Age brings many changes. It is not always about growing older, waking up with aches you didn’t have yesterday, seeing more lines etched on your forehead through the bathroom mirror. The changes often include stepping outside your comfort zone. For me, my thirties have, so far, been about diagnoses that I could do without, procedures to get to those diagnoses that I could, certainly, do without (I won’t forget my first colonoscopy in a hurry). However, often it is not things happening to me that shake me, it’s what’s happening to everyone else.
Most of us have been indescribably lucky with our upbringing; sheltered, comfortable. We have watched war torn nations from our television screens, tucked up in the safety of our beds. We have read of other’s distress on the pages of the latest tabloid, shaking our head as we empathise, but never really knowing. However, with every year that passes more situations hit closer to home. Suddenly our friends, or family, are faced with human truths we had never dared to imagine during our rose-tinted youth. In the last few years I have watched people closest to me attempt to deal with gut wrenching loss, people that should have been decades from death snatched, suddenly and without warning. I have watched too many people burdened with cancer and best friends struggle with the inhumane realities of infertility and baby loss.
Today I was talking to one such friend, very much in the deepest depths of despair and I found myself, as I have done many times of late, being totally inept at providing real condolence. Every response I gave was laced with cliché, words I had heard being said, probably in books, or on television, words that I thought might help. In truth, nothing that I could possibly say or do could help her. I only hope the words I did say didn’t make her feel more removed, or angry, than she already does.
I am writing this blog in retrospect. These are the words that I should have said, that I want to say, and that I will try and remember to say in future:
Dear friend, the fact of the matter is, there are no words, I realise this, nothing that I could say will remove the pain that you are feeling, I cannot take your hurt away with clichés. In truth, I have absolutely no idea what you are going through, I have never experienced your agony, and I know you would never wish me to, but I want you to know that I am here for you. You may not want to see me today, or tomorrow. It may be a year or two before you feel ready to socialise, I don’t know, but I will be there to hold your hair out of your face when you throw up after one too many, when you are ready. I am at the end of a phone at one, two or three in the morning if you just want someone to listen to you while you sob. I will cook your meals when you don’t feel like eating. I will probably feel dreadfully uncomfortable at some point in time. I will spout silly sayings hoping to lighten a situation which can never be lightened, know now, in advance, I am sorry for that and there will be no ill feelings if you ignore me or tell me to fuck off, I will deserve it. On the days when you hate me, hate everything, hate life, I will still love you. Life is fucking cruel, you don’t deserve this, be angry, be sad, be numb, be whatever you need to be, and I will still be here for you. I can’t promise it will get better, I have no idea, but I can hope, every day, that it does.