Capture Your Grief – Day 5. Empathy

Empathy has been defined as “your pain in my heart.”

True empathy can be found in that dark, scary place that all of us are afraid to go.  You know the place I’m talking about – the saddest, loneliest, scariest place in your mind, full of unpleasantries of every sort.  Embarrassment, fear, shame, hopelessness.  No matter our story, we’ve all been there, and we all hate it.  It truly feels like a god-forsaken wasteland of despair.

Yet, when someone bravely dares to sit with us in our own darkness, they are bravely sitting in their own dark and scary place at the same time, and that is empathy – courageously feeling the worst emotions in behalf of someone else.

For bereaved parents, finding true empathy is scarce outside of other bereaved parents.  Someone who has never lost a child simply does not have the capacity to understand.  In other words, it doesn’t get darker than this.

However, I am blessed to have friends who try to show empathy, and sometimes that’s enough.

1. They listen more than they talk.  90% of the time we just need someone to listen (or read) and just be there for us.

2. They don’t try to fix it.  It takes humility to realize they can’t “fix” us.  Some people want to be the ones to make us “feel better” by saying just the right combo of flowery words.  But there is nothing they can say to make us “feel better” about our child being dead.  Absolutely nothing.

3. They don’t use words like “At Least.”  Because there is no “at least” in child loss.  (See video below.)

4. They do say things like “I’m so sorry” or “I’m here for you” or “I love you” (and mean it).  These things are ALWAYS good to say to someone who is going through something awful.  You needn’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing if you stick to these words.  Just make sure you follow it up by being a good friend (see #1).

5. They let us be our broken selves without fear of judgment.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am for friends who have listened through my angry tears and have seen my ugly cry and have heard me say horrible things and acted out in unconventional ways to feel my pain.  They know we (as bereaved parents) are unfixable and unfathomably hurt.  But they see through it all and love us anyway, because ultimately I think they sense our courageousness to simply go on living after the Unthinkable has happened.

Finally, I think the following video best illustrates what empathy truly is, and what it’s not.

May we all practice empathy, and may the pain in our hearts turn to healing.

Advertisements

Capture Your Grief – Day 1. Sunrise

image

I remember when the sun rose on the day my son died.  The way the light cracked through the windows in jagged pieces as I covered my eyes and buried them in my hands.  That old saying – something about the sun rising and setting in spite of whatever – echoing in the graveyard that was my mind, and I thought I would scream.  How dare the sun rise as my son dies, as part of me dies too.

It was dawn for the other part of me, the one that survived, the side of me that is still here and the resilient spark of a phoenix that rose from the ashes of this dismal wasteland of grief.  From this resiliency is where I speak now, standing on the other side of cripplingly utter despair, and watch the sun come up again.  And then I think, well isn’t that funny.  The sun and I are not so different.  We go on rising and setting.  But we still get up again.  Day after day, in spite of whatever, even when our brilliance is hidden by clouds.  We go on.

The day the sun rose when my son died, I wanted to die too.  But then I survived another day.  And another.  And another.  Until one day I realized I was not just surviving, but living, and not in darkness, but in light.  And now with time and distance between me and that day, I have strung a hundred days where I am grateful the sun continued to rise, and I did too.

We can do this, one sunrise at a time.

Capture Your Grief 2015

captureyourgrief

Since October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I have decided to take part in this project.  While I do not plan to post something for each day of the month-long project, I do think having a share would be of some benefit, both to myself and perhaps anyone who stumbles upon this blog.

As the months and years pass, the pain ebbs and flows, the seasons of grief come and pass, but there is something that never changes for me: a desperate need to feel connected.  When I’m happy and experiencing joy, I want to share it.  When I’m in the depths of despair, I don’t want to be alone.  Pregnancy and infant loss can be isolating.  I suffered in silence for a long time, and there are times even now when I’m afraid to tell someone I need to talk and ask for help for fear of being perceived as a downer and a black cloud, or as if I’m too consumed by grief to express gratitude for the joy I do have.

The truth is I live a full, joyful life with my husband and young son, and not a day goes by when I don’t meditate on all the reasons I have for joy.  But the darkness always comes.  The weather can change on a dime, from sunny and wonderful to downpours of rain and tears.  So many times I feel split in two, as if one half of me is living in a colorful world with my rainbow baby, and the other is trapped in the cold, dark, and lonely world of infant loss.

The only way to process and heal myself is to connect these two different worlds and keep a steady balance so the darkness never consumes the light, but lets the light shine through the darkness.  So many of those lights come from connection.

Grief is a journey.  Thank you for taking a moment to walk alongside me.  It is my hope that you can see that despite the ugliness and raw pain, there is beauty in broken things.