real life

'I know it comes from love, but there are questions you should never ask the grieving.'

“How are you?”

“Let me know if you need anything.”

Forgive me, please. I know it comes from love. But ‘how are you’ forces me to reveal myself, to open up my wound and shape it into words for the sake of someone else. It makes me vulnerable while the asker remains untouched and safe.

It requires something of me when I cannot be held to any task. It forces me to analyse how I am feeling and summarise it for you, when how I am changes from minute by minute and I have no idea how I am because I’m in it and I’ve never been here before and there are no words that feel enough. My father, ‘Aba’, is gone.

Sometimes I’m numb and sometimes robotic and sometimes I get a sharp ache in my chest. Sometimes there’s a flashback that makes me jolt and sometimes I’m despondent; I feel helpless often and usually it’s just a heaviness and a blandness and a lackluster blah and sometimes I forget and then remember like a punch in the gut. I’m confused a lot of the time and my memory is fractured.

what to say to the grieving
Sheli Gold recently lost her father. Image supplied.

Mornings and nights are sad, sadder than any sadness I’ve ever known. Do you see why it’s hard when you ask me how I am?

I answer: ‘Okay’ or ‘Fine’ or ‘ummm’ or ‘I don’t know what to say’ or ‘I find that question hard’ but I’d rather not be asked at all if that’s ok.

I know you want to show me that you care, so you could say, ‘I’m thinking of you’ or ‘What are you doing right now?’ or ‘I saw this poem and wanted to send it to you’.

I need specifics. Not ‘How are you?’ but ‘What did you do this morning?’ or ‘How was your sleep?’


I need specifics. Not ‘Let me know if you need anything’ because I will need things but I promise I won’t ask you for them. You must know that, surely. Not ‘Let me know if you need anything’ but ‘Can I come over this morning for a short visit?’

Image: Supplied.

Don’t ask me to plan in advance - I can only see from one day to the next. It makes me anxious to book anything into the future and be locked in because some days feel okay and other days feel like a fucking catastrophe. So everything has to be immediate. ‘I’m dropping off some food, I can leave it by the door.’ This is good.

If you have memories, I want to hear them. If you have stories, tell them to me. I seem to not remember much before two weeks ago, so tell me stories if you have them so I can start to remember again, but mostly so I know you loved him too.

Meet me where I’m at. If I’m crying, cry with me. If I’m smiling, smile with me. Don’t look at me with pity eyes, I hate that. Don’t hold me extra long unless you knew him and loved him too. Don’t forget about me. Don’t give up on me. Or do and we’ll both just move on. That’s okay too. Nothing will be the same anyway.

In loving memory of Aba - Oren Snir 21.12.49 - 17.11.18.

Sheli Gold is a drama teacher, a mother of two and a writer. She sings alto with a choir and aspires to learn her way around a garden.

Grief counsellor Petrea King shares how best to support those who have experienced loss.

00:00 / ???