Responding Well When Someone Shares Their Pain

We’ve all been there-we ask a routine question and someone refuses to play the social game.  

We say, “How are you?” and they answer honestly instead of with the obligatory, “I’m fine.  You?”

Suddenly the encounter has taken an unexpected turn.

“Oh, no!  I don’t know what to say,” you think.

It can end badly-both of you walking away uncomfortable and wary.

But it doesnt have to.

Read the rest here: How To Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

Silence Really IS Golden-What NOT to Say to Grieving Hearts

I just got back home from attending the funeral of one of my parents’ very best, lifelong friends.

And even though he was full of years I’m never prepared for the way death steals from us.

As I looked around the crowd gathered near his wife I wondered how many might be offering up platitudes and quips that probably sound helpful in their heads but which fall hard on a broken heart.

So for those who feel compelled to say something, anything, in the silent space between a hug and giving way to the next person in line, here are a few things 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.  

Read the rest here: What NOT To Say

Holding The Door and Other Acts of Kindness

I’ve had a lot of people “hold the door” for me on this journey of child loss.

Most of them have not walked in my shoes but they could see my soul was worn and I needed encouragement.

For that I will be eternally grateful.

Read the rest here: Empathy: Let Me Hold The Door For You

It Almost Happened to You. It DID Happen to Me.

It came up in one of our closed support groups again: That friend who thinks because we have endured the worst, we are somehow uniquely equipped to listen to and bear up under their fear of the worst.

If your child survives a car crash or some other terrible accident, please, please, please know that NO ONE is happier than I am you are spared!

Allow me to “like/love/whatever” your post in support. But please do not PM me with a list of “what could have happened”.

I already know. I’m living it.

Dear Mom Whose Son Survived the Accident,

I want you to know that I am beyond thankful that you will be spared my pain.  I prayed for your son as you requested-begged God to spare him.

They say misery love company but I say misery loves comfort.

I do not want one more parent to know the heartache of child loss.

Read the rest here: An Open Letter to the Mom Who Was Almost Me

Responding To Another’s Pain

We are surrounded by hurting hearts. When one of them turns to you and bravely holds out her pain, accept it as an offering.

Because it is.

An offering of trust, friendship and vulnerability.

❤ Melanie

We’ve all been there-we ask a routine question and someone refuses to play the social game.  

We say, “How are you?” and they answer honestly instead of with the obligatory, “I’m fine.  You?”

Suddenly the encounter has taken an unexpected turn.

“Oh, no!  I don’t know what to say,” you think.

It can end badly-both of you walking away uncomfortable and wary.

Read the rest here: How To Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

Empathy: Let Me Hold The Door For You

I remember struggling mightily to get four young children to church Sunday mornings.

At the time we attended a larger church that had a couple of parking lots-one near and one not-so-near the entrance.

Of course, I was never early enough to park very close to the doors so had to shepherd all four (while carrying the youngest in his car seat) across a small lane, up a hill and finally to the foyer.

What a blessed relief when some kind person opened that door for me as we approached!

It wasn’t much in the whole scheme of things.

It didn’t relieve my aching arms of the load I carried.

But it said, “I see you. I want to do the little bit I can to encourage you.”

I have never forgotten those days.

Opening the door taught me that sometimes the smallest act of kindness is the difference between a heart giving up or hanging on.

I’ve had a lot of people “hold the door” for me on this journey of child loss.

Most of them have not walked in my shoes but they could see my soul was worn and I needed encouragement.

For that I will be eternally grateful.

How I Long To Just Be Me!

I first shared this post two years ago when I was approaching the four year milestone of Dominic’s leaving for Heaven.

By that time most folks who knew me when he died had relegated that part of my story to some ancient past that surely I was over by now. I’d met others who had no clue my heart skipped a beat on a regular basis because one of my children was buried.

And even the closest ones-the ones I thought would understand forever-were sometimes impatient with my ongoing refusal to leave Dominic behind and be “healed” of my grief.

What I long for more than anything as the sixth anniversary of his departure draws near is simply this: Let me be me, whatever that looks like.

Don’t try to fit my journey into your mold.

Melanie ❤

Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave.  Try not to disappoint people.  Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”

Whatever that meant.

