Our friend and colleague had a diving accident several years ago which landed her in a coma. I was in another state at the time, and for a while I thought she had died. I later discovered that she came out of the coma and made a nearly full recovery. When I returned to work, speaking to her again was like speaking to a miracle. She was a good person and  we all felt she - and in turn we - had been given a second chance.  

At first she swore she'd never dive again. That changed, however. As soon as she recovered enough, she decided to confront her fear and start diving again. Soon she was doing it every weekend. For her, diving was not only a way to confront her fears and meet people, but a way to make something hers, something she could completely own. 

She loved it more than anything else in the world. She did it constantly after her accident and couldn't stop talking about how excited she was whenever she found a new diving partner, or a new place to explore.

She had another diving accident this weekend and fell into another coma, but didn't pull out of it. Now she's gone, and it's up to me to break the news to a lot of people.

Notifying others when someone dies is a tough job. I'm doing that today, on top of my 'regular' job. It isn't great fun being the messenger. All morning I've spoken with people who are moving through the various symptoms of grief : anger, sadness, lethargy, resentment, coldness. It's easier to deal with the people who are just sad, but some people are angry and I have to calm them down. I am also getting phone calls from people - clients, friends colleagues - who have only scraps of information about what has happened, and it's usually up to me to get them up to speed.

On days like this, it's natural to hear random outbursts of crying exploding in different corners of the office. I am not someone who gets particularly philosophical when someone dies, because I think about death all the time, and in a way, there is a corner of my brain that is always prepared for that sudden punch to the gut emptiness when you realize that someone is really gone. I guess it depends on how much of our brain space they take up; it also depends on how they died. She was a close friend at work for ten years who died doing something she loved doing. It's ok for me to be sad and upset, and I see the cruelty and tragedy in what has happened, but at the same time, I'm so thankful she was really living life to the fullest before the end.

I respect and admire people who can just wail and cry and scream and close off - all very natural ways of responding when a friend dies - but it's just not in me. It never has been. This, in a way, makes the job of messenger harder, because I am on the outside looking in on all this grief, and I feel less than human even as I impart the news in a humane way.

update: they're doing the right thing and bringing in grief counselors for much of the staff. this sort of support, when available, is really useful for people who otherwise might not deal with some of the passive or long term effects of grief. it can really sneak up on even the most hardened, unsuspecting individuals. i'm glad the company has stepped up so quickly about this.


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