The following story is not about anyone single person it is the story of many, years of listening to others speak of their grief.
Jane is a 72-year-old widow she has had several losses in her life, this one being the most heartbreaking of her entire life. Jane woke to find her husband her constant companion of nearly fifty years had died during the night. Jane and her husband Andy were grade school sweethearts, they had met in the first grade and both had gone through grade school and high school together. They were rarely apart from each other. Jane had been a high school guidance counselor and Andy had worked as a Lawyer. Life was good for Jane and Andy they had children, and grandchildren, as well as great grandchildren.
Jane and Andy did what just about every family does, they enjoyed their careers raised a family, spent their days together with family and friends. Their relationship had its ups and downs as no relationship is ever perfect. Their children and grandchildren lived nearby the furthest away was less than one hours drive.
Jane felt an absolute loss when she had found Andy had died, he was not ill and they had just been out to dinner with the family the night before. Jane was devastated her companion, her friend her confidant, the man who loved her like no other was gone. She was at a complete loss.
Jane made funeral arrangements for Andy, it was much easier than she had thought it would be, the staff at the funeral home showed her great compassion. The day of visitation Jane knew would not be one of the easiest days of her life. During the family time, Jane’s family gathered together. They spent time comforting each other, sharing fond memories of a husband, father, grandfather and dear friend. There were tears of sorrow, tears of joy and yes, a few laughs.
As the family time came to a close Jane and the family knew it was time for relatives and friends to come to pay their respects to Andy. Family and friends came and went and Jane greeted each of them, thanking them for coming and for their kind words. Then it happened…What you may ask yourself.
Jane was sitting by herself when a man came over to her. He offered his sympathies to Jane and then said, “I know how you feel.” Jane was in a bit of a shock, in her mind she said with out saying it aloud, “How could he know how I feel?” He went on about how his aunt had died and how upset he was and it had been ten years since her death. Jane sat in disbelief, yet she sat quietly and she listened to him ramble on about other deaths he had experienced during his life. Jane was in disbelief, yet she never got angry or short with the man. After a few moments he got up and walked away. She sat for a few moments thought to herself, “What just happened?”
If you are wondering is there a moral to this story, yes there is. When paying respects to a family after a loss its not about your loss or losses. One should not say I know how you feel, because you really don’t. What you should do is offer your condolences to the family and share how you knew the deceased. Often times family members don’t know everyone who has come to pay their respects. It can be as simple as, “Andy was a good man, we used to have coffee together at the park”, or “Andy and I worked together he spoke fondly of his family.” Then there are times words may not be necessary and your presence and condolences are all that is needed at a difficult time.