“It’s my party; I can cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you.”
Leslie Gore introduced these lyrics to the world in the 60’s, but oh how they still make so much sense in this world today… maybe with a slight tweak…
It’s my pain; I can cry if I want to.
One of the most challenging things I discovered about grief was people’s input. I had people trying to make me see the bright side of losing my pregnancy four months early, losing one baby within the first day and watching the other one struggle at death’s door. The crazy thing is that I did feel a surge of God’s love and peace during this tragic time, so I was already feeling many of the things being said… but I was feeling it. I was living it. It hurt when people would try to school me on how I needed to feel, especially when they had no relating experiences. I was flooded with people’s opinions of how I should deal with my situation.
“You got to be grateful.”
Trust me. I was for every extra heartbeat from Sophia. Every. Single. One… but it still didn’t discard the fact that I was missing one little heartbeat and the whole situation hurt like hell.
“Jesus doesn’t want you crying.”
Um…even Jesus wept, and he knew Lazarus was about to come back! I had held my baby for the first time ever only to say goodbye. Surely, I earned the right to weep.
“You need to let yourself cry more.”
Sooooo, my daily private sob sessions aren’t enough? You’d still rather see me crying on the floor, in a ball, in this moment too?
”Are you really that okay?” Even worse, said to someone else,”Do you really think she’s that okay?”
So, you totally skipped over me saying I cry daily but because I’m having an okay moment, I’m being fake. Oh wait, so you really don’t believe that gibberish about peace beyond understanding. I see.
ANY comment that started with this usually made me want to gouge my eyes out to lessen the pain. It always felt so dismissive of my hemorrhaging heart.
I know my remarks seem a bit defensive and irritable… I can reason through these remarks better now, but like I said, I still struggle with them. During that time in the NICU, I was being pulled in so many directions to appeal to others feeling more comfortable with my grief. My closest friend, coincidently a counselor, would remind me that society generally felt uncomfortable with people feeling negative emotions. If I showed my sadness, I felt I was being told to basically shut it down. If God’s strength and peace was perpetuating through me, I felt I was told that I wasn’t really dealing with it.
After expressing to a NICU counselor that I felt that some of these comments were pushing me further under, she recommended that I share how I felt with our families. Some took it not so great and lashed out really negatively, saying some really hateful things. It took me over a year to recognize that the hatefulness came from hurt and, even though it still wasn’t okay, make the choice to forgive. Initially, though, it made me physically ill.. for months. I needed understanding and grace from my friends and family. Fortunately, many tried to understand that they couldn’t possibly understand. They granted me grace and tried to let me feel whatever I was feeling.
I say all of this to say, LET PEOPLE GRIEVE HOWEVER THEY NEED TO. I know we want to comfort people during their times of loss (loss of a child, loss of a parent, loss of a normal pregnancy and delivery, loss of a marriage, loss of a dream, loss of whatever) but we have to let them experience their journey. I find some of the most spectacular truths in my grief, but they very rarely come from people.
My same counselor bestie asked me the other day, “What did you need during that time?” (referring to my pre-term labor and all that followed). “I needed people to let me feel however I was feeling. I needed people to understand that there was no way they could possibly understand. The best card I ever received said something along the lines of ‘however you are feeling is okay’ and it still means the world to me today.”
We don’t like to see the ones we love and care for suffering but most times we do not have what it is that they fully need… at least not in words. We like to give earthly explanations for soul-crushing circumstances. I’ve made the mistake too and still to this day I want to go back in time and punch myself in the face before I can utter the cliché, most likely uncomforting words. I now know that bold, spirit-lifting prayers and limited words to the hurting are my best weapons.
Different people need different things. Ask them. Love them. Maybe love them from a distance. Let them know that you are there. Recognize that “helping” them in a certain way might only feel better to you. Allow people to feel whatever they are feeling with no apologies. Allow them to not feel guilty for saying “no, thank you.” Show God’s love and grace in a time when they might be questioning it. You could have experienced the same circumstances, but we all can mourn so differently. Understand that ,ultimately, you don’t understand. At least not every aspect of how a loved one is feeling during loss. And that’s completely okay.