Walking With You ~ The Things People Say

This week we are sharing some of the things that people said to us while we were in the throes of grief…for better or for worse. Losing a child changes a person, and along with that comes changes in our relationships with friends and relatives. In some ways, our new perspective reveals what’s really important in life, and who really cares about us. (It looks like I originally scheduled this week to talk about the hope of heaven, but we will cover that on next week’s post.)

Every grieving mother I have met has been hurt by the words of someone else. Sometimes those words were well-intentioned from someone who was supposed to love the broken-hearted mother. Some words don’t seem to have been thought out at all or may come from the heart of one who is bitter and hurting. I talked a little about this in my Where is the Love? post. And, before I get too far into this, I do just want to say a few words in defense of those who have said words that caused harm, but did not intend to do so.

I have been a grieving mother…a mother who has walked this path. A mother who has heard the hurtful words. A mother who had some friends who just couldn’t be around her. Friends who didn’t want to hear about her babies. Friends who didn’t understand her loss. (I also have wonderful friends who did love me, pray for me, cry with me and come alongside me. They were few in number…but they exist. We have many friends who support our efforts to reach out to others, now. But the early days were lonely.) And yet, I have also inadvertently said insensitive things to a mother who had several losses. Not knowing of her struggle to have children, and the heart ache of the losses she had endured, I said something about what a great dad her husband would be. She looked at me as if I had stabbed her in the heart. And, in fact…my words had done just that. Did I intend to harm her? No…absolutely not. But, I did…unknowingly. And, I of all people should know that we never know where someone has walked. We never know what they have endured…what they may be suffering. We should be careful with our words.

While talking with another mom who has lost a child a few weeks ago, she asked me what she should say to a mom who had just lost her young baby. She was delivering a Dreams of You Basket to her. She and I both knew the answer at the same time….There are no words. Just hug her. Maybe say you are sorry. Offer her your love and prayers. But…the reason it is so hard to say the right thing…the reason so many people say the wrong thing…is because in reality, there are no words. There are no words that can comfort the ache…the canyon of sorrow. None.

My lovely friend Dawn, from Marshall Photography made a great point a couple weeks ago in her comment on my Where is the Love post.

Dawn wrote:
“And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept, and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.” Job 2:12-13
If only his comforters had continued what they started and simply stayed by Job’s side, instead of trying to explain or give counsel. How many times we try to do things in love…and in the end, we screw it up.

She and I shared a conversation about her comment. She talked about Job’s friends…and the fact that they just sat with Job in his grief for seven days. They wept with him. They just stayed beside him. They were willing to walk with him…but they said nothing. Now, we all know that Job’s friends fell short after that. But…when did they get into trouble? When did they cease to be a comfort to Job? When they opened their mouths to speak in judgment of Job. Boy does that saw a lot.

Please don’t let the fact that we are expressing the words that hurt us frighten you from reaching out in love to a grieving mom. I know it is intimidating. I know you don’t know what to say in the face of such grief. Please know that we are grateful for those of you who do reach out…and don’t be afraid to do it. We want to hear you acknowledge the lives of our precious children. We want to know that you care…that you see our pain. We are blessed by your efforts and comforted by your love. We all need to give each other some grace in this area. And, please know that there were wonderful people who prayed for us, who sent heartfelt cards, flowers, gifts, hugs, and expressions of sympathy. We so appreciate and found great comfort in their efforts.

If I could confess something here (of course, I can!), I struggle with knowing what to say or do often when a grieving mom comes my way. I have often felt that my friend, Ginny, is much better at walking with a grieving heart than I. She has a gift for coming alongside someone who is hurting. I suppose that’s what led her to be a nurse. I will always be grateful for the way that she laid down her own life to walk with me during the most intense days of my grief.

