I find I have a much harder time dealing with a loved one’s loss than a loss of my own.
When the loss is mine, I can own it, mourn it, weep, recover.
When the loss—or greater loss—is that of someone I love, I can barely breathe due to the crushing longing to swallow her pain whole.
I want to free her of the sadness, make her feel safe and light and whole again. I want to do that thing I do when I protect, fix, help, heal, do anything to throw myself between the beautiful people who brighten my world and any darkness that tries to touch them.
I used to think this was pretty messed up: me and my world-class levels of compartmentalization strike again. But today as I hugged and walked away from a grieving friend, I realized that it has its purpose.
Maybe I am just one of many anchors sprinkled in the sea around her great vessel of hurt that make her feel steady, make her know the waves can’t wash her too far from us. We’re there, just out of arm’s reach, keeping her tethered to the now as she processes the past, and what she had wished for in the future. We’re there not to take her pain away—a frustratingly impossible accomplishment—but to be the thing that she doesn’t have to worry about, the dependable strength she quietly draws from as the pain fills her up, then releases as she recovers enough to only need the reserves within herself.
The thing about loss is that we can’t avoid it. We can’t stop ourselves from losing people from our lives, and we can’t take away the experience of losing someone from those we want to protect.
I guess what gives me comfort is that today as I sat in a quiet church, throwing a silent rope to a friend who probably didn’t even see me in the sea of dark suits and broken hearts, maybe she felt my pull. Maybe she and those whose loss was the greatest felt a little steadier as the web of ropes other were throwing at them, too, criss-crossed into something woven and sturdy that I can only imagine looked lovely from up high.
Kim Bongiorno is an author, full time freelance writer, and the blogger behind Let Me Start By Saying. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter, hire her to write for you or speak at your event, or catch her words as they fly around the internet.