My grand mother died on the 23rd of July this year (2016). For reason’s I’ll probably address some other time, I didn’t cry or get hugely moved even though she raised me for a while in my very early days and would always let me have a cheeky sip of her White Cap beer when she’d come visit over Christmas time.
But that’s not the main observation here – no.
When we lose someone, and reach the point where we can tell others, the way they respond sounds like a canned response:
“I’m so sorry for your loss”
My knee jerk response is, “No, you don’t need to be” or, “Why? You didn’t contribute to her death”. Equally when I’ve heard someone’s died I find it hard to say anything genuine because I actually just want to say, “how are you holding up?” That’s the only genuine concern I have of the matter.
Death happens, tragic situations happen. If we’re at that stage where we can’t do the public thing whilst having such a thing on our minds then we should really stay around the close-knit circle of friends and family for support until we can stand on our own two feet again.
For some of us – we kind of have no option but to grieve for a very short period of time then put that shit away in a box for another time to unpack and deal with. That could take years.
But I digress.
Having had to fly over to Kenya, initially to support my mother and her brother with the loss of their mother, I was exposed to Western and traditional mannerisms. Not only with dealing with the above phrases about apologising for losses, but the traditional respect of elders and their using this moment to celebrate life and to enjoy memories of those who have departed and those who have now come together to bid farewell.
“I remember when you were this tall…” was the running joke when people heard my name. Initially I’d politely smile and wait for a memory nugget to be revealed and then laugh politely or genuinely depending on the hilarity of the memory – thankfully mostly the latter happened. Apparently I was a head-strong loud mouth for the most part. Nothing new there.
After a while, I figured a gentle but happy response: “That seems to be the running joke this weekend!” and everyone would laugh and the stories would continue. Always happy, even the serious notes.
Coming back from such an inspiring space and home, to the 100% western canned responses of “loss” irked me initially, then another response came out of sheer frustration: “Don’t be”
Don’t be sorry for my loss. I know many other people will probably find comfort in the canned response and the automatically reassuring pat on the shoulder or hug. And I now realise that I’m doing that thing I roll my eyes at when I read passive aggressive posts from men and women about situations that happened and how incensed they felt..and how they didn’t do anything.
But this is my mental dumping ground so – whatever.
I guess I could put an intention out by way of being more considerate for sensitive situations and rather than choose to be quiet and suffer the most insufferable deer in headlights moment when your trying to think of something genuine to say, but you know most of what you want to say is not the correct canned response, choose simply to say (because it’s your truly genuine question of support in a matter of loss):
“How are you holding up?