Unthinkable news, unspeakable sorrow. My friend's husband has died.
Mutual acquaintances ask, "How is she doing?" I stammered one of several answers: She is devastated. She's crying a lot. She is hanging on. She's going to be okay. She will never be the same. She's doing as well as can be expected.
There is nothing false in any of these statements, and yet none of them ring true. Even when I rattled off the whole list, something essential is missing, something about the terrible grief now etched in her sweet voice, audible, even in the moments when I can hear her smile at one of our small shared understandings.
It's understandable for people to feel helpless in light of her grief. But just saying, "I'm so sorry," when death pulls at you with that kind of force, every gesture of connection to the living counts for a lot.
It's an important distinction, because mourning is a real place in time, the precise location where "the valley of the shadow" is not a metaphor but a parallel universe.
She is in mourning, the phrase is, in mourning--indicating a location, which is at some distance from those of us who are not. When I talk to her I bite my tongue to keep from trying to cheer her up. Instead, I offer words and gestures that I know cannot releave her raw pain, but sometimes, the least you can do is also the most.
I'm holding you both in the light, my dear friend.