I have a problem consoling people when they lose someone they love. Me, who never seems to run out of something to say. But it’s true. When my father-in-law died, I held my husband until he could no longer cry but I said very little. We stayed at his family’s house for the duration of the wake, I helped out after work… I did everything to let Speedy know that I shared his grief and that I was there if he needed to talk, cry, reminisce or just to have someone to sit beside him. But I had nothing much to say.
When my uncle — my mother’s only sibling — died, I never said much to his widow and children. And those cousins are probably the ones I have always been closest to. I was there with my family almost every day of the wake. I brought my cousins and aunt cooked food. When I was asked to write the “in memoriam” for the obituary page, they didn’t have to ask twice — I even personally went to the nearest branch of the Manila Bulletin. But console them with words, I did not. Cried with them, I did not either.
When my own father died, I never quite knew how to react when people offered condolences and sympathies.
It isn’t an inability to grieve or to share someone’s grief. It’s just that there are no proper or enough words to say. Offering condolences seems so pro forma. Flowers just seem so ordinary and useless. Reciting prayers by rote just feels too robotic.
No, I’m not posting this because we lost someone recently.
Ben sent me a link to the blog of someone named Jim Johnson whom I don’t know personally. His 14-year-old son Jeff died after he got “hit in the back of the neck by a lacrosse ball during the warm-ups for a game.” I wanted to leave a comment and I stared at my monitor for some time trying to decide what to type in the comment box. Then I realized I had nothing to say that wouldn’t sound so insignificant in his grief. I can’t even say I know how he feels. The truth is, I hope I never know how he feels because I don’t want to lose a child.
Sometimes, there simply are no words.