There are things that you say when someone dies. Rest in peace. I'm sorry for your loss. Thinking of you. These are all important things to say when someone has lost a piece of their heart, but for me, even though those words are entirely appropriate, they feel trite, small. Of course the problem is not in these words but merely in the finiteness of language.
What I want to say to the family of my friend who has just died is something that I can not say in words. I want to stand next to them, hold their hands, and not talk. I want them to know that I (among so many others) am here, that they are loved, and that it is okay to cry, to get angry, to plead, to mourn, to grieve. It's okay to hide yourself under a wall of blankets. It's okay to scream. It's okay to not entertain the swarms of people visiting. I want to be there in person, with a hand on their backs, shedding my own tears but saying nothing. Because when it's all said and done, the grief can be done by no one other than the grieving.
As a hospice nurse I have seen so many people die. I have sat with grieving families, held the space for people to cry, watched the very raw emotion of grief unfold in loved ones. But grief, no matter how well I understand it professionally, always feels different when it happens to me and to people that I love.
I am states and years away from this loss, and I acknowledge that I am but one person, one person among the countless others that love and care for this family. But I can only speak for myself.
To my high school boyfriend and lifelong friend, my heart aches that you have lost your brother.
To his parents, my heart aches that you have to live through the nightmare of burying a child.
I wish I could say or do something to make this not hurt, something to make the sting of this new reality be somewhat less biting. But I'm stuck with the limitations of language and the prayers to hold you up in love as you navigate this sad, sad loss.