How are you feeling?

In the dim light of my sunrise yoga class, I watched the instructor direct her question toward another regular student – a woman about my age.  This woman’s eyes shifted downward.

Well, I miscarried, she responded.  Her voice wavered.

Our instructor responded quickly with an obligatory “I’m sorry.”  Without looking up, the woman replied bitterly; sarcastically.

Well, you didn’t do it to me.

The only other regular student in the class, this woman’s mother, walked quickly away.  The woman pulled out her phone and began typing on it, attempting to ignore me and clearly trying not to cry.

I didn’t know what to say.  I don’t know her name, but I see her every Thursday morning.  I know that she is a lawyer, like me, but I’m not sure that she realizes that we have that connection.  I know that her mom comes with her to every class, and I know that she lives in a house without an attached garage.  But, I don’t know her name, and I didn’t know what to say to her in that moment.

Instead, I looked at her apologetically and squeezed out the door.  What could I say?

My mother died five years ago, and I that time after she died was the darkest time that I have lived.  To escape that darkness, I found a quiet little place to put that hurt, and I let life’s layers cover it, so that I didn’t have to experience it anymore.  However, with this conscious attempt to ignore my pain, I find myself ignoring the pain of others too.

Occasionally, this hurt works its way back to sunlight, and I find myself dealing raw grief – both mine and that of others.

In church several weeks ago – only a week past the five-year anniversary of my mother’s death – I found myself sitting next to a very well-put-together older woman.  We spoke briefly several times throughout the service, and by the end, I realized that I knew who she was and that she had recently lost her husband to a heart attack.

After the service, I introduced myself, and she told me that she had been recently widowed.  I could have offered her an obligatory “I’m sorry,” and escaped back into anonymity but instead, I told her that I knew.  I quickly explained that my mother had died five years ago, and even though it wasn’t the same, I knew how hard it was to lose someone you loved.  We both left that service crying.

These two experiences have left me wondering if there is any sincerely, compassionate way to handle the grief of others without diving into yourself.