genorosity and mourning

Loss is a curious thing. We experience loss in various ways, various levels. We lose keys, money, library books, friends and other people we love. Sometimes what we think we've lost, we end up finding. Some losses are deep, profound like when someone you love dies. People say, "I'm sorry for your loss." I think what we mean is "I'm sorry for what will now be forever missing from your life." But that sentiment isn't as neatly packaged or succinct as "I'm sorry for your loss." As a culture, we don't talk about death or mourning. In one of Cheryl Strayed's essays, I think "Love of my Life" but it might have been "Heroine," she talks about how as a culture we allow a limited time for mourning. We expect someone to be sad at the funeral and perhaps a few days, or weeks (if we're generous) afterwards. Unfortunately grief doesn't work this way.

When Candace died, I went completely numb. It took years for me to mourn her, to really and truly grieve. And there are moments, times when I still feel the loss of her so deeply it hurts. Michelle, I know, feels this way about her father's death. Even after a year, I find her crying in the bathroom or wailing into her pillow. It is difficult to hold her, to give her the space to feel. My instincts are to soothe her instead I am quiet. I smooth her hair. Sometimes I leave her alone. To hold back and not do anything is all I know I can do. I remember watching my father sit at bedsides in hospitals, not speaking, not praying, just sitting. He was just there. His presence was calming for the people who were sick or those who were the beloved or bereaved. He never said things, "They're better off;" or "It was the Lord's will;" or "It was their time." None of these phrases actually mean anything and my father knew it. He did not understand loss or grief or mourning but he did get people. And he knew, somehow, that grief has no timeline and no expiration date.

Still when his own father died of prostate cancer, my father was thrown. Three years later when his Grandmother died, he could barely bring himself to walk into the church for the service. Grief always seems to be a stranger, a traveler we never get used to no matter how many times we've come across his/her path.

All of this is to say to those who have recently lost someone who was loved and beloved in so many ways, that my thoughts are with them. I did not know Berto in real life, only as a reader and writer of blogs. His beautiful words encouraged me, gave me hope and made me laugh on particularly dark days. I can only imagine his warmth off the screen. There are no words that will bring peace or comfort to those who loved and have lost Berto. My hope is that those surrounding them will give them space and time to grieve; no matter how long or how much it takes. This is a difficult time for many people. And all I know is that everyone mourns differently. So take however much time and whatever steps necessary to feel whatever it is you feel. Be generous to one another.