Among the many social situations that make me uncomfortable, one of the worst is when someone I know, especially someone I care about, loses someone they love.
Because what do you say? What do you say that adequately conveys how deeply sorry you are for their loss, but doesn't sound like it's about you? Because that's my concern - that when someone loses someone they love, I put myself in their shoes, and feel sorry because I imagine how I would feel if I had lost someone I love. It brings alive my fears of losing the people I love. All of which makes my condolences just sound trite and selfish.
When I was 16, a classmate lost her father. A little over a year ago,my godfather lost his father. And I was at as much of a loss for words as I remembered being at 16. I asked on twitter, that fountain of support and suggestions, and got some responses. All very valid responses, but none of them made it any easier to send that email or make that phone call.
Then a fortnight ago, a professor at school who I am fairly close to lost his mother. And I started wondering again. What do you say?
I sent him an email, since I'm not in the US right now. And he replied too. But I was still left feeling that the email I sent was utterly trite and pointless.
And all of this is still about me. It's my discomfort with not knowing what to say, my inability to convey how I feel. Maybe it doesn't seem trite. Maybe it does mean something to the person I'm writing to. But I never quite know that.