They tell me it’s okay, that it’s better this way. They tell me he stopped hurting, tears in their eyes, breathless from holding in a wail. They say they’re not ready to think about what life would be like without him, let alone whether they can keep up some employment in his absence. I hear them struggle to make sense of it.
No words come to me to bring them comfort, save from an attentive presence and a pat on the shoulder. All the while as I strive in my lacking, best effort, I wonder if death could make sense to anyone without the hope of the afterlife, or a new life somewhere, somehow. What would it even mean to ask: “Was this a good death”? For it seems to me that without this understanding, the meaning of death necessarily takes on a functional analysis: life but passes away, and judgement on death can only be construed in terms of readiness for its consequences for those who are left behind. Did he leave enough for the kids to have enough to go to school? For the family to survive?
How, then, do I say “yes, it will be okay” when life deals a cruel blow of death without warning? For all the theoretical knowledge I may have on grief, all words would fail me, and all I can muster is to feel their pain with them.
*A quiet reflection of a social worker dealing with a bereaved family.