How to Comfort the Grieving

by Laura

I hear people say it all the time. “I wish I could do something. I wish there was something I could say to make it better.” I don’t hear it personally. I hear people say it about other people’s situations. My world has been quiet.

Of course everyone grieves in their own way. But there are things I actually wish people would do or say, only no one is offering. If you ever feel like you want to help someone who’s dealing with a loss, please consider these things. They won’t work for everyone, I’m sure. But there’s no harm in offering.

I wish the people who knew my mom would tell me she was proud of me. She must have said it at some point. She was on the phone constantly talking to her sister and friends. Surely, she must have said nice things about me. Well, as much as I can assume she did, I would really really REALLY like to hear it from someone. Tell me she liked when I did this or that. Tell me she was so happy when we did such and such. Tell me she talked about me. I want so much for someone to let me know she liked me. I don’t know why it matters so much, but it does. Why hasn’t anyone done that?

Hug me. Now I’m not a physically affectionate person by nature. It’s part of why I never minded living states apart from loved ones. But all of a sudden, I am desperate for it. I miss my mom’s hugs. I would give a limb for one last hug. She was so frail at the end. Surgery had affected her appetite, and nothing ever affected her appetite. The weight dropped off so rapidly. And she’d been sick. A cold, fever, something or other. So there hadn’t been much physical contact. Not to mention with my two kids I was often afraid to hug her, fearful I’d somehow get her sick. And when she had her take-home chemo pack attached, she couldn’t come near me. Too toxic or something. And she hadn’t fully recovered from the surgery, so she couldn’t stand unassisted. And then there was the colostomy. It was hard to really get in close to her like in the old days. The last moments of real contact were in the hospital when I’d put my arm on her back and help her walk the halls, or in the respite care facility, where I had to help her get her legs under her the right way, help put on her slippers. And now I feel so alone. I honestly feel the urge sometimes to walk up to strangers who look like my mom and ask them to give me a hug. But nobody’s hugging me. Not my dad. Not my brother. Not even my husband, unless I beg, and then he looks at me with suspicion. Please, I want to say. Somebody hug me.

I know people make fun of the obligatory muffin basket or casserole, but I would LOVE for someone to send me a muffin basket or casserole. I do have some long distance friends who reached out. One I’ve never even met in person sent me a breakfast gift package with bacon and syrup, etc. Another made me a care package with coffee and tequila, toys for the kids. Unbelievably sweet gestures. I will never ever forget them. They really don’t know how grateful I am. My mom was the only person who ever gave me gifts or mailed me treats. Having my friends do that, especially when shopping and cooking are sometimes too much to bear, was wonderful.

Ask me about my mom. I want to tell you about her. I want the whole world to know how great she was. The more people know, the more she exists, the more she matters.

Ask me to do something with you. I may say no. I’ll probably say no. Logistically, it’s not easy right now. But ask. Let me feel like there’s a life waiting for me whenever I’m ready to jump back in.

And hug me. I’d even be willing to borrow someone’s cat for a few days just to have something to cuddle, and I don’t really like cats.