At a Loss for Words About Loss
“I don’t know what to say.”
A really good friend of mine lost his dad last week, and unexpectedly, and that’s the comfort I gave him: “I don’t know what to say.” I can just imagine his thoughts: Hey, thanks for that, asswipe. You know, it’s funny, when I don’t know how to do something, I usually keep it to myself until I do know how to do it. But that’s just me. I appreciate you keeping me in the loop. Now please don’t call me again. He’s far too classy to say that to my face, but I wish he would have. Verbal abuse may have distracted me from my inadequate comforting.
I imagine for his friends and acquaintances getting such surprise news, their feeling was akin to mine, one of distant horror, like a faint recollection of a sad childhood story. We didn’t yet have access to the full emotion or even a grasp of this reality because our context was just starting construction. The walls went up before the foundation was built.
This is, of course, microscopic to how he felt: all of the confusion and battle with reality, but without numbness.
And we’re back to the situation at hand: not being able to give comfort when it is most needed. Does anyone have words that are comforting during this time? If so, I’ve never heard them. When I consider the familiar repertoire of standard sayings, I’m repulsed:
- “It’s better this way.”
- “She’s in a better place.”
- “He’s not suffering any longer.”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “You’re now beginning a new chapter.”
Bullshit, absolute phony and pandering and heartless bullshit, all of it…at least for people our age. Although our 50pov blog twenty years from now will be loaded with posts of dealing with parental loss, we writers for this blog are in our thirties. We are not supposed to be facing it yet. We are obviously not immune from the death of our folks–many of us have lost a parent already. The point here is that we’re generally inexperienced in this area. Our wisdom at this point is concomitant to feelings of failure.
Maybe it’s just me. I know the saying that “just being there for a friend is what’s important,” but isn’t that like getting a Participant ribbon for coming in last in a race? I’d feel like a better friend, a real friend, if I could say something worth a damn in such a dire time. I can be there for him anytime. It’s meaningful words I wanted to share, and I floundered like a chump. A member of my life finds himself in the worst way of his life, and this is the time that I have nothing to say?
Then lee lee sent us our theme for the month, Season Finale. Spark. This was something to work with, a possible way to comprehend such a loss at this time in our lives and put it into a useful structure.
Let’s have a go. And come now, you making that ugly face of distaste, don’t be appalled at the connection between death and TV. Television is easy to denigrate and belittle–looking your way, According to Jim–yet for most of us, it is a more steady companion and part of our life than we care to admit. Both comfort and wisdom come from the things we know best, even when they are not highly regarded.
Consider how meaningful our favorite shows are to us. We get something real from them, be it intellectual engagement, exhiliration, or escape. We also share in a community with others watching the same show. We know when the shows are on, and we look forward to seeing them. Sometimes we crave more, and we spend more time with them than usual. Other times we miss a few weeks because we’re tied up with other parts of our existence. But the show is always there, ours to enjoy. The next week comes, and we’re happy at the same time, same channel.
Then the season ends. Some of us know it’s coming, while others are aware only as the last episode concludes. At this particular milestone or a show’s life, some end their seasons on a joyous note. Dexter and Rita are married! Sterling Cooper Draper Price, may I help you? Others are absolutely upsetting. Carmela and Tony are divorcing? Mulder is dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head? Two and a Half Men is still on the air?
Before we know it, the credits have rolled, the news is on, and our season is over, ready or not. The next week we might go back to our show out of habit, but it’s not on. Eventually we find ourselves doing some other things, be it watching other shows, reading a book, or (gasp) going for a run. Life continues. Time ticks. Our show is not gone, it’s just away. And then, happiness–the next season is to start, and we’re excited. There have been some changes to the cast, of course. The later seasons will never be as good as the earlier ones. But we’re back to give it a try again. Part of our routine has returned, and it feels good.
So, my man, I am late with these words, but I want to let you know that I am sorry that this season ended so sadly and surprisingly for you and your family. It’s going to be a long winter without your favorite character, and there’s no getting around that. Life will surely be hard, unfamiliar, and lonesome. I want you to know, however, that I’ve talked personally with the producers of the show. They’re not going to replace your favorite character. They’re also not going to introduce new characters to make us forget your favorite character (Sam, you and your adorable red hair need to go find another job, son).
They are instead going to give you a new season that maintains what made the show great in the first place–the engaging story, the love interest, the ridiculous neighbors, the subtle narration, the exciting plots, the spectacular writing, and the connection to everything important in this world. I’ve even paid for limited commercial interruption.
It’s one of my favorite shows as well, and while this season will be quite different, I expect it to be great in its own way. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.