Is It More Admirable to Pretend?

 

We say we want real.

But we really don’t.

We tune in by the millions to watch “reality TV” even though we know the drama is manufactured and the outcome decided months before.

We participate daily in quiet subterfuge when our coworker pretends her marriage isn’t falling apart even though we overhear her desperate phone calls trying to mend it.

We like to hear “Fine, thank you.” when we offer the polite greeting, “How are you?”.

What happens to the person who refuses to play along?  What about the one whose heart is so broken that she can’t begin to put on the false front that would make everyone else more comfortable around her?

smile-question

What do you do when someone stops pretending everything is OK?

Often, people walk away.

Because we have absolutely no idea what to do with real. We have no words when “How are you?” is answered with “Awful.  My world is falling apart.”

We reward those who choose to go along with the script that makes us comfortable and isolate the ones that don’t.

But is that the world we really want to live in?  Do we want to walk with unsaid words between us, unreleased feelings bottled up and threatening to overflow?

It is really more admirable to pretend?

 

masks by shel silverstein

MASKS  by Shel Silverstein

She had blue skin
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through.
Then passed right by —
And never knew.

 

To The Friends Who Stay

Sticking with a friend whose life is hard and is going to continue to be hard is not for the faint of heart.

Not all wounds can be healed.  

Not all problems have a resolution.

Not all relationships follow a path that leads to a happy ending. 

grief lasts longer than sympathy

So here’s to the friends that don’t give up, that refuse to leave and whose presence remind me that while life is painful, it is also beautiful.  

Here’s to the ones whose commitment to love me in the dark places reminds me that love still lives.  

You’re my lifeline.  

good friends

 

What NOT To Say

Humans are hard-wired to say something when silence lingers long between them.  

So it’s not surprising that when death makes talking difficult, the person most susceptible to that pressure will often blurt out the first thing that pops into her head.

And it is often, oh, so wrong.  

Any sentence that begins with , “Just remember”, “At least”  or “I know exactly” is better left unsaid.

image of what not to say

Help! I Need Somebody!

So, almost twenty years on a farm and I can NOT back a trailer.  Nope.  Can’t do it.

One day I spent hours trying to teach myself how to do it.  Never was able to do anything other than manage to jackknife the trailer, go unhook it and start over.

So when I go somewhere with a trailer I do one of two things:  (1) I find a space where I can drive in and be able to just make a loop or (2) I find the nearest person who CAN back a trailer, hand them my keys and ask them to do it.

I feel NO shame.

But that’s not the case with other things I can’t do.  So many times I try to avoid admitting that I am unable to meet certain people’s expectations or do certain things that I either used to be able to do or feel I SHOULD be able to do.

I think the reason I don’t mind outing myself on trailers is because that confession usually gets a laugh or a knowing look from the person who helps me or an admission from someone standing near at the feed store that they also have trouble backing up a trailer.

But when I say, “I just don’t think I’m up to teaching VBS” or “I’d love to come to that event but I’ve reached my social quota this week” or “I’m still struggling with driving by that spot or eating at that restaurant” it’s often met with (at best) a quizzical look or (at worst) a comment about how I should be “better” by now.

And then I DO feel shamed.  I feel like I don’t measure up, like I’m not as valuable as the next person or that I have failed some cosmic test.

shame-is-the-intensely-painful-feeling-we-are-unloveable-brene-brown

You know what though?  That’s a reflection on other people’s lack of compassion and experience or their personal insecurity NOT a reflection of my worth.

It is really just fine for me to admit my limitations because EVERYONE has limitations.

I can’t lift a 250 lb barbell.  But I can whip up dinner for fifty people.  I can’t read Chinese but I can read Dr. Seuss with an accent and hit all the rhymes on cue.  I can’t run a marathon but I can work all day without complaining (most of the time).

I’m human (surprise!).    So are you.

brene brown vulnerablity sounds like truth

I have some limitations as a result of burying a child. You may have limitations because of age or disease or something else I don’t know about or can’t see.

That’s OK.

Let’s make a pact:  I’ll take you as you are and you can take me as I am.  I’ll help you when you need help and you can help me when I need help.

We will extend grace and receive grace as needed to make life work.

Isn’t that really the essence of human community?

brene brown we dont have to do it alone

Laughter

“A joy-filled heart is curative balm, but a broken spirit hurts all the way to the bone.” ~Proverbs 17:22 VOICE

Laughter is good for my heart.  Not just my physical blood-pumping organ, but the emotional center of my being.

