When she returned to work it appeared as though it was going to be "business as usual." Betsey jumped back into her top-notch performance as a respected ski pro in the Vail Village Ski and Snowboard School, a job that is very demanding socially. She responded graciously to the well wishes of her co-workers and was strong and appreciative in the process. I too offered my condolences and tried to avoid any unsolicited advice based on my own recent experiences with losing a sibling. The scenario was that of death occurring, as it does, and life going on around it.
A few days ago, in the course of the "goings-on" around the ski school office, Betsey approached me. In a soft and obviously fragile voice she asked, "How long did it take you to get over it?" The question took me by surprise. Betsey is a tough Vermonter who spends her winters toughing it out on the slopes and her summers on hands and knees installing and maintaining landscaping. Such vulnerability was a rare display of human frailty.
The whole episode reminded me of how frail we can all be and how common the experience is of losing a loved one. The conversation that ensued after her inquiry raised more questions than it answered. We agreed that everyone's loss is unique to the relationship they shared with the deceased and that after losing someone close your life is changed forever. We spoke for only a few minutes but the shared vulnerability superseded the more formal nature of our working relationship. The tears that we both successfully held back acted as a medium for stripping away the typical boundaries that would stand between coworkers. Though painful the interaction was awesome.
I hope that in the future Betsey and I can be a resource for one another as we travel the path of life after loss. Perhaps by this example others will open up to people in their circle for support on loss or any circumstance that leaves them pondering how to cope with life's challenges.
There are many times in life when we seemingly can't do a thing for those around us beset by adversity. Being there for one another goes much further than we believe in those times. You can be very powerful in that way by both giving and receiving that support.