People mean well by their awkward acts of comfort in times of sorrow and despair. By inviting themselves into another’s emotional bubble, they try and identify with a moment that they perhaps did not even experience. There is a sense of uneasiness shrouding grief and as a result, silly things are often said to fill the uncomfortable vacuum.
“Don’t worry you will get over it.”
“It was for the best.”
I have heard such expressions while walking on my grief path and I have reacted differently according to my current mental state.
At the very beginning of my journey, I was numb to my own feelings, so any expressions of sympathy were welcomed. The silence was punctuated by the well-meaning words and I vigorously soaked up their gentle sound while they served as an elixir for my wounded heart.
When reality set in, and I was frustrated by the avalanche of tasks as a single parent and head of our household, I was not as tolerant.
“How can you possibly feel the ache in my heart? I thought. “What was your loss?”
“Are you crying in the shower every night before you have to go to sleep in an empty bed?” I would wonder with bitterness as I enviously observed other lovers.
Slowly with the help of time, the edges of my grief became less sharp and the vivid colors of the tragic memories were muted and softened. The journey never really ends, but the experience evolves. I learned to accept my loss and started to listen to my “whispers”, those little personal inner voices of wisdom.
Finally, I am comfortable now reaching out to others with a message of hope. Through my workshops and presentations, I try and throw out a life line to a fellow human being who may be drifting away from his or her security in order to reach firm footing again.
No, I do not give answers.
No, I do not give “how to” advice.
No, I do not say “I know how you feel” because I don’t. Everyone grieves differently and every situation is unique.
But what I have learned from the feedback that I have received is that we all yearn to be loved and accepted. Our lives and the people in them need to be acknowledged. We all want to matter to someone and to be remembered.
I learned this through “the nod”.
I was invited to address a small group of widows for my very first public speech. Afraid that I would leave something out, I wrote my presentation in precise detail and slowly read from my typed script at a lectern in the front of a meeting room at a local church. Occasionally I would glance out at the audience for some obligatory eye contact and I would catch a slight head movement. “The nod”. Looking out again I would notice smiles and bobbing hairdos. “The nod”. Wow! I was taken aback by the mental participation. I wrongly assumed that the event would simply be a passive exchange of information.
At the end of the program many women stood in line to share a moment with me. We had connected on a very private level and they felt safe telling me about their grief. They were actually anxious to verbally relive the details of their sad stories. These women truly wanted a moment with my sympathetic ear to validate their loss.
Driving home I felt a little bit selfish. My heart was joyfully pounding in my chest and my body heated up from the warmth that I felt in that room on that October morning. I knew immediately that I had found my niche and that I wanted to do more. I felt at ease sharing and confident that my message was being received and that it was desperately needed.
It is twenty years today 2/24/13 that my dear husband David S. Kluxen Jr. has been gone. I can speak his name clearly now without a lump forming in my throat. I can freely laugh with his parents as we retell stories. I can look in my children’s eyes and see their father’s gentle spirit deep within and feel a sense of pride. And I have loved again, like he asked me to do when we said our final good-bye.
I do not expect you to know how I feel and you shouldn’t tell me that you know, because you don’t. But I want you to understand that grief is a journey that gets easier and that there is always hope.
I am especially thinking of you today David and know that you are watching over all of us and giving us “the nod”. Thank you for all that you taught me while you were here with me and for the wisdom that I have gained since you have been gone.
Great reflection, Kim. I can definitely relate on one level. It took me years in my relationship to Michelle to learn that I did not always need to open my big mouth, to “solve” the problem, when she was struggling with grief, sorrow, or frustration. I learned (finally!!!!) that all she needed was my presence. I think this is very similar to your idea of “the nod.”
Thanks Mike! Although it sounds so cliche, actions often DO speak louder than words.