There’s a world going on even when I want it to take a break. I’m going through the motions of my daily routine just like always, but everything looks different. The overwhelming feeling of grief continues to drive my family’s life.
We’re hurting. The pain hasn’t eased one bit since the night my 8-year-old son Will died three months ago. I cry until my stomach aches. All I know is since my son went to Heaven, his absence has left my life fractured. I want him back. I want to tuck him into bed and sing a song to him before he falls asleep. I want to just go out in the yard and watch him ride his bicycle again. Oh, how I miss him.
As I read the newspapers every day, tragedy is all around us. Even this past week, the students at Central High School are mourning the loss of their 17-year-old classmate who was killed in a car accident. We want to ask “why?” There are no answers. There are no words.
My friend Steve Davis wrote a wonderful column in November 2012 titled “Reflections on what not to say.” In his column he shared the words from a family who had lost an 11-year-old son. After spending the last three months as a parent who has lost a child, I find this story worth repeating.
“Please don’t ask if we are over it yet. We’ll never be over it. Please don’t tell us he is in a better place. He isn’t here with us. Don’t say that at least he isn’t suffering. We haven’t understood why he had to suffer at all. Please, please don’t tell us you know how we feel, unless you have lost a child. Don’t ask us if we feel better. Bereavement isn’t an illness that clears up. Please don’t tell us that at least we had him for 11 years. What year would you choose for your child to die? Please don’t tell us that God never gives us more than we can bear. We don’t believe God gave us this tragedy. Just say that you are sorry. Please just say that you remember him. Just let us talk about him. Please just let us cry.”
So, how do we walk further with someone suffering through an almost unbearable feeling of grief? My honest answer is “I still don’t know,” but here are some of my reflections since becoming a parent who has lost a child.
Please don’t be afraid to mention the deceased’s name. I used to be afraid to do this for fear it may cause the bereaving person harm when he or she needs just the opposite. I believe most people long to hear their loved one’s name called once again. If one begins to cry, it’s OK. It’s just another tear to help a person heal.
Often times, we want to provide comforting words and try to fix or take away someone’s pain. In times of enormous grief, words are always said with the best intentions, but I must confess that hugs are better.
So instead of trying to lift those or hurry them out of the ditch, jump in with them. As Dr. Ron Greer writes in his book “Markings on the Windowsill,” “What is needed is support, closeness, understanding — not cheerleading. What is needed is someone caring enough to visit, courageous enough to ask how the heartbroken person is feeling and wise enough to be quiet and listen.”
Oh, how my heart aches for the family of the student who was killed this week and the Central High School student body. The road ahead is going to be so difficult because there are no shortcuts through grief. I’ve got to believe there are still bright days ahead. I’ve got to believe somehow, some way we’ll fully engage an abundant life again and find the inspiration to be all we can be. I just wish it was going to be sooner.
Garrett is a Carrollton resident and businessman. You can read more of his columns at joegarrett1.wordpress.com or contact him at email@example.com.