When People Just Don’t Listen

I had a very uncomfortable exchange with someone at church Wednesday night.  

We have a light potluck dinner each Wednesday before Bible Study and I’m on kitchen duty.  So I was uncovering dishes, adding spoons and getting things ready when conversation erupted around me about a “horrible wreck just up the road.”

I kept silent and tried to focus on the plastic wrap and aluminum foil but couldn’t help hearing the animated relaying of detail after detail until it reached a crescendo ending in someone declaring that, “Well, those people just drive too fast.  They don’t even care about themselves.”  

You might guess where this is going.  

Yep.  Couldn’t take it anymore so I said, “Most young people feel invincible.  They think it won’t happen to them.  If they knew they might really die and all that meant, they wouldn’t do it.”  

Which kind of slowed them down but didn’t stop them.  

So I asked, “Is the guy OK?”  Wanting a simple answer not an account of grisly details.  

Instead, the main speaker turned to me and began to share all he could remember in the brief time he had to take notes as he was crawling slowly by the accident scene.  (I won’t recount them here to spare hearts but let’s just say for those of us whose child left for Heaven by road accident, it was entirely. too. much.)

I looked at him and said, “That’s enough.”  He kept talking. 

I looked at him again and said, “That’s enough.  My son was killed in an accident.”  He kept talking.  

I finally raised my voice, called his name and said, “That’s enough!  Stop talking!”  He turned away like I had lost my mind.

I followed him a couple steps and said, “My son died in an accident.  I don’t want to hear those kinds of details.  Didn’t you see that I was crying?”  

His response:  “Well you asked.  No, I didn’t see you crying.”

Walked away.

Everyone heard it but no one was listening.  Everyone saw it but no one was willing to come alongside and put an arm around me.  Everyone knows about my son but knowing hasn’t sunk in deeply enough to grow seeds of compassion.

I was shaking and wanted to leave right then but didn’t.  

I’m not so tender now at five years that simply hearing about an accident upsets me.  My mind goes immediately to the family and I breathe prayers for abundant grace and mercy.  I never want others to  feel they can’t share genuine prayer requests or concerns.

But I do not want details.  I do not want a blow-by-blow nor anyone’s haughty opinion that it won’t happen to them or theirs because they “take precautions”.

I am utterly undone that after years of gently trying to help the people I worship with understand the tender places in a bereaved parent’s heart, several of them stomped all over mine.

I know words slip out.  I don’t want anyone to walk on eggshells around me. 

But I do want to be heard.  

When I tell you that I need you to stop sharing something with me, please just stop.  

Are you going to burst if you don’t let the words out?  

Probably not.  

But you might well break a bit of my heart if you don’t.  

dragging heart

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.

20 thoughts on “When People Just Don’t Listen”

  1. Dear Melanie,

    Thank you for sharing this difficult experience. Sometimes I find that my non-believing friends are kinder and more sensitive that some Christ followers.

    My son died at a fraternity as a result of drinking and lack of oversight. He could have been saved if there was a sober person with the job of watching out for others. These tragic and all too frequent deaths make headlines initially, then are lost as time goes by. How difficult it is to see life go on at fraternities on college campuses without significant changes. I am drawn to these stories and try to reach out to families as support. This is therapeutic for me.

    However, people joking and making light of getting drunk is really hard for me to take, and I pray for wisdom as to whether I should speak or leave or attempt to change the subject. More often than not, I speak up.

    I pray that this person in your church thinks and reflects on the power of words to hurt or heal.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so sorry for anyone who has lost a child no matter the child’s age or manner of death. What matters is that child is forever gone from us and our family is never the same.
    My worst experience was sitting in a PTA meeting where a mother suggested that a wrecked car be placed at the HS so it would be a warning during prom time. My youngest son would be going to the prom and didn’t need to see a car wrecked as his brother’s was. I had to speak up. They didn’t go through with that idea. Thank God for that mercy.
    No one has an idea of the hurt until they go through it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 5 years ago my Lydia took her life. she was 23. I dont want people walking on egg shells around me or being afraid to talk. but some of this is just common sense. I wouldnever have said maybe it was for the best or life goes on, or you need to moveon and start living again. even before I lost my Lydia, I would never have said those words to someone. I have cringed and walked away from peoplewho start talking about suicideand how selfish the person must be who does that. I have spoken and and said my Lydiawasthemostcaring person with the biggest heart. it just adds so much more pain and thatin turn adds to being so so tired!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So very sorry you had to endure yet another person who doesn’t “listen” when they are asked to stop talking. I haven’t had this happen to me, mine is the silent treatment. Everyone is afraid to say anything bad around me. Its as if they are walking on egg shells afraid I will break down as soon as they tell me anything bad. I am three years in and it just seems like a lifetime ago my family was whole.


