“Isn’t it time to get over it? Isn’t it time to move on? Time to start living again?” Or maybe even, “You need to stop thinking so much about yourself. Stop focusing on your loss. You have to think of your other children. They need you.”
Sadly, many grieving parents have heard words like these from people who are clumsily trying to be helpful – people who love them and care a great deal about them.
It’s hard to know if the words are said out of an internal conviction, a belief that they are communicating something loving and helpful. Or do they come from the discomfort of an observer who doesn’t know how to support a mom or a dad trapped in a cycle of grief? Or it could simply be the frustration of being around someone who is sad all the time and difficult to be with. Especially when it feels like there’s nothing that can be done to ‘fix’ them.
Mostly, I think it’s people with a good heart who genuinely don’t want to see someone suffering under such an emotional burden. People who think they can help the griever logically deal with the dreadful circumstances. Who believe the action of forgetting about what lies behind and looking forward to the future is the solution. The cure. The answer to coping with it all. We can’t do anything about the past, so… move on. The thinking is, “Trust me, you’ll feel better.” And they really believe it.
But it isn’t that easy.
With pain in a parent’s eyes and heart, I’ve watched and heard the agony of carrying a wound so deep and so raw, it feels unbearable. If we had MRI’s for the souls of sorrowing parents, the image would reveal the shocking sight of a heart bound and compressed with the unbelievable pressure of grief, as the broken heart struggles to just keep beating. You would see the empty hole where a missing piece was so cruelly torn away, leaving an open wound that takes a long, long time to heal. And on days when it appears as though maybe, just maybe, the healing has begun… the slightest bump, the slightest trip, can jostle the vulnerable soul, causing the wound to tear open and start bleeding again.
I am deeply grateful that within my circle of friends and family, no one said those words to me. No one. Instead of being given unhelpful advice, I was surrounded by love, support and safety. That, along with all the prayers – unheard by me, but heard in private by my Heavenly Father – is what has allowed me to heal.
I’ve heard the stories of those who didn’t have that support. It wasn’t safe for them to grieve. It wasn’t safe for them to talk about their child. To talk about their loss. And when someone would ‘helpfully’ suggest it’s probably time to get over it and move on, even when said with love, the words only scratched and poked at the wound, disrupting and delaying the very healing they were trying to accelerate.
The good news is that we can heal. We can emerge from the dark cloud of grief. We can see the light again. We can feel alive again. We can laugh again, love again, smile again. It takes time, but we can want to live again. It can really happen.
Hold on. Hold on to the hope. We may never totally heal, but we can be okay. Part of my heart will forever be missing while living in this mortal body. But it’s okay. We can be okay. If you’re in the unrelenting grip of grief now, or watching someone else struggle in that suffocating grasp of loss, be patient. Be tender around a wounded heart. Whether it’s your own or someone else’s. With hope, love, patience, support and faith…
Joy can once again come to the soul.
Even in the mourning.