On grieving and bearing one another’s burdens

“Come. Bring your gifts of memories, your arms with chocolates and your presence. Leave the words behind
and just come. I’ll hear what you mean, not what you say.”
00000290 scan0006-1 DSCF0974 00000494

scan0003-7Yesterday my heart was heavy the entire day. You see, there’s this boy who should have been celebrating his 24th birthday with his family, but 5 years ago he took that privilege away from them. He was dearly loved and a few days ago his parents posted such a beautiful tribute to him here. His sister had a lovely tribute on her Facebook wall. Hardly, one day goes by without his face coming to mind. As neighbors for over 24 years there are so many memories. He always had the best birthday parties. My heartbreak compounds when I think of his family knowing hardly a minute goes by for them without seeing his face or thinking of a memory.

As I have said before, our dear neighbors have become reluctant experts on the subject of grief. On some level I have become their reluctant student. I have learned so very much just listening to them. They have shared so much. I hope I have shared their burden just a little and I know they have said so, but I have always felt so inadequate. This morning I received an email from them sharing a wonderful and exacting essay called Words, Words, Words by Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D. Apparently Dr. Sims passed away unexpectedly recently, but clearly she was an expert on dealing with grief as well. We all have a lot to learn. I remember someone asking us once, “do they have other children?” I was unnerved by that question and my initial thought was “that’s completely irrelevant!” Instead, for once I found it easy to be more gracious than I thought I would, and replied, “yes, they have a beautiful, vivacious, intelligent daughter, but right now they are grieving so that may not be in the forefront of their minds. Silence.

Here’s the essay. Read it and let Dr. Sims words be a reminder for each of us. We are all in this together.

Words, Words, Words 
by Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D. 
 