I know…I have this ministry. But, I don’t have all the answers. Again, it isn’t about our abilities…but the Lord’s ability to use us…to work through us, broken vessels that we are. We can’t let our imperfections or the fear that we will not do it right, keep us from reaching out in love. There is grace, even for those of us who don’t always say the right thing. I’m often much better at writing words than saying them in the moment. I like to take time to contemplate and edit myself. Unfortunately, life isn’t always like that. In those moments, we can pray and maybe just say very little but be there for the grieving person.

We have shared here that many of the most hurtful things said to us, came from those who should love us. We listed the cliche sayings. Many of you know that I’ve never been a fan of “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”. (I mean no offense if you like that statement.) Lots of things in life are more than I can handle. Burying my children is among them. It isn’t about what I can handle, it’s about the size of my God, and His ability to carry me through. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I don’t have to be strong.

Many of you shared that you did not feel love at your church…that you were met with judgment or ignored. Sometimes we mistakenly think that Christians aren’t ever supposed to hurt or struggle. Grief doesn’t fit well with that philosophy. It hurts and it tosses you about and turns your world upside down. Hurting doesn’t mean that you lack faith. It just means that you have lost something or someone that you dearly loved. Even Jesus wept in the sight of the sorrow of His friends when they lost their brother Lazarus. I’m so sorry that we fail to love as we should, and I wish we would show the love of Jesus more in the body of Christ. My church as a whole has been wonderful, but I have been hurt by the insensitivity and ignorance of individuals…maybe not meaning to. But it hurt just the same.

Even bible verses can be twisted to hurt us in grief. Lynnette shares about this in her book, In Faithfulness, He afflicted Me in Chapter 3. Lynnette writes: People quoted scripture to us verbally and in notes. These were also a great source of comfort, but on occasion, even a verse was the wrong thing. For instance, a verse like, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” would probably be better discovered by oneself than received from another. (Chapt. 3, pg. 55 In Faithfulness, He Afflicted Me)

Someone sent me a card with a verse about the “seed that fell from the tree and died so that it could bear much fruit”. Although, I understand what they were trying to say…at the time of raw grief those words stabbed my heart. I didn’t want fruit, and I didn’t want to think that my baby had to die so that there could be fruit. I wanted my baby! I didn’t want to be judged on my performance, on how much faith I had or how well it was displayed as I carried this cross. That was a battle for me…one that the Lord’s grace helped me overcome as He taught me a different way. But, many times the words of well-meaning friends were used for harm. I know that they didn’t mean it…that they didn’t understand. They hadn’t walked there. They could only relate with their own experience.

I have heard…”You can have other children. You’re pregnant again! How many babies do you have now? Don’t you wish you had a little girl? You really need to stop burdening your family with this grief. Now isn’t the time for this. Get it together, Kelly. You just need to give this to the Lord. Christians shouldn’t grieve without hope. Aren’t you over this yet? It’s really time to move on.” And so many more.

Some of these words are true. We CAN give it to the Lord and Christians shouldn’t grieve without hope. But, what does that look like? Does that mean we will never cry or hurt? Does it mean that we will never feel a moment of doubt or fear? No…we will feel all of those things. We will have bad days. The difference is that we know Who to go to. We know the One who is able to carry us through the dark valley. We take all the broken pieces of ourselves to the One who is able to put us back together again. And, when He does…we are no longer exactly as we were before. We are a new creation. And, what shines forth from the ashes is a thing of great beauty.

There is a freedom and a joy on the other side of grief that I would have never known. While I never would have asked for this path, I can see many beautiful gifts…and yes even fruit…from having walked it. There is a love my family would have never known. And, there are things I would not have experienced. But, in those moments of early grief, I probably wasn’t ready to hear about the promise of all of that. I just needed someone to weep with me, pray for me, and walk with me. Someone to get it.

As we emerge as that new person, we are different in many ways. Perspective changes. What once seemed so important no longer matters. It is replaced with things you never thought much about before, but now realize matter a great deal. Sweet Holly said it well in this post. While we will heal and joy will be restored in our lives, we are forever changed. Our very personality may even change. And, we will never get over losing our children. Not that we wallow in grief forever. Not that we will not be fully healed and complete. We will, but we will have a missing place in our hearts until we reach heaven’s welcoming gates. A place where a much loved, dearly cherished, longed for and dreamed about life once lived. Now that life lives on in heaven…the place that we are homesick for, at times. Our children will forever be part of the tapestry of our lives…they are part of who we are. Please understand that. We can no more deny them than we could our children who walk this earth with us.

