Friday, April 26, 2013

What To Say

To my son Tommy,

I never know the right words to speak to people who have experienced a tragedy or loss.  This seems to be the case with many people, me, you, and even President Obama or at least his speech writer.  On the way to work they were playing sound bites from the President's speech during the services at West, Texas.  In this sound bite the President commended them for their "ability to stand tall in times of unimaginable adversity."  At first hearing this, I, like the speech writer probably, thought that sounds great.  But after running it through the tumble cycle of my mind, it just didn't sit right with me.  Did he just in essence say "At least you are handling it well" or something to that effect?  What type of comfort is that?  It is just one or two steps above "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"

To be fair, I think the President and his speech writer did an adequate and competent job in a situation that words are useless and awkward at best.  I don't believe there is a right thing to say to someone who has experienced loss to death.  Everything we say is usually aimed at making ourselves and those around us not directly effected  feeling better and less so than the victim.  Still you and I will learn and use all those trite sayings and mention that the person is in a better place and at least they aren't suffering or at least they went quickly, as if that makes a whole hill of beans.  We are not great orators or writers and like everyone else we will struggle and stumble over the words in those awkward moments.  The best thing I have found so far is to place a sincere hug and embrace on the person and sincerely say "I am sorry for your loss and I am sorry for you grief" and just leave it at that.  If you want to do more you hand them the obligatory casserole and say  "I hope this dinner takes away one mundane task so you can focus on your loved ones." or do and say something similar if you can't cook.  Taking the time to go and mow someone's lawn so they don't have to worry about it while they grieve probably speaks louder and more true than any word or phrase could.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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