Bereavement, and why I don't know what to say

Posted on Wed 14 March 2007 in Root Observations

I just this minute heard from an acquaintance that someone close to him died. I don't know him that well, I've never met or spoken to him, just worked on some computer things with him. Yet the minute I read the message I was in mental turmoil.

I never have felt comfortable hearing someone say that someone close them has died. I don't think it's the death itself I have the problem with, it's what I should say to the living. I am genuinely sorry to hear of someones death whether I knew them or not. I just don't feel that saying sorry or sending my condolences equate to much, especially when I don't know the person who died.

I do know how I've felt when members of my family died. When my granddad Root died, I felt a great loss that I will no longer be able to debate with him, that I never got to visit the places he spent the war to here his accounts surrounded by the scenery. I feel like crying just typing about it. Yet at the same time, I'm so happy he made his life a success. As he said to me once, "I've had my 3 score and 10 years...", said with the contentment of a man who knows he is happy, he was a success.

When my granddad Mitchell died I was only 10. I remember sitting in the limousine following the hearse with my mum. I was looking out of the corner of the window thinking "I wonder what my friends are doing in school", then at someone on the path looking at our procession my thoughts veered into "I should be really sad now, but I'm not". I felt guilty then, which is probably why it etched itself into my memory (even the street background of red brick terraced houses and large grey paving slabs for the path). At 10 years old I never developed the relation ship with Granddad Mitchell that I did with Granddad Root.

When someone says to me that someone they know has recently died, I really don't know what to say that will make them feel better. This time, after a few minutes of writing then deleting things I finally sent a single line reply, "Sorry to hear the news". I hope it meant something positive.