Since my daughter’s sudden death in 2013, following a brain hemorrhage, people have been apologizing to me. In the five years since that awful day, the word I have most heard said to me is ‘sorry’. This simple word has numerous connotations and, in fact, is all a friend needs to say to show their love and support. However, I also heard it used in ways that I found both confusing and irritating.
Related: The Pain of Easing Grief
As the early weeks blended into months, people were more at ease talking with me, to my relief. I often found I would be the one to chatter on about trivial stuff, to put them at ease and avoid any awkwardness. But sometimes they would abruptly stop what they were saying and blurt out an apology. They would drop their gaze, look nervous and mumble sorries for ‘rambling on’ about something petty, by comparison to my loss. This included everything from ‘not enough hours in the day’ problems, to dilemmas like redundancies, to health scares and various childhood ailments.
‘Oh, but this isn’t anything like what you’ve been through! I should be more grateful. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t complain.’
Depending on how well I knew the person, uncomfortable silence usually followed, and the conversation was over. I never knew how to respond to this well, for either of us. Mostly, I found I reassured them that the fact the car broke down meaning they missed their dental appointment was a perfectly acceptable complaint. They were entitled to complain about their trivial stuff if they wanted to, just as much as I was.
Small talk is healing talk
Of course, to have the significance of my loss recognized and respected is important. I truly appreciate people are usually trying to be sensitive to my feelings. But when I was apologized to for someone else’s life being dire – but significantly better than mine – I was irritated that I was considered unable to empathize. That all I was identified by was the death of my child. I would give anything to have my own child alive to complain about, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your troubles too.
It was comforting to see that many people’s perspectives changed after Abi died, as did my own. What I found hard was that I was now a ‘special’ case. I was considered unbalanced or so sensitive that normal life was thought to offend me. It’s those friends who comfortably talked about my daughter and other ‘stuff’ in the same conversation that I have kept closest.
For a long while, I have done my own complaining. My social media accounts are full of a mixture of gratitude and gripes, because that’s what life is – ups and downs. Being able to moan about the small things means that I’m healing. I’m still me. I’m not treading on eggshells to say the right thing, so please don’t feel you have to. I just want to talk.
Thank you so much for caring, but what happened to me, is my story. What happens to you, is yours. I hope I can be the friend who lets you feel a little bit more normal in all this craziness.
Photo by: WordSwag