I read Ann Voskamp's post this week. It struck such a chord with me. She talked about the wounded and how the church, the community, and even families pretend the wounded don't exist. Oh, I so get that. I so get that. Some just want to pretend everything's o.k. because, hey, it's over now, right? There are many still that don't bring up Matt's name for fear of touching the wound. Or perhaps it's because they fear themselves hurting. I don't know their reasons. But I do know that I don't understand them.
If there's anything a grieving parent wants, it's acknowledgement. One of the greatest fears a bereaved parent lives with is the fear that our child will be forgotten. We've already lost our child. We can't bear to lose their memory. Their memory is all we have left. Please, please talk about them. Whether that child was stillborn or 48yrs. old, we want others to ask about them, to wonder about them, to dream about them with us. They existed. They were a part of us.
The problem with child loss is that it is an invisible amputation. Our nature as people is to see an amputee and wonder what happened. But with child loss, the amputation isn't obvious. And once it becomes obvious, well, then it's just plain uncomfortable. Not for us, I mean. We're used to it. But for others? Well, they don't quite know what to do or say. That uncomfortableness is one of the reasons I blog. I want to educate those who haven't "been there, done that." I still shake my head in disbelief when I hear the misinformation about grief that continues to be touted. Misinformation such as bringing up the name of our loved one will cause more pain. Nothing could be further from the truth! Or the belief that child loss results in divorce. Where do they get these so-called "facts?" In my own experience, my marriage (which was good before) became even stronger, even more richer and deeper. There is no one who understands the loss of my child better than my husband. After all, Matt was his child, too. (Yes, there are some that do end in divorce, but I suspect it's because 1) the problems were there before the loss, and/or 2) because they didn't respect the way their spouse grieved and stopped communicating.)
I blog with transparency and honesty because I want others to know how to help the grieving. I want others to know what doesn't help the grief process. So many want to help, but don't know how. I write to offer "a window into grief," hoping that if it helps just one person, then it's worth risking putting myself out there. Our story matters. It matters because somewhere out there, there is another grieving parent trying to navigate a tsunami of grief. And somewhere out there, there is a friend or a family member trying to help those parents. It doesn't matter if the loss was three months ago or thirty years ago. What matters is that it's acknowledged. It doesn't have to be something brilliant said. It can be a hug or a hand on the shoulder or a squeeze of the hand. It can be as simple as, "I'm so sorry" or even, "I don't know what to say."
Grief is complicated, and dealing with the bereaved is complicated. It's messy. It's unpredictable. It isn't meant to be buried or ignored. Buried grief is toxic. But grief that is acknowledged? It's the body of Christ. It's love in action. It's salve for the wound. I get why some people don't want to see scars. Scars are ugly, even scary. But without the scars, we aren't like Christ. No, it's not pretty. Grief isn't pretty. But it's an opportunity, the opportunity to lean hard on God. It's the opportunity to show others that our strength doesn't come from within ourselves. It comes from Him. It comes from others being willing to lift us up.
I saw this blog post about grief within the church on my Facebook feed and it, too, drew back the curtain on grief, inviting others to sit with the scarred, the broken, the messy. I know it's uncomfortable. I know it's inconvenient. I know it's scary. But it's what makes us better. It's what brings healing. Sit with someone today. Just be there. And thank you. Thank you for sitting with me.