Last week, someone I knew died.
I’d known her for six years, but we were never close. Our one connection was a mutual friend who introduced us for business reasons.
After we completed our brief professional relationship, I saw this woman only once again. In fact, I only knew about her health struggles because the aforementioned friend told me a year ago, when I randomly asked about her. I wouldn’t even have known about her passing had my friend not told me.
I’m really not sure how to refer to this woman. She wasn’t a friend, but then again, “professional acquaintance” seems so… distant. The difference she made in my life was immense, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for her.
And maybe that’s why the whole experience has been… weird. I haven’t shed any tears for this woman, and to claim that I’m distraught would be disingenuous. Yet, I am saddened by her passing. I want to say this to her family. I want to hug her husband and kids and offer my sympathies, to let them know how she touched my life, even so briefly.
Still, it’s not my place to do so.
Her family has been very private about all this, and I’m pretty sure I’m not “supposed” to know what she went through. I’m glad our mutual friend told me, but I want to respect the family’s privacy. And I certainly don’t want to “out” my friend.
But more than that, I feel so inept when it comes to doling out sympathy to people who aren’t particularly close to me. If a close friend needs my shoulder, I’m there. I know what to do, I know how to feel.
But when it’s someone I had only a tenuous connection to, I never know where that line between sympathy and respect for privacy lies. I never know how much support is appropriate to offer, or even how to offer it. I suck at distant sympathy. I suck at grieving from afar. When it comes to grief, I’m either all-in or all-out. And that bothers me a little.