“He’s in a better place.”
“At least you have other children.”
“She’s better off now/not in any pain.”
“Where’s your faith? You should be happy for him.”
“God needed another flower in His garden.”
“Time heals all things.”
“You’ll be better tomorrow.”
“You can’t stay sad the rest of your life.”
“Your loved one wouldn’t want yon to be so sad.”
“You can have another baby.”
“You were so happy together. Be grateful for that.”
“At least he didn’t suffer.”
“She was so young.”
“You didn’t really get to know her that well.”
Words; just words. Often spoken in an attempt to ease the pain of grieving the death of someone we love.
But, instead of bringing relief, those words just seem to add to the hurt, the confusion, the anger, and the
grief. There are no words that will make it all right that someone we loved has died. But there are words that
can soothe the hurt, ease the loneliness and add to the healing.
I don’t think people are trying to hurt grievers. They just seem to engage their mouths before their brains. Or
maybe what they were planning on saying sounded pretty good in their heads, but by the time those words
of hope made the journey from their minds to their mouths, something happened. And those words came
out, sending hurt instead of hope across the space between us.
What are you trying to say? Are you trying to fill the silence between us, show how much you care or how
much you know? Do you think words will help when a heart is broken?
Why do we hide behind words, any words, when a hug or a simple touch on the arm would say so much
more? Have we forgotten the power of presence? Do we fear silence because it might mean we have
nothing to say?
Why must a moment between friends be filled with noise or empty platitudes or meaningless sounds of
hollow comfort? Why can’t two people simply be in the presence of each other, allowing that great strength
to flow between them without any words to interrupt the message?
“You can have another baby.”
“You were so happy together. Be grateful for that.”
“At least he didn’t suffer.”
“She was so young. You didn’t really get to know her that well.”
ARRRGGG! Words! Words! Words meant to help that only add to the hurt. Give me silence, please! Not
emptiness … silences. Not loneliness … Silence. Don’t not come, but come silently. Sit on my couch, hold
my hand, share a cookie, hand me a tissue. Come, but leave your words of hollow hope behind. No words
can speak more eloquently than the shared silence of presence. Come sit beside me. Hold me. Touch me.
Be with me, but leave the noise behind.
 Are we afraid that silence will kill us? Are we afraid that we will say “the wrong thing”? (What is the right
thing?) Are we afraid that we will “remind” the bereaved of their loss? (Do you think we will ever forget it?)
“Time heals all things.”
“You’ll be better tomorrow.”
“You can’t stay sad the rest of your life.”
“Your loved one wouldn’t want you to be so sad.”
If only I could think of something to say in return! But my mind as well as my body and soul have gone
numb. I am frozen and I can’t think of anything to say. Sometimes I am so shocked that I cannot believe I
heard what you said, or maybe you don’t even realize what you said.
“Be happy she’s healed now.”
” Why are you so sad?”
” We have gathered here to not to mourn the loss of…But rather to celebrate his life.”
Words; Just words. You’d think they wouldn’t hurt so much, but they do. Sometimes it really is better not to
say anything. That doesn’t mean don’t do something … it means don’t use words to fill up the space that
sadness occupies. By all means, do something! Bring flowers, a casserole (not tuna, please), chocolate
cookies, napkins, paper towels. Come help with the laundry, the childcare, the mail, the dusting. Drop off a
ham, a turkey, a hug. Send a note, a lemon meringue pie, and a donation to my loved one’s favorite charity.
Slip a note into my pocket, a card in my mailbox, a hand into my empty one.
Share a memory, a laugh, and a moment. Tell me stories of the past; bring me pictures from your
scrapbook. Speak of love, not sorrow. Remember the life, not just the death. Give me hope, not
meaningless words.
Hug me, hold me, love me, leave me, but don’t shower me with words that are meant to soothe, but sear
instead. Your presence really is the healing touch. No words need be spoken between friends and family
when love is the weaver of the threads.
“He’s in a better place.”
(I thought right next to me was a pretty good place)
“At least you have other children.”
(Yes, but I really loved that one, too.)
“She’s better off now… not in any pain.”
(She may be out of pain, but I’m not!)
“Where’s your faith? You should be happy for him.”
(My faith may help my heart feel better, but it’s my arms that are empty and aching.)
“God needed another flower in His garden.”
(What about MY garden?!)
“You can have another baby.”
(Maybe, but no one can replace someone)
“You were so happy together. Be grateful for that.”
(I am grateful, but I want more!)
“At least he didn’t suffer.”
(Yes, that’s true, but I am suffering now.)
“She was so young. You didn’t really get to know her that well.”
(Since when does age have anything to do with how much someone is loved?)
“Time heals all things.”
(Time does nothing except pass. It is what you do with the time that might change things.)
“You’ll be better tomorrow.”
(Perhaps, but what about today?)
“You can’t stay sad the rest of your life.”
(Oh yes I can)
“Your loved one wouldn’t want you to be so sad.”
(How do you know? I have told my loved ones that I expect at least three days of heavy grieving. After that,
they can do whatever they wish. But I do want them to be sad… at least a little bit!)
“Be happy she’s healed now.”
(That may be true, but it is still my heart that is broken … my arms that are empty. What about me?)
” Why are you so sad?”
(Oh, I don’t know … maybe it’s because someone I loved has died.)
“We have gathered here to not to mourn the loss of. … But rather to celebrate his life.”
(The thought here is nice, but the timing seems a bit “off.” I am not quite ready to celebrate. I think I need
some grieving time, too.)
Words. Just words. Let them fall to the wayside when you hear words that do not quite touch the pain or hit
the mark. Realize that someone is tying to reach you, soothe you, and comfort you. So what if their choice
of words falls short of the goal or even brings a moment or two of pain? At least someone cares enough to
keep trying! And the sounds of silence are even worse than the words that come wrapped in good intentions
and tied with a silly looking bow.
I’ll take your comfort any way you can share it with me. But maybe the best words to say are simply, “I’m
here and I don’t have a clue as to how to help, but I’m here, and together we’ll figure this thing out.”
Come. Bring your gifts of memories, your arms with chocolates and your presence. Leave the words behind
and just come. I’ll hear what you mean, not what you say.
~ciao
Advertisements

About along the journey

public private ramblings - myfullemptynest
This entry was posted in 2014, Birthdays, Children, Compassion, Empty Nest, Family, Friendship, Grief, Grieving, In memoriam, Love, Memories, Siblings, Tragedy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to On grieving and bearing one another’s burdens

  1. Margaret Johnson says:

    Lovely, Ann. Thank you.

    Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:55:56 +0000 To: peggi629@msn.com

  2. Apt words, and pertinent in our own life this week. On Monday we lost a dear mother of 3 in our community of parents. We didn’t know her terribly well, but I saw her every day at the pre-school and we chatted now and then. Thinking of such words of “comfort” in the wake of this week’s tragedy gave me pause and a new perspective on Christ. Not only should we lament for the loss of a this woman, and for the void left for her 5, 4, and 2 year old children, as well as her husband. But she, with Jesus by her side, is shattered. Shattered by missing her children, shattered by the pain they will endure simply by missing her, and missing her influence. Shattered by the anger, pain, and emptiness her husband feels. Our Lord is good, and she is with him, and he is comforting her in her loss, and the pain she feels at her family’s loss. Frankly, I find this God far more than attractive than the God represented in the cliche’s addressed in the piece by Dr. Sims.

    Can God make good out of her death, and the death of your neighbor’s son? Sure. But that does not make their deaths good. In any way.

  3. Kay Cooke says:

    Ann, thank you for sharing so eloquently your thoughts and impressions of Jordan. I know it meant a lot to my dear friends Peggi and Jeff for Jordan to be remembered so fondly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s