Don't they say that bad news comes in threes?
(I have always wondered about the "Council of They". They say a lot of things don't they?)
I have three friends who are all going through the dying/death process with loved ones right now. Everytime I turn around, someone else is suffering. I think I need to stop turning around.
Grieving is such an individualized experience. You can read Kubler-Ross, you can take college classes, you can bear witness to suffering and death within your own family, but you can never say "I know exactly what you're going through. I went through the same thing."
It might look like the same experience on the outside, but we all have such different relationships with our parents, siblings, spouses, that when we stand by helplessly and watch them slip away, our reactions can be incredibly different than someone going through a similar experience.
And so much depends on who is sick or dying. My husband tried to comfort a co-worker once when the man had lost his infant child to cancer. He told the man "I know what you're going through, my dad just died of cancer."
I know he was only trying to help but I visibly flinched when I heard this. You don't know what it's like to lose a child until you lose a child. Parents are supposed to die before their children, not the other way around.
And how you react to the death of a parent really depends on how you lived with that parent. To be able to say everything you need to say to that parent before they die is an amazing thing. To carry baggage around after death? It gets very heavy, very fast.
And to come home to your empty house when your spouse, who acted perfectly healthy two weeks ago, is fighting for his life, can only be fathomed by someone who has been there. Every sound that you make is magnified. Every single thing you look at is imbued with memories.
I think my role here is to bear witness. To fetch and carry, to run the needed errand, to be invisible yet present.