"There are three kinds of people", I commented to my hairdresser yesterday as we discussed the precious brother she lost to heart failure 17 years ago ("my mother still wakes up with sadness in her heart every day...none of us is the same")
Type I: The Clueless:
These are the majority actually, consisting mostly of those of us who have never experienced the searing loss of someone necessary to our existence. This is the pitfall of the young, who have still so little life experience that they just don't know. But it's hard to bear when it's someone who is older and should know better. When I tell them about my son, they give absolutely no response. Nada. They continue the conversation as if they never heard what I said. Or they change the subject and begin talking about something else, or themselves. Or the worst: they make a joke about something and laugh. (Yes, this has happened maybe three times, the most recent being last Sunday, which actually triggered the writing of this post. It is a kick to the gut.)
Type II: Fellow Grievers:
Like my hairdresser said, once people have been to the Shadowlands of Loss, they are never the same. They have instant recognition for others who are there. They put a hand on your shoulder, they look you in the eye with sympathy and interest, and they ask what happened. They care and they share their story, they tell you how tough it is, and they hug you. If you see them more than once, the topic is open, and becomes an ongoing conversation. Even if they see you infrequently, they always acknowledge, in some way, what you are going through.
Type III: The Trained:
This category often includes counselors, pastors, and people with good manners, but sadly there are no guarantees on that. It should include everyone. These dear people have been taught to acknowledge grief, and they DO it. They've been told that it's enough to say, "I'm so sorry for your loss", and they say it. God bless them for simply not ignoring the obvious. (It's also helpful if they don't add, "Well, he's in Heaven now.", cuz honestly, we've thought of that, and it doesn't help with the gaping empty void left behind.)
There may be a Type IV--those so buried under the weight of personal grief, that they have very little to give, sometimes unable to even acknowledge your grief. This we understand.
I will admit that I have been in all four categories, and I'm not proud of having been clueless. It pains me now to remember those moments. Hopefully this is an education for somebody, and it will spare them from regret, and the suffering ones around them, from additional pain.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.