Sitting with someone in their moment of grief.
A week before Deepavali 2022, I took a Grab (car-hailing service) for my appointment. As the driver was making a u-turn, he commented in Bahasa Malaysia that now radio stations are playing Deepavali songs.
I commented that it is the Deepavali season, hence the music. He shared that his family spent a lot of money for the Deepavali celebration only to be confronted with news of the passing of his relatives the week before. When someone encounters death within the family, the family members go into a period of mourning.
I was surprised that he shared his story of grief with a stranger. Sometimes, I can be unempathetic. Not only that, I am afraid of saying the wrong things, especially dealing with someone different from me.
We talked about the mourning period between the Chinese and Indian funerals. Halfway through the conversation, I realised that the driver was a good listener. Despite his pain and discomfort, he allowed me to talk. It humbled me. I noticed that I was talking more than him, and I steered the conversation back to him because it was not about me. It was about a man dealing with his grief.
I saw him wiping at the side of his eyes while he was driving. I struggled to find the Bahasa Malaysia words about grief, and an awkward silence ensued. We managed to switch to other topics.
Instinctively I wanted to let him know that he gets comfort and peace in this period of grief. When we reached my destination, he thanked me. I said to him, “Saya tahu kamu sedih sekarang tapi saya harap keadaan menjadi lebih ok dan hati kamu akan dapat penghiburan (I know you are sad now, but I hope you will be comforted and your situation improves).
The word ‘penghiburan’ in the Indonesian context is similar to ‘comfort’. It is used when people are struggling that they will ‘dihiburkan’. However, some Malaysians view ‘hibur’ as ‘entertainment’. Therefore, I was concerned that my words might be misunderstood and make the situation worse. I hope that he felt my sincerity deep down in his heart.
I was almost in tears when I left his car.