Steve’s death this year made for a real shitty 2017. The five stages of grief have been less of a path and more of a game of Twister where I spin the dial and deal with a new emotion every day (Left Hand denial!) Acceptance is there one day and fleeting the next. I still cannot imagine what it is like for Kelly, the kids, and Steve’s close friends.
I can’t speak for anyone else in Steve’s circle, but I do appreciate everyone who offers their condolences today, through the holidays, and moving forward. Steve pops into my head several times a day and someone mentioning him isn’t unwelcome.
There are five types of condolences I’ve encountered: the pursed lips, the standard condolence, the friend condolence, the meandering condolence, and the smile.
This is the condolence the consolee receives when the consoler isn’t sure if they should say anything or doesn’t know what to say. He will greet me and then pause with his lips pressed firmly together, either because he doesn’t know what to say or he does know what to say, but wants to keep from saying it. I see this and I thank all of you who desire to say something, but don’t or can't.
This is the standard expression of sympathy. The person gets in, says the thing, and gets out. All business. Similar to how the people at the funeral home do it: Eye contact. Hand shake. Say it. Move on.
It’s good to be surrounded by people who know you. They can quickly judge if you need a distraction or an opportunity to vent or a hug. These people know how to say sorry without saying sorry. They also know how to jump in when a meandering condolence has been initiated.
This is what happens when a pursed lips condolence giver starts talking, but doesn’t know how to stop. I feel sorry for these folks who say one thing out loud and another thing in his or her head. Then the silent thought becomes a spoken thing and a new thought spills out in reaction to the last one and then it’s a line of dominoes until the person stops when their pursed lips take over again or when a friend jumps in to stop the next domino from falling. I really appreciate this condolence because it gives me a chance to console them, which is helpful when maintaining denial.
Smile is the best condolence. This person will start out with a standard condolence, but they can’t help smiling a bit as they continue with a story or a memory. I’m still hearing new stories and value each and every one of them. Even better is when someone overhears this conversation and then is drawn in, adding what they know or jumping into the conversation by saying, “No way!” or “I didn’t realize that is what caused the Detroit power outage!” Smiles, followed by stories, help the most.
When you see me, if you feel like you need to say something, say it. I won’t mind. Even if it is the eighth time or you keep saying the same thing over again. I appreciate it. And when you don’t say anything and you stand there with pursed lips, I’ll know that means that the most, because words cannot express how you feel.