    1. Brenton’s Mom- I am Lucy’s Mom. Three short/long years ago-which one? People that I thought were so empathic, thoughtful and articulate……are now NONE of those things when it comes to me. The silence is deafening, isn’t it? “They don’t know what to say” so they say nothing or never call/come over/stop by. It’s very common, yet infuriating. Whole new handful of supporters.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I have said some incredible insensitive things looking back before I lost my little one. Some just don’t get it until they have experienced loss. But we need to speak up and tell them how hurtful and insensitive those words are and hopefully they will learn. You did it! Your amazing and I thank you for your thoughts and words, they speak to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It is sad to think that someone who is attending Bible Study, and no doubt thinking of himself as being a ‘good’ person, is so oblivious of the feelings of the people around him. Perhaps he needs to concentrate less on the theory and more on the practice? I am sorry that you had that experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Melanie, I hear you. I am so sorry and I am enraged that some people love to be the bearer of sensational “news.” People think they are bonding with me if they relay a suicide story to me, as if they “get it.” I do not need to hear another suicide story. I have one of my own that is enough, thank you.
    You are always in my prayers when I pray and think about other grieving parents. Marcy

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you Melanie for sharing this hard story. I’m so sorry and pray for our Lord to meet you as you process the jagged emotions that linger from that exchange. The disregard for your feelings is so hurtful. I would be stung too by the others in the room who didn’t reach out to you. I hope that in hearing that exchange they will be more aware of how another family has been tossed in to the reality of sudden death or serious injury and how chatting in judgement is not ok.
    It’s hard to speak up. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” …..I hope that rude dude will have godly revelation and try and head in that direction, sooner than later….. I’m so sorry he propelled fiery darts at you. We’re holding up the shield of faith with you sister.❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Oh Melanie. I’m so sorry. That must have really hurt your heart on so many levels, not just the triggers it would have brought up, or the insensitivity of someone to talk about the accident and include unnecessary details, but to then not even be sorry for their hurtful words and behaviour. Wow!! It’s so sad too when it’s Gods people and those who know you and your story. Supernatural forgiveness required in a situation like this, but at the same time are there any steps you can take to guard your heart from further hurt in this setting? It sounds like you encounter these people on a regular basis.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I had a similar Facebook encounter when a friend wrote about being stuck in traffic due to a fatal accident. She went on to write that she was glad she had her latte and good music to listen to, and that perhaps she might be able to get out of work for the day because of the extensive back-up. There was no compassion or concern for the victim or the victim’s family at all. Others wrote about being glad she had a good latte. Still no concern for the victim. I wrote a carefully-worded response questioning concern for those who suffered this loss, and then the post was deleted. The lack of compassion really bothered me, especially as a parent whose child died in a car accident.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. It happens from the most unexpected of people doesn’t it. A few weeks ago at one of the Suicide Prevention Steering group meetings on which I am the Lived Experience member, I had already addressed the meeting, reporting back from a parliamentary meeting I had attended at the House of Commons. One thing I stated I had been impressed with was that when someone had presented some statistics they rouned up by say never to forget that each one of these statistics is a human being.
    At the end of the meeting I went to speak to an eminent, published, physiologist who I had not met in person before. I was particularly drawn to him from his comments during the meeting and wanted to say I’d like to hear more of his views at another time. He was lovely….until he forgot my role in the steering group! I had to stop him. Fortunately he realised what he had done, he was mortified and couldn’t apologise enough. Not before I was feeling exactly how you felt though Melanie.
    I am so sorry you had to go through that and even more so that the person did not show you the compassion I received. Shame on him.
    I hope you have recovered, I know it took me the whole of the next day but I guess with your experience it will take longer especially it being someone you see regularly.
    May the peace of the Lord be with you.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I am sorry for your loss and for the remarks made by incredibly insensitive people around you. I, too, lost a son in an auto accident. Two years later , my son was a HS senior. One parent wanted to bring a wrecked car during prom time to the HS to “help” students “understand” what can happen. I was able to block that. Other friends with teens abandoned us. It was like if they associated with us, it might “rub off” on them. After 26 years, it still hurts, but in a different way. Thank you for speaking up to those around you.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I had a similar exchange on FaceBook 2 people that I consider supports put up the memo about why should Narcan be free to addicts & chemo is not.
    My son died during a relapse while fighting addiction. So I posted something I saw that said the REAL issue is why are they both not free to help patients!
    They did not reply. It hurt & I felt I could not be silent . Christopher added on July 28, 2018. I tell his story so mom’s have more information then I did.
    Your words always help!

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I’m so sorry you had that experience. It amazes me that we, as believers, sometimes can be so compassionless. I can’t be in the lunchroom at work when one person is there bc they trigger me every time, talking about disturbing things.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Good morning,
    I’m so sorry you had to endure the insensitive actions of not just one person but The entire group gathered there during that conversation.
    I give you credit for staying the evening, i am not sure i would have been able to stay.
    I’m thankful you share your experiences with us, the good and awful included.. The pain we feel is so real and the oblivious with never understand.
    Sending you strength and love.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I’m so sorry this happened to you. Anyone who knows you or knows your circumstance would have realized the arrow they just shot through your heart. And apologized. It amazes me that so many people can be insensitive to the point of rudeness. Those of us who live in a world that our children have left have had enough hurt- We don’t want, need, or deserve to have our hearts pierced by those who just don’t get it.

    Liked by 2 people

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