I am so grateful that we have a place that we are free to share about our children. I know that many of you feel, as I have, that you weren’t embraced by others when you wished to share about your children in heaven. What a gift this blog family has been, and how I cherish the love shown here. Lynnette has said before how she longed for someone to be able to tell her that she would get through this…that she wouldn’t feel that way forever. I so longed for that, as well, after the loss of my babies.

Lynnette writes:
Right after Anna died I desperately needed somebody who had lost a child to tell me I’d be okay. I was so sick with grief that I didn’t feel I’d ever recover. I couldn’t imagine ever being truly happy again without Anna…it just didn’t seem possible. That somebody never came. I did recover though. God was all I really needed. My joy did return. God did turn my mourning into dancing.

God is enough…and He has been enough for me, too. But, He is so good…and always gives us exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. He gives us each other to walk alongside one another on this path. Even though God has also turned my mourning into dancing, I so treasure this community. And, because we have walked there…and because He has traded our tears for songs of joy…we can tell you that this grief will not last forever. You will not always hurt this much. Your joy will return.

I still so cherish the fact that I can share my Faith, Grace, and Thomas here. And, we are received unlike most places in our lives. There is no uncomfortable pause when I write their names. Indeed, many of you write them and know them as you do your own. Oh, how that blesses my heart. And, I will never tire of reading their names…of knowing they are spoken. For, I am a mother, as are you…whether your babies live on earth or in heaven. You are a mother, just the same. And, as I’ve said before…I never would have chosen this path…and I’m so sorry that you are walking it, now…but, I’m so grateful for the beautiful privilege of walking it with you. And, I’m so grateful for being the mother of these precious children…of all my children…and the beautiful gifts that each one has brought to my life.

Thanks for enduring this lonnnnng post! There really is even more to say about this, which I guess is why I need to get cracking on writing that book! I look forward to reading your insights and experiences on this week’s walk.

Here are a couple other links to posts on this subject:

Put it Away

 

Supporting a Grieving Mother (For friends seeking guidance on ways to offer support.)

Next week, we will be talking about the hope of Heaven and the glorious day we will be reunited with our sweet babies. It’s one of my favorite weeks on this walk!

Love to all…

Comments

  1. Kelly that was really powerful and so true. It has only been a month since we said goodbye to Jonathan, we are still in the middle of some seriously awful comments. I have to be gracious after all I am a pastors wife, wouldn’t they be floored if I said take that scripture and shove it– LOL -. Seriously all I want is someone to hug me and not analyze all my feelings. Loneliness has been my best friend since I said good bye to my baby, this group has greatly helped. To read the story’s of others is such a blessing. Thank you AGAIN for sharing I truly hope you write that book!

  2. You pretty much summed it all up perfectly! It’s amazing how painful words can hurt even when they are intended to be kind. I, too, am so thankful for this blogosphere! It’s helped me through some tough times…it still does.

  3. Thank you so much for this wonderful post!!

  4. I really like the book of Job. There are so many “answers” throughout that scripture…… that speak to my heart.

    You have put so much effort into this post, and I thank you. I’m sure that the fruit that you are bearing through your work in your ministry, is blooming so beautifully in the eyes of our Lord….. now that’s the fruit you want, right? lol

  5. You write so beautifully! Thank you for sharing with us your whole heart, thank you for not being scared and for allowing us to walk this walk with you! You write so well I think it would be amazing if you wrote that book. Praying for your sweet family always!

  6. Kelly, this is a wonderful post and I think you did a fabulous job explaining what is ok and what might not be. I love the verse that Dawn shared with you. It’s so true! I def appreciate the book of Job in a whole new way I never did before I lost Carleigh.

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