Saturday, December 15, 2012

no magic

As a person who is already mourning the loss of their child, I find myself feeling especially helpless as I see people around me who are grieving.  I feel like I should be able to offer some kind of comforting words, and find myself realizing that there are no right words to say...ever.

There is no magic way to take the pain away.  There isn't anything that can 'fix' the situation.  As a person who likes to fix things, this makes me feel so incompetent.

Recently, I have put my foot in my mouth, trying to talk with other grieving people, more than I care to mention....oh yes, I have.  It just goes to show that when tragedy strikes, no one, not even the bereaved, knows what to say.

The best thing that any of us can do is listen, without expectation, to what is being said to us.  I truly believe that we cannot offer any "right" words of comfort.  The best thing we can do is LISTEN.  Let the person who is mourning say (or not say) what they need to.  Offer support through actions and not words.

When we try to offer words of encouragement, they usually get in the way of what our intentions are.  We find ourselves, accidentally, trying to hurry the course of grieving along.  It's not that we don't believe, or even understand, that grieving should take a long time, it's more that we want to remove the suffering.  We want to make it "better".

There is no "better"....not immediately, and sometimes not even after a couple of years.  "Better" comes with time, and often lots of time.  Each day gets a little "better", even when the days are feeling worse.

I am going to try to illustrate this timing by looking at astronomy (which you will soon see that I am no expert in - sorry Ms. Burrichter if you should read this).

In school we learn that it takes the earth approximately 24 hours (or 1 day) to make a complete rotation on it's axis.  At the same time, it takes the earth approximately 365 days (or 1 entire year) to completely orbit around the sun.  Because the earth is tilted, and also rotating on its own, as it moves around the sun, we experience different seasons at different times.

When we experience a loss, in our own way, we become tilted (like the earth), and we begin to experience different stages of grief (seasons).  We continue to try to move forward (orbiting on our own axis) the best we can in life (while rotating around the sun), and eventually we realize that we've begun to heal (made a complete revolution around the sun).

The biggest difference between grieving and astronomy, is that there is no set timeline for the seasons, and we can't rush it either.  The seasons (stages of grief) come when the come; we don't necessarily get the luxury of knowing that in a certain amount of time this will all go away.  We have to accept that healing will come when it's supposed to.  We may not feel healed in one year, or five years, or even fifteen years, but we keep moving forward.  It's all we can do.

Not everyone will understand, and perhaps most people won't, but it's not up to us to worry about that.  We have to look out for ourselves and do the best we can.  Our world is now tilted.  We're going through things differently than we did before. 

Our "better" will come, but it may take a while.

If you are struggling with grief, find people who will listen to you and not try to force you to find "better".  Find people who have the power to listen and don't have to fix things.  If you can find 2-3 people who can support you, it will help.

At some point, if you look backward, you will begin to see how far you've come, and though your "rotation" may not be complete yet, you can see that you are may not feel it (much like we don't feel the daily rotation or annual rotation of the earth), but you will start to see it.


  1. Tracy, this astronomy analogy makes so much sense to me. Thanks for sharing it. You've also given a lot to think about to those of us who have grieving friends and loved ones. I think you hit the nail on the head that we all just want so badly to be able to take away the pain from the person who is grieving, but of course there is no way to do this. I think many of us are guilty of making things worse (or at least not helping) when we are actually trying to help. This is a good reminder that we can "help" more with our ears and compassion than with our mouths and advice.

    If I'm honest, I've struggled with what- if anything- I could do to "help" you cope with Catelyn's death. I know there's nothing really that I can say to make it easier. But I miss her too, and I think about her often. And I hope hearing that might bring you some comfort at a time when you especially need it.

    I'm going to stop now, because I fear I'm doing exactly that trying-to-make-it-better-with-words thing right now. But I am sending you a big giant virtual hug!!

  2. I feel honored to be mentioned in your blog. You did an excellent job with the astronomy, but more important a superb explanation of grieving. Thanks for helping me learn to be a good listener. Prayers continue for your family.

  3. I've been meaning to message you for a while, now. After my miscarriages, I understood, at least a little, of what you have gone through. You're right, there ARE no right words. But it's better to say SOMETHING than to say nothing at all. It's better for someone to say they're sorry for your loss than to pretend it never happened.

    My dear, I hope I didn't say the wrong things to you after your loss. My prayers continue to be with you and I'm SO SORRY for YOUR loss.

    May you find HOPE and GRACE this Christmas. (((HUGS)))