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Day 156

Updated: Jun 26, 2019

My daughter and I were like the Corsican brothers. Any injury inflicted on her meant that I felt her pain. Now she’s gone and it’s hard to feel anything else.

A colleague gave me his condolences today. He said that one of the foreign exchange students staying with his family is currently dealing with the death of his sick grandfather so he has been dealing with supporting him in his grief. I replied, “I am sorry for his loss.” Knowing him as I do, I believe he’s far too bright to think there’s any way that his house guest’s grandfather passing is the same as my eight-year-old’s passing.

I think that some people try to relate because they want to express empathy and let you know it is safe to open up to them. So much of polite conversation is ritualized and not thoughtful that we developed these relational speak patterns to try to say it’s okay to talk about this stuff with me.

Conversely, I know that people can try to relate to a tragedy as a way of expressing their compassion for it. If you were alive during 9/11, you know everyone was talking about their ties to the tragedy or where they were when they first saw the plane hit the second tower.

Famously, comedian Steve Rannazzisi lied about nearly escaping death in the 9/11 attacks. I’m not a doctor but, given the number of times and the public way that he told the story, it is possible that it was a case of a serious untreated mental health issue. I think this type of behavior is rare.

Some people do try to relate in a grief-off. They are almost never anyone who knows me or Constance. Let me just put it on the record now; I don’t think the tragic death of your kindergarten classroom hamster is in any way comparable to the loss of my human daughter. In fact, I find the comparison so insulting that it is literally hysterically funny.

Once, Constance’s father relayed a story of condolences he particularly appreciated. He was having a conversation with a colleague when, all of a sudden, he remembered that Constance had passed. He stopped in the middle of a sentence and just said, “Oh my gosh, your daughter died. That’s so fucked up. I am so sorry.” While unprofessional, Constance’s father thought this was genuine compassion, and he appreciated it.

I know that friends, family, colleagues, caregivers, and other community members knew Constance. They loved Constance. Their hearts break for her. I know that and I appreciate that. It reminds me of two comforting things:

  1. Constance had a life filled with love.

  2. Constance is remembered.

I’m thankful for those things. Remembering them comforts me.

I was the heliotrope and she was my sun. I turned to her for light, for life.


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