And in this Valley of the Shadow of Death, laughter can be a real life-saver.

So I try to work some in each day.  I purpose to see the lighter side of challenging moments, make a point of actually watching those goofy videos passed around on Facebook, read jokes and practice responding with a smile.

It’s not betraying Dominic-although it kind of felt that way in the first few weeks-it’s honoring his sense of humor and celebrating his life.

Our family spent hours laughing around the table, in the living room and passing wry texts back and forth.

I firmly believe there will be laughter in Heaven.  I think that part of joy is great big belly laughs that will shake me from head to toe.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep practicing down here.

Thankful for Support

My grandmother had two sisters who didn’t have any children.  

They were often tapped as babysitters when someone in the family needed to leave their kids home for an extended period of time.  And while my aunts meant well, and certainly were never hateful or cruel, there was a giant gap between what they THOUGHT they knew about children and what they ACTUALLY knew.

So many sentences began with, “If you were my child….”  But I wasn’t.  And the boundaries set between me and my parents had been hashed out through trial and error in real time in real life-not some hypothetical perfect world.

It’s like that in my grief journey as well.  

There have been many well-meaning but woefully uninformed people who offered advice.  Some of it was helpful but most of it was predicated on misinformation and lack of real-life experience.

The MOST helpful advice has come from fellow bereaved parents.

They share their hearts and their hopes, their failures and their victories, their fears and their faith.  They don’t have to-they could simply focus on their own pain and refuse to offer aid.  

But moms and dads a few steps ahead of me in the Valley turn back and hold out a hand and say, “This way.  I’m right here with you.  You can make it!”

And for that I am oh. so. thankful.

 

buckets to put out flames

Five Practical Ways to Support a Grieving Parent

It’s oh, so hard to know what to do when you are watching a heart break.

You want to reach out and make it better, make the pain go away, make a difference.  But it seems like nothing you can do will matter much in the face of such a huge loss.

While it’s true that you cannot “fix”  the brokenness in a bereaved parent’s life, there are some very important and practical ways you can support them in their grief-especially as the weeks turn into months and then to years.

a little consideration eeyore

Here are five practical ways to support grieving parents:

  • Remember anniversaries and birthdays.  Take note of the date our child left this life, his or her birthday, the day of the funeral-trust me, you aren’t reminding us of anything-we cannot forget!  When someone else shares that they remember too it is so, so encouraging.  It means my child is not forgotten, that he still matters to another heart and that someone else recognizes that the world lost a treasure.

every day

  • Keep showing up.  Keep inviting me to lunch.  I may have turned you down a dozen times in the first few months, but that was because I just. couldn’t. do. it.  As my heart begins to comprehend my loss, compassionate companionship sounds more inviting.  I need to talk, but it may take me awhile before I am able to do it.  Please don’t give up-keep trying.

good friends

  • Text. message and send notes.  I won’t always answer them, but a word at just the right moment may be what I cling to for days in the stormy sea of grief.  If you don’t know what to write, use google to find quotes on grief and copy them out.  A word of caution: don’t send articles on “how to grieve” or offer advice on “how to get over the loss of a loved one”.  (Blogs, books, pages written by bereaved parents for bereaved parents are generally a safe choice.)

compassion greatest form of love

  • Share a memory or photo.  One of the most painful parts of missing a child is that there are no new memories.  But there are “new” memories out there-held in the hearts of others who knew my son.  Times they shared that I know nothing about and that give me a precious piece of him to hold close.  Share a photo if you can. Post it to my Facebook timeline, send it in a text or message so that I can save it. Even better, print it out and send me a hard copy.  These are treasures for a grieving parent.

carry your heart with me in my heart cummings

  • Listen and affirm.  I know my child’s death is “old news”.  Years have passed now and it may seem like something I shouldn’t talk about anymore.  But it is an ongoing event for me.  Every day I am dealing with another aspect of how his absence impacts my life and the lives of my family.  I need to share that.  If I keep it bottled up, I’ll explode.  I’m not sharing on social media because I want to be pitied.  I’m sharing because my son is still part of my life just like your living children are part of yours. So please don’t ignore me and hope I’ll “get over it” if you do.  Acknowledge posts, comment on stories shared and affirm that my child matters.

band-aid-and-heart

You may be surprised how often I get discouraged and feel alone.  

An outstretched hand at just the moment when my strength is fading makes all the difference.

helping-hands