One of the heartwarming parts of All the Bright Places was how willing Finch was to hear about Violet’s older sister who passed away. He asked the questions about the accident and then followed up with questions wanting to learn what she was like when she was alive.
Having to share your loss with new friends is incredibly hard because for the most part the conversation hasn’t been made to be an easy way. Most people don’t know how to react to death or grief. For many, it’s better to ignore the reality so many people teens and young adults go through, rather than accept that it can happen to them or someone they know.
This conversation, I’ve found, gets even harder when you’re figuring out how to tell the new guy (or girl) in your life about your loss.
I don’t think there’s one right way to do this, and if there is I so have not found it yet. In the meantime, here are some of the touch points I go through before I even bring it up:
(1) Do I feel comfortable with this guy?
Before I’m willing to talk about anything heavy or important to me, I have to feel comfortable with the guy. If I can joke with him about my favorite TV shows and talk about politics or who my friends are then we’ve hit a point where I feel like he’s someone I can start to open up to. (On this note…)
(2) It’s not up to me to decide whether or not he can handle the heavy. This is his decision to make.
Yes, it’s awkward to tell someone “oh, no actually my mom died,” but if this makes him so uncomfortable that he just can’t talk anymore then that’s on him, not on you.
(3) Avoid going into the conversation with a script (for yourself or of things he should say)
This is your story, you know it front to back. There’s no need to enter the conversation knowing that you’ll share this, but that. As the conversation progresses you’ll know what to say, how much to say or when to say it. The biggest mistake that can be made in this entire conversation is to keep a checklist of things in your head that he should live up to. (No one is psychic.)