does your presence obliterate hope for others?

star fady habibThough I share personal things all the time within the RIG community, I don’t share everything. I don’t tend to share much about my day to day life, my friendships, or other relationships. If it’s not directly related to grief, I tend to keep it off the page.

I actually resent the heck out of it when the two worlds overlap.

I hadn’t meant to type that, but it’s true.

A very close friend’s husband was in a serious motorcycle accident two weeks ago. My first response, after calling her and finding out what she needed, was to look at our mutual beloved and say, “I don’t want to have to use my expertise with her. I do not want her to need my skills.”

It’s not that I won’t support her, no matter the outcome – of course I will. But I know what’s on the other side of that door, the side where things go horribly wrong. I don’t want to meet her on the other side of that door. I don’t want her in that world. I don’t want her to know that world at all.

My second response was – I should stay away. I shouldn’t remind her of what could happen.

When someone I know is ill or injured, I get self-conscious about who I am and what I represent. I sometimes think my presence in others’ lives is as the poster child of sudden death: look! This could happen to you!

When the situation is tenuous and someone is trying to have hope, I worry that I’m a bleak reminder. It happened this time, too. That fear of “what I represent” made me second guess my words in texts to her; fear of saying the wrong thing held me back from showing up: “You’re trying to be perfect in what you say to her because you know what you know, but what you know is not who you are. She sees you as who you are.

It took that statement from one of my beloveds, and a conversation with several of my widowed friends, to help me understand that my friends don’t see me as the presence of death. They see me as…. me. They’re glad to have me with them as friend and companion, and probably don’t think “presence of death” when I walk into a room. How thankful I am to have people in my life who see me, beyond what I know of death.

It is true that my experience – both personal and professional – helps me understand that hideous limbo when the outcome is too unclear to even contemplate, in either direction. It helps me know how to listen, how to wait – without hope, without expectation. It helps me hang in the silence.

Maybe it’s good to be who I am. No matter the outcome of anything.

Have you felt like this? Like your very presence has the power to destroy someone’s tenuous hope for good outcome? Knowing what you know, do you hold yourself back, force yourself to say only “perfect” things, because you know how much the wrong words grate? Let us know in the comments. It’s such an odd aspect of grief – seeing things the way we sometimes do. It helps to talk about it.

These are the kinds of conversations we have all the time in the Writing Your Grief course and ongoing alumni groups. Sometimes, you need people who have been where you are to reflect back to you all that you’ve become: not just the presence of death, but you, as you are. All of you. Come join us and see.