He held a coiled manila line in his hands with what looked like leather reinforcement for twenty inches or so…
“No, it’s not leather,” he said, “it’s a rubber hose.” But my comment reminded him of the small dinghy hanging in his father’s garage and how the oars just weren’t quite traditional enough…but he had some oars…
His father recently died and the story was really about the process he and his siblings are going through as they sort all of the possessions in his father’s house. I took that to be an opening to ask how that process was going. What followed was more stories and some touching moments for both of us as the conversation widened. Our fathers had worked together and I remembered his dad. And then I remembered mine and how much I miss him and how the grieving doesn’t stop, but only changes shape and direction and intensity.
I considered it a gift that my friend shared his memories with me. I felt honored.
Sometimes we need a lifeline tossed to us when we have suffered a loss. Not just loss of lives, but loss of career, loss of meaning. Sharing lightens the load and strengthens our connections. But it isn’t easy to start those conversations.
On HelpGuide.org, I found some great advice for supporting a grieving person.
“When it seems appropriate, ask sensitive questions – without being nosy – that invite the grieving person to openly express his or her feelings. Try simply asking “do you feel like talking?”…”
Then be prepared to listen.
Years ago, someone invented the “LifeSling” for use on boats. It is a carefully thought out product and process that makes it easier for someone who has fallen overboard to be rescued. I think of that because after you toss the sling into the water, you maneuver the boat so that the sling encircles the person in the water. You bring the lifeline to them instead of expecting them to swim to it.
What if someone had embraced your grief in such a way? How might your life be different?