The fuckwit is in parenthesis because I didn’t actually say that bit. In any case, I’ve fallen into the fuckwit category myself in the past. I’ve even gone a step worse than asking if there is anything I can do and I’ve just said nothing at all. I did this when someone in the office lost her husband years ago. I really wanted to tell her how sorry I was. The first time I went into the office I plucked up my courage…and then someone else spoke to her about a letter that needed sending and the moment just wasn’t right. After that I felt stupid saying anything because I’d already seen her and so the sum total of what I said was this
I felt guilty about this but I told myself it didn’t matter as she no doubt had lots of other people helping her and I might be intruding on her grief and anyhow she would know how sorry I felt, surely that was a given?
All absolute fuckwittery on my part.
When you are grieving, you will usually find a source of solace in those who have been through a major bereavement themselves. Apart from a few rare souls, most other people will be as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Those who have been bereaved come to you out of their own pain, they almost come because they need help- and there’s nothing wrong with that.
This post has come about because I've bumped into a few people recently who've all told me they've been thinking about me constantly or been wondering whether to get in touch etc, etc. I've no idea if this is true, all I know is that they haven't been in touch. I don't blame them for this because I know that most of us find subjects such as illness, suffering and death very difficult to deal with. I wish we didn't but we do. Meanwhile I just remain fervently thankful for those people who have kept in touch and pledge in the future to show more empathy myself- or be less of a fuckwit if you prefer that idea.