Last week was only a four day work week, but four days is more than enough time to learn some life lessons. It doesn’t matter how old a person is, there will always be room to learn. As Socrates once said: I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.
One of the first classes I took in college was called Death and Dying. The name of the Psych class says it all. I learned about the mourning process, what goes through a bereaved’s mind when they grieve. Most importantly I learned what to say and what not to say to a grieving person.
Admittedly, I was a bad student and didn’t pay much attention. As I grew older and had friends who lost loved ones, I wished that I paid attention in that particular class. I wanted to say something to them, something that would lessen – in some small way – the pain they felt. The words that tumbled out of my mouth were likely the wrong words.
I said things like “If you need anything, let me know,” when I was simply an acquaintance. Then there was the ever non-helpful “I’m sorry.” I vaguely remember “sorry” being mentioned in the Death and Dying class. Why would anyone say sorry to a grieving person if they weren’t directly responsible for the death. Unless they were responsible, then sorry wouldn’t cut it. The point is, those are the only two sentences that come to mind for most people – at the very least me – when attempting to console a grieving person.
Friends are not easy for me to come by since I’m so picky. I’m not into shallow friends and that’s all the effort most people want to put into a friendly relationship. Then I found my current job. While I’m still picky about my friends, my coworkers and I get along splendidly. Since my coworkers and I have a nice working relationship, I feel the need to ease their pain when they grieve.
Roughly two years ago, a coworker lost her mother. Most sent her condolences in the form of words, cards, gifts, etc. I honestly didn’t know what to do for her. After careful consideration, I wasn’t going to try words and I thought it best if I didn’t say anything. Then I saw her in the office.
She was obviously still in pain. I couldn’t give her a cheerful “hi” and walk away, which was what I was in the middle of doing – a decidedly callous act that’s not in my nature. In that moment, I went with my gut, turned around, and hugged her. She held me so tightly for a while and I let her. Maybe it’s my imagination, but when we separated, it looked like it helped her.
This week started and I had another coworker who lost a family member. Her Facebook page was awash in condolences. I know people mean better, but sending condolences through Facebook seems insincere. Talking to them in person or giving them a card seems more personal and heartfelt.
I sought her out at work and gave her a hug. Then we had a chat. I listened to her and let her take the lead in the conversation. It seemed to help.
While I still think I should have been a better student and paid attention in that Death and Dying class, I found my own way of consoling people.
Sometimes, a class is helpful to get through certain aspects of life. Yet, if you don’t have access to that class, it’s best to go with the gut to find the right answer.