Take a few moments to think about how we live in today’s culture… we want everything to move so quickly. We want to drive through and pick up our food, and we expect those drive-through lines to be fast and for our food to be hot and ready when we arrive at the window. We bank and shop from our phone in order to get things accomplished quickly. We always want to have the fastest speed for our internet. If we have a question, then we want to google the answer. We expect information to be at our fingertips at all times. If we have a goal such as losing weight for example, then we often want someone to tell us how we can quickly do three steps with the expectation that suddenly we will be back at our ideal weight. Our culture’s pace seems to have everything moving at full throttle, and if we do not move that fast, then we are concerned that we will be left behind.
Perhaps you are wondering, how does the speed that our culture is moving at relate to grief and pain? I strongly believe that this fast pace that our culture is currently moving at is a tremendous hindrance for those who are grieving and dealing with pain and suffering in their lives. When someone is grieving or in pain, then we can’t push a button or say a phrase and make their pain go away. When someone is grieving or in pain, then we can’t offer three steps that they complete and then believe that all of their pain and grief will just disappear.
Grieving is a journey and a process. This path is unpredictable and is different for all those who are on their own individual grief journey. We can’t say how someone should grieve or give them a time limit. My hope is that we will all be able to slow down and learn how to give those who are grieving permission to be real and to just be with them on their journey.
When someone dies, many in our communities today seem comfortable with the first week of the grieving process. We bring food or supplies to the home of the family who has had a loved one who has died. We may stop in to see them during this time, or we may send a card or a text or a social media message that lets the family know that we are thinking of them and are sorry for their loss. We may go to the visitation or the funeral or perhaps both. All of these things are important and show love and support to those who are grieving. All of these things should continue for the families who have lost loved ones. But once that short time is over, then most people return to their daily lives with the thought that they demonstrated support to those who are grieving and that now they should just help those who are grieving to move on. Many do not realize that most of those grieving are in shock and that their grief journey will continue long after the graveside service concludes.
Our nation was horrified on December 14, 2012 when 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Earlier Adam had killed his mother in their home. The news covered the events throughout the day. I clearly remember listening to the nightly news that devastating day as the anchor discussed the terrible details. In closing, the news anchor then began to discuss how we should all move forward. This comment again exemplified to me how the push in our culture is to move people forward in their grief and pain and not to give them time to grieve and heal. Honestly, I was disgusted. I remember thinking, so many families had children and other family members who died today, and you are already trying to move them forward? I remember wanting to plead with the anchor, “Why can’t we just be with them as they grieve their loved ones? Why do we need to try to push them forward on the very day that so many were so tragically killed and taken from their families?” I wanted to scream at the anchor to stop it; however, I was acutely aware that it was just me and the tv in the kitchen. I knew my screaming wouldn’t be heard.
This tragedy, including the news anchor’s words, occurred 16 months after my husband died and 6 months before my son was killed. I had definitely felt some of that push from others to not grieve and to just move forward after my husband died, and most certainly felt it after my son was killed.
It is interesting to study different cultures and time periods and to see how differently that grief and suffering and pain have been expressed and received. There is so much to learn. In the BIble when death had occurred, then you can find many examples in those times of people tearing their clothes and putting on sackcloth and even ashes at times. I have often thought how symbolic… these people were showing on the outside how they were feeling in the inside after their loved one had died. I am not sure how people in our culture would react if suddenly we started tearing our clothes and putting sackcloths on when someone died.
It is quite a contrast that we are expected to stand by the casket of someone who has just died that is close to us and to shake hands or hug people as they often say things that show you that they are uncomfortable with your pain. I remember people telling me “don’t worry, all things work for good”, “all things happen for a reason”, “God only gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers”, and “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”. I remember feeling like I was in a fog and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Everything felt like it was a push forward. Even though I was in a state of shock then every comment brought something different to my mind. When they would say, all things work for good, I remember thinking my 18 year old son is lying there dead, none of this is good. When they would say, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, I remember thinking I am a widow and now my only son is dead, clearly I have been overestimated. When they would say, all things happen for a reason, I remember thinking you are saying that because you are not standing next to your dead son or husband like I am.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I realize that these comments were said to me by people who cared about me and meant well, however, I believe that all of these catch phrases that are so often said by people truly reflect their uncomfortableness in sitting with someone who is grieving or in pain and highlights their need to push them forward.
My intent in this blog is to push back on that push forward.
My hope is that we can learn to just be with someone who is in pain or is grieving. My desire is for all of us to learn to show that we care and that we are there for them for as long as they need us.
Author Tim Lawrence so wisely said, “when you’re faced with tragedy, you usually find that you are no longer surrounded with people- you’re surrounded by platitudes.” He continues, “So what do we offer instead of ‘everything happens for a reason?’ He suggests that the most powerful thing that you can do is to acknowledge. He says
“To literally say the words: I acknowledge your pain. I’m here with you.”
I have learned and continue to learn many things from my own grief journey and from others that I have now connected with that are traveling on their own grief journey. May we all learn to just be with them. We do not need to try to say something that we think will fix their pain. It will not. We need to learn that they may just need you to hear their pain. We need to show them that we are comfortable with their tears and their questions of “why”. We need to surround them with love and to just listen. We need to realize that if they feel like being quiet that we can be comfortable with the silence. We need to work on not feeling compelled to fill the quiet space with forced words. We need to slow down. Hopefully, we will tell them that we acknowledge their pain, that we are hearing them, and that we will be there with them.
When I look at this picture of when my son’s basketball and football jerseys were retired at his high school, then I see so much. I see my youngest daughter looking down and the pain is all over her face and her clenched hands. I see my oldest daughter looking off in to the distance and her grief is so evident in her eyes and her stance. I see my expression and that I am biting my lip and trying to hold back the tears and to clearly speak. I see one of my son’s best friends looking at my youngest daughter with compassion and concern and wanting to help her. I see my son’s best friends and teammates honoring their teammate who was killed before their senior seasons. I know that we were surrounded with people who filled that gym and stood there with us as we honored my son and grieved together. My daughters and I have been surrounded with loving, thoughtful, encouraging people who are traveling our grief journey with us. Some of these wonderful people are you that I have never yet had the honor to meet but have had the privilege of being connected to through facebook and other social media. Thank you to each one who has heard us, prayed for us, and chosen not to rush us. Thank you to each one that has chosen to be patient and to just walk along this grief journey with us.
If you are hurting, grieving, or in pain then I want you to know that I will walk with you. I want you to know that I acknowledge your pain and that I am here with you. I will not push you forward in your grief journey. You can move at the pace that you need.
May we all NOT follow the crazy fast paced culture’s norms that we live in when we are dealing with grief and pain. May we instead let those who are grieving and are in pain set their own pace for their individual journey and healing.
#noexcusesnoregrets #ourjourneycontinues #forevergratefulforallthosewithus #acknowledgepain #bethere