As I made phone calls and received concerned friends and family members I was so aware that they would take a cue from me-how much can I say, how hard can I cry, should I hug or stand back, should I talk about him or be silent lest it make the tears fall harder?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/01/26/can-i-just-be-me/

I Need To Tell The Story (Even If You’ve Heard It Before)

I have so much more empathy for older folks since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I’ve always tried to be a patient listener when hearing that same story over and over and over but have to admit that sometimes I’d drift off or internally mock an elder because I was tired of hearing it.

Not anymore.

Because I understand now that it’s in the telling that one both commemorates and honors people as well as the past.

Me and Aunt Mattie Lou at her 99th birthday.

Stories are how we weave facts into narrative and give them meaning. It’s why so many of us love historical fiction or period dramas that not only reference actual people and events but also peek at emotions, motivation and draw conclusions.

I could hand you my daily calendar and you’d understand the outline of where I was and what I did.

But you wouldn’t know what I thought or felt that day unless I filled it in.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I was forced at first to deliver the most basic message to others who needed to know. I repeated it over and over, “I have to tell you something awful. Dominic is dead.”

I didn’t really know much more than that.

Details were added by friends and first responders in the days to come.

The story broadened to include how we reassembled our family from across the country, who showed up to help us through the first hours, where we chose to bury him, what the funeral service looked like and on and on and on.

For months afterward I found myself compelled to repeat the story of those days.

Compelled to rewind and play again the details, each time teasing out additional insights, questions and feelings.

It was an important part of unspooling and exploring what, exactly, it meant to live in a world that no longer included one of my children.

I know sometimes folks get tired of me telling the story. For them, it is a reminder of some awful event that is tucked neatly in the past. A date on a calendar somewhere that might occasionally tickle the back of their brain and evoke a, “that’s so sad” response but not something they live with every. single. day.

But for me, Dominic’s death is an ongoing experience.

Every day I have to fit his absence into my world. I have to find a way to live around the giant void where he SHOULD be but ISN’T.

So the story grows.

It’s not only what happened on the day he left, it’s what has happened since and is still happening now.

When you make space for me to tell, you make space for me to feel.

And that helps my heart hold on.

Empathy Has No Script

I think if we are absolutely honest, most of us would admit we have few relationships that operate without some kind of script.

We are friends with someone because we like the same hobbies or spend time together at a job or ball park or church.  

We fall in love with someone because they “complete” us and offer companionship, emotional support and stability. 

When the script fails (for whatever reason) we tend to pull away from those  relationships.

But if I choose to enter into the suffering of another, I must do so without a script and commit to the long haul.

I must follow his or her lead, allow him or her to guide my response and refuse to impose my preferences on that hurting heart.  

I’m there to hold a hand and help a heart hold onto hope.  

empathy has no script brene brown

“Me Too”: The Power of Validation

In the wake of revelations that Harvey Weinstein built his media empire in part, by harrassing (and worse) women who worked for him, there is a Facebook wave of “me too” posts by women and men who have also been harrassed, molested or assaulted.

It is empowering.  

Because when hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands raise their social media “hands” to be counted, suddenly the lonely heart hiding in the corner realizes they are NOT alone.  

I am thrilled that the secrecy and shame of sexual misconduct by men against women is being dragged into the light.  That is where it belongs. 

I want to do the same for child loss.  I want to do the same for grief.  I want to start a bold campaign where mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandparents and others say, “Me too!”

My heart hurts too. 

My life is NOT the same and will NEVER be the same without my loved one’s companionship on earth.

I STILL look for him to come through the door on holiday weekends.  I still long to CALL her and share good news or talk over my day.  I CANNOT give up his old clothes or put away her toys or bundle up his belongings for charity.

I have to suck in my breath when a quick glance at a passing stranger tells my heart, “THERE HE IS!”

But my head says, “No, that can’t be him-he’s GONE.”

Songs-all kinds of songs-provoke memories, feelings, tears.  Dry it up.  Keep the fake face smiling.  Look forward, don’t let them see. 

There are thousands of us.  Thousands. of. us.

Who will stand and raise their hand and SHOUT, “Me too!”?

me too sharing the path

 

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