FOR THE RANCHO BERNARDO SUN
AND FOR THE FALLBROOK VILLAGE NEWS
After loosing my sons, three days apart, to Muscular Dystrophy I learned to manage my grief. As the years went by, I learned to manage a different kind of grief: the deaths of friends and family. I discovered that when most people encounter the grief stricken, they seem to be at a loss as to what to say. Often they use condolence cards or just avoid the stricken family or friend altogether, but there are alternatives.
Kathie Lee Gifford wrote, in a woman's magazine, "The fist time I had a miscarriage, I already had a beautiful baby boy. But you feel a loss, and it made me hold the child I had all the closer. Then I lost two babies and people said, "Oh you'll have another." I didn't want to hear that. All I wanted was somebody to say was, "I'm sorry
She was correct. Sometimes just "I'm so sorry about your loss, or a hug with no words is enough. Other times, when you discover that a dear friend has a fatal illness, and does not have long to live, you have something different to deal with. This happened to me two years ago. I wanted to call my friend whose lung cancer had spread throughout her body. My hand shook as I reached for the phone. Do I ask, "How are you?" I had so much experience when my sons died, you'd think I would have known what to say. When my friend answered I said, "I was thinking of you, Sophie. I just wanted to say hello, and tell you how much I love you." It wasn't perfect, but it got the conversation started.
Almost whatever you say is better than nothing. After my sons died, I found people I knew turning away from me, as if they didn't see me. I knew it was because they didn't know what to say after such a tragedy, that they could not possibly imagine my pain. Recently, I found an article about a woman who lost her daughter in the TWA crash at Lockerbie. She felt that she received love and support at that time, but when, a year later, she lost her son to a drunk driver, she seemed to have become a pariah. People she knew turned from her as they had from me. She felt that perhaps they thought she was cursed by God, and were afraid to speak to her.
So, when you meet someone who has lost a loved one, or is grieving for one who is fatally ill, remember that just a hug,, or an "I'm so sorry" will go a long way toward helping them to manage their grief, and perhaps yours too. No matter what your age, someday you will be faced with this problem, and I hope my advice will help you deal with this dilemma.
Rosalie Kramer is a free-lance writer. Her work has appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune, Tee Time (a woman's golf magazine), The North County Woman, The Rancho Bernardo News Journal, and The San Diego Jewish Heritage Press. Her poem, "Never Spend the Principal" can be found in, Dr. Leeds' Selection of Epic Poetry. And Reminisce Magazine published her short story, "Uncle Ben." Her memoir, "Dancing in the Dark: Things My Mother Never Told Me" was published in 2001. In her upcoming book, she discusses the subject of this article, in greater depth.