My friend Lisa writes about the ordeal of sharing in someone else's grief, and about trying to find appropriate words.
There are none.
I am not so unacquainted with grief, you know. I was seven when my mother and baby brother were killed in an automobile accident, seventeen when my first stepmother died after a fall, in my mid-twenties when my aunt got out of bed one morning and collapsed and died. (She also left behind a seven-year-old, as well as two teenagers.) It's only been a few years since I held a beloved stepmother's hand as she succumbed to cancer.
During the one day I spent on retreat at the end of August, I spent my entire time with my spiritual director talking about my summer CPE and realizing that, much as I had loved it and begun to suspect that I might have found my deepest calling in life, I had also been traumatized by a summer in which I watched people, usually at least two or three, die almost every single day, and in which I tried to create some space for an encounter with God, recognized or not, for the devastated members of their families. The deep sense of loss that I have carried with me since I was seven widenened into a vast lake, encompassing the reality that eventually washes over all of us.
I have no platitudes. No words of comfort. No certainty. My faith has always been more about doubt than conviction. I have been showered with great gifts and graces throughout my life, most of them marked by laughter and love and joy, but among them I must number a knowledge of a darkness so bright that I can barely look at it sideways.
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange....
The Tempest, I. ii.