Hey SM! I know you’re in a very difficult situation but I felt I feel relieved if I share with you. I lost my uncle yesterday as he was suffering from pneumonia. He was healthy ,fit and strong. He was a very disciplined person. He is survived with two daughters of age 21 and 15 respectively. I feel so bad for them . I am unable to console them. I am not understanding what to say. How to console them. Kindly help.
A dear friend of mine, who I have never met, wrote to me just now. When I read this, I thought I would reply immediately in an email. But then, her pain is what all of us have felt at some point in our lives. Maybe, any of you can offer better words to our friend. Please do offer her support. And what solace can my poor words offer against the indescribable pain of loss? Death is what happens to others – it’s the ones who are living who question the purpose of living. When I was young, I didn’t know how to cope with grief. Now, in middle age, I still don’t know how to cope with grief.
There are no words we can offer, my friend, that makes sense. Words lose their power and potency in the wake of this. But, here’s what we can do. Forget the words. If you can be with them, be with them. Offer them the comfort of your physical presence, if that is possible, given these times.
I am reminded of what Siddharth Shangvi wrote in ‘Loss.’
“At the end, we receive ashes. They are not condensations of being but a reminder that even fire cannot destroy what has been loved. ––”
Remind your cousins of love. I see your kindness and empathy – those are beautiful feelings they will receive, no matter the words you are struggling with.
Offer them the space to talk. Ask them how you can help. Sometimes, we think we have the answers. But what we think as help may not be what they want. Don’t be shy to ask them what they want. Do they want to talk? Or do they want to just have you by their side? Do they want to be silent? Honor their wish.
Tell them you will get through this together. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. There’s no endpoint to it. And it’s okay for you to admit: “I’m not sure what to say, but I am here for you.” That is also enough.
Tell them it’s okay not to be okay. Allow them to cry, grieve, rant or anything that can express their grief. It’s also okay that you don’t know what to say.
Talk to them about their Dad. Tell them a favorite memory of his that you remember.
And may I urge you not to say:
It happened for a reason (Not helpful at all)
He is in a better place (Death is about the ones who are left behind, so it doesn’t matter really where he is)
Be strong (This is one of the worst. Strength is not in being stoic or pushing your feelings down. Let them feel the gamut of feelings)
I know how you feel (We don’t know. We simply don’t know. Say instead, “I can’t imagine how you feel, but I am here for you and help you in any way I can)
In the end, I can only wish that you are there with them. Put an arm around their shoulder. Send them your love. I send them my thoughts too – may they heal. But it’s okay if the healing takes time. Right now, the wounds of death are fresh – let the scabs form as life takes over. And it will.
I am here.
My light and thoughts to you,
PS: Please add anything else to our friend to support her in the comments section.