What can you say?
Rather, what can you do?
If there’s any combination of the two things, it would be nice to know what it is. Because there are times when there’s nothing you can say, and there’s not much you can do.
We share many related experiences. If and only if because we share the same passion, and the same sport, and the same love for our horses. From all walks of life, from all parts of the world, and in different shapes and sizes, we feel for one another when one of our horses is lame, when we have to sell our horse, or when one of them is sick. Even if you’ve experienced it before, there’s not much you can say, and there isn’t much you can do.
Grief is hard. Unlike a tide, regardless of how it feels like you’ve been washed over too many times by crashing waves, grief isn’t predictable. There’s no timetable for how long it might take for dire circumstance to hit you, knock you over, and leave you breathless. You might not see it coming, but it does, and with it comes wave after wave. Battered and breathless, grief is a tumultuous thing we often don’t realize is pressing down on us until we can’t breathe.
The waiting room is an uncomfortable place, where we sit and begin to fester in whatever it is we’re waiting on. It stinks. Literally, figuratively… but sitting in a cold uncomfortable chair while you’re awaiting news you aren’t sure if you want to hear or not is awful. The waiting game is uncomfortable, and grief waits for you like a welcoming committee every time a doctor or vet comes through the doors.
What can you say, when it isn’t your horse? What can you do, when it isn’t your grief?
Regardless of how good the vet school may be, their credentials aren’t enough to comfort someone worried they’ll lose their competition partner. Their friend. The horse their dreams rode on. And when I got a call to come sit with my trainer while she waited for news from the school, I didn’t know what to say. Save for “I’m sorry”, and there’s no amount of “I’m sorry” that soothes a broken heart. There’s no amount of company that soothes fear of the future.
Even though I can’t relate to the exact situation, I long for one more moment with my old friend. I long for one more ride, and if that’s too much to ask for then just one more sweet moment. I choke up when I think of the very gentle waves of grief that still crash on the shores of my memory of him. And yet, it’s that feeling exactly that caught my heart in my throat when she called me to let me know her horse was going to the vet school for a serious procedure.
It was knowing she may have to shoulder grief and sadness at the loss of her friend that got me in the car. It got me to the waiting room, where we sat in silence. Because what can you say, and what can you do, when you know there’s nothing?
In these moments, when there’s nothing you can say or do to change the inevitable, we can simply share experiences. I can share the pain of waiting, of not knowing, and of worrying with her. I can shoulder the weight of taking care of the dinner chores so she could be at the vet school if need be. It’s frustrating to have no words to soothe pain. And it’s even more frustrating to know there’s not much you can do to ease the ache in someone else’s heart.
But you can be there, and you can sit, and wait. And you can share the experience, regardless of your choice of riding discipline. Grief is hard, but having another shoulder to carry it makes the weight less. And even more so over time.
So what can you say, and what can you do? There aren’t any definite answers to those two questions, but whatever you can do, do. Sometimes, it’s simply nice to have a shoulder that helps carry a heavy weight, and a friend nearby. To know there’s a heart to share your struggle with.