When I was 14, I remember lying on the floorboards in front of the TV cabinet and programming the video recorder to tape a show. There were several steps and I was impressed that I was able to do them all in order and that it worked; I got back from the weekend away and there was my show waiting for me, all neatly recorded. I remember thinking, "I like being an expert in something. I want to do something where I'm the best."
A girl in my circle of friends lost her husband three months ago, suddenly in a freak accident. Every time I ask how she is, I hear, "Not so good. She's struggling to come to terms with it. She feels her life is over." This weekend we had dinner with friends of hers. One of them was talking about a shopping trip to Germany for the weekend and said that the girl who lost her husband was keen to come along.
I was thinking about things in my little swamp today and I thought, "She's bouncing back. Everyone bounces back except me." Then I realised that probably she isn't "bouncing back". Probably she is starting to feel the beginning of ok and that restless desire to move, to create something new, something that doesn't link back to the The Event. She thinks she's ok to go on this trip. She expresses enthusiasm. Her friends are happy. They think she is ok but inside she is far from ok. She is just able for the first time to force herself to do something new and she knows she has to, she has to move forward. We don't see the tears and the collapses that probably still occur. We just see that she is doing new things, normal things and we think she is "bouncing back". Only if you are an expert in grief do you know just how fragile the "bouncing back" really is, that behind it lies sheer determination and the hope that maybe you will enjoy something again.
I'm no longer 14. I've let my skills lag behind. I'm not an expert in anything really, but I think I understand grief pretty well. An odd expertise.
And no, I haven't contacted this girl outside the conventional expression of condolences. I don't know what to say. We are not close by any means, and I don't know what to offer her as an expression of my sympathy. So much for my expertise, hey?