They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

I remember the first couple times I ventured out in public after Dominic left us and the flurry of activity surrounding his funeral was over.

I felt naked, afraid and oh, so vulnerable.  

The tiniest misplaced word or random glance could undo me and I burst into tears.  

And I remember the phone calls, cards, texts and Facebook messages from friends and family who truly wanted to encourage my heart but often chose the wrong words and pierced it instead.

I took offense.  Often.

But about a month or so into this journey, as I explored the edges of my pain and had time to think about how utterly different and unknowable it was without experiencing it, I realized that all those barbs were completely unintentional.

No one was aiming to hurt me.  They were walking in the dark and stepping on my toes because they couldn’t SEE, not because they desired to cause me pain.

I was just as clueless before it was ME who buried a child.

So I learned to extend grace-to look behind the words to the heart offering them.

Because they don’t know what they don’t know.  

And I hope to God they never do.

dont expect everyone to understand

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

16 thoughts on “They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know”

  1. The first friend I called that day was a long-time friend who had lost his son 8 years before I found my daughter. Since that time, I have apologized profusely for my reply to his email telling me about his son. He had told me that he knew I would want to call but not to call yet. My reply “I’m going to call you anyway and get your mind off it”. Eight years later, I truly understand why what I said was so very wrong on so many levels. I have tried my best over the past five years to keep in mind that “they” do not have a clue, and we can’t expect them to get a clue anytime soon. I have posted many times about grief, especially child loss, over these five years. People have told me that they understand the grief of others better than they used to understand. So I’ll keep writing. And I will keep reading your posts. You have been one of the people who has helped me over the years, and I appreciate your help for me and for others.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. With the death of our child, Patrick, I came to a realization that there is a lot of ignorance about how truly deep grief works. Many think of it as an event; a beginning, a middle, and an end. They then act somewhat offended when they are at the “end” of their grief, but you’ve just stepped out of your shock, and are dealing with the beginning of your grief. In fact, it isn’t “an event” it is a life altering moment that changes you, your mind, and your heart FOREVER! And in truth, when you move into the middle Of it, you may possibly be there the rest of your life. And, in my opinion that’s ok. We learn to function, as a person with a amputation; we can figure out how to navigate life, but it is abundantly clear that it will be a poor substitute to the way we did before the loss occurred. As a child we played hopscotch. Some people were better at it than others. I, for, one, didn’t hop on one foot very well. Others did great! Today I understand that I’ll be hopping on one foot for the rest of my life. BUT! The difference comes here; I never prayed for God’s help in Hopscotch, but in this life I’m constantly seeking God’s help, and though I’m never going to win, I’m getting a little better at the challenge of grieving .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. About six months after we lost our sweet Annika, someone very close and related verbally chastised me because we were spending so much time with our immediate family (our son and his family and our daughter and her family). It was like being kicked in the gut. It was the first time I pushed back against the often hurtful, insensitive words and actions of others. I would not apologize for spending more time with my grieving children and grandchildren as we tried to learn to live without our granddaughter, daughter, sister, niece, cousin. I also realized that being offended was a choice, a path…one I did not want to take. Having read a book years ago called “Boundaries,” I remembered that I answer to the Lord for my choices, I am responsible first and foremost to Him. And I knew He understood. That was enough for me.
    I also remembered having said some foolish things to grieving friends and family. We all need grace, we all need to give grace.
    Thank you Melanie for your transparency and words. Love you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I remember when my pain and shock was fresh and just how excruciating and infuriating some of the comments and reactions were for me. At the same time I’ll be the first to admit that before we lost Judge and I began this horrible journey I said similar unhelpful things to others in grief. Clumsy, unhelpful things. I wince when I recall them. I get it now. It seems that as a society we aren’t really good at just being with people in pain. We prefer to either avoid emotional pain or fix it and make it go away and I was as guilty of it as anyone. Not anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m doing my best to extend grace, but like you said it is very hard some days. How do I extend grace when it’s a family member or a really close friend that acts like nothing has happened or that I should just get over it? If I avoid them or don’t respond then I am the one that’s being unfriendly. How do you bear the hurt of it? In searching for an answer I came across this version of the serenity prayer. Words that soothe the heart rather than hurt it. I will try to remember this.

    God, give me grace to accept with serenity
    the things that cannot be changed,
    Courage to change the things
    that can be changed
    and the Wisdom to distinguish
    the one from the other.
    Living one day at a time,
    Enjoying one moment at a time,
    Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
    Taking, as Jesus did,
    This world as it is,
    Not as I would have it,
    Trusting that You will make all things right,
    If I surrender to Your will,
    So that I may experience joy in this life,
    And with You forever in the next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It IS hard when it’s family or close friends. !!! I am so sorry. Personally, I think they often act like nothing happened because they have not assimilated our child’s death into their own paradigm. They can ignore it because it’s not unavoidable for them like it is for us. :(. ❤


  6. After 14 months of living life without my son, I finally found a project that is energizing and exciting me. It’s at our church and has to do with preserving the sacramental, school and parish records of over 100 years. A church employee threw a wet blanket on it when I was expressing my enthusiasm. She knows what my journey has been and I was hurt that she couldn’t “see” what a milestone I had reached. I was hurt at first and now I know that her reaction isn’t personal towards me. I’m learning to detach with love from folks like her and forge ahead on this journey and keep my spirits lifted. Thank you for this post.


    1. I confess-there are people that I see often whom I have learned to avoid if possible because they are so insistent on pushing for answers or responses I simply cannot give. Others have learned along with me, they have chosen to “take notes” and become more sensitive. And then there are those who are truly clueless-they are the ones I can most easily extend grace to now. It’s hard and some days I’m terrible at it. I come home and cry and rail agains their insensitivity. ❤


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