I remember a quote from my childhood: whatever happens, someone always knew it would.
From the minute you wake, your brain calculates all the possibilities for the day: what may happen and how; who may say what and how; how you may react and what you may say back; what serendipity may bring and what Murphy’s Law may wipe out. Cynicism is the best armour and sarcasm the easiest opt-in.
It’s awful when you see a friend in the middle of a tumultuous time. It’s even more awful when our brains, ever checking out the options, had already entertained this possibility. We may have even discussed it with someone else and then prayed that it wouldn’t be so. We may have rehearsed how we would handle hearing the news, and how heroic we would be in the face of it.
Now it’s happened, mostly we have no idea what to do. Do we do for them what we think we would like done for us if we had/have ever been in similar circumstances? Do we offer sympathy, somehow without being patronising? Do we ‘big them up’ at the risk of placing everyone in a happy place of impervious denial? It has taken a long time to get to an answer which is hard but feels right.
For me, and I stress this is entirely personal, I let that special someone know they are loved, that they are supported whenever they request, then stop trying to grab the reins. The circumstance is not mine. It’s not for me to admonish the ‘bitch/bastard’, to kick the illness into touch, to grab the happiness back. I am not the protagonist, and I may not even be a part of the cast for this scenario.
Nowadays I have enough faith that those struggling right now know I love them. They know I can walk beside them in darkness without being sucked in myself and they know I can shine light when they need it without running out of my own energy reserves. They know I won’t sulk if I don’t know which particular stage of anguish they’re in and they know I won’t roll my eyes if I am walked through the minutiae. I have enough understanding, that if they don’t already know that, then I may not be able to support them yet.
Whilst they’re working out who and what they need to get through right now? I am making sure that all my friends know who they are to me, not only ‘just in case’ but because it’s what I should be doing anyway.