There was a time when I was at a loss when encountering someone who was experiencing grief from the significant loss of a loved one. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do. And I even have to admit, there was a time or two of avoidance.
An example of my discomfort took place almost eight years ago, but I still remember it clearly. The assistant librarian at the school where I taught had recently lost her six year old daughter in an accident. I wandered into the back room where the librarian kept snacks for the teachers. The assistant was working back there. She was looking at a picture of her daughter and then she showed it to me. She started to tell me about her daughter. I panicked. I thought, "Oh no! I think she's going to cry. I'm making her sad by listening." I looked at the picture of her daughter, but I couldn't look her in the eye. "She was sure a cute little girl," I said, and then I hurriedly left the back room.
When our daughter died at age 35, I learned from others how to show compassion, empathy and kindness to someone who is experiencing profound sadness and grief. I was embarrassed how I had handled that encounter so long ago. How could I right that wrong? What did I learn from my own experience with grief? Could I help others when they lose a child?