‘Singing light songs to the heavyhearted
is like pouring salt in their wounds.’
If I’ve learnt anything from grief it’s this. Whilst browsing Proverbs (The Message), this jumped out at me instantly (I find that happens a lot, I can open the Bible and a single sentence will catch my eye and mean so much to me at that time or answer a question to something that has been troubling me).
This particular proverb struck a chord with me as, since Abi died, I’ve found it difficult to deal with those who I feel are obviously trying to pretend it’s all okay when they know it’s not. They seem dismissive of or embarrassed by deeply unhappy, personal feelings, as though life should carry on as it did before; laughing too loud, talking too quickly, avoiding the subject of grief or death, not freely saying Abi’s name or including her in conversation, skirting around the ‘elephant’. For me, it truly feels as though salt is being rubbed deep into the sorest wound and I’ve been battling with (and praying about) how to deal with this (…I can’t!).
My prayers have at least helped me to understand that these individuals are not doing this to be uncaring, that it’s likely due to their own upbringing or experiences surrounding death; they use this ‘brushing off’ technique as their own coping mechanism or find it easier to talk of ‘light’ subjects rather than risk an atmosphere. They cannot comprehend the loss of a child and are perhaps happier living in denial about how much this actually hurts and the long-term effects it can have on even routine things. A grieving parent might find it hard to open up about his or her feelings in any case, but it’s even less likely in an already tense situation.
I’ve found things easier with those to whom I can talk openly. I don’t fall apart on people when I talk of Abi, but I want to feel able to speak of her or of what life has been like for me as naturally as with other general conversation – to be sad one minute but able to laugh the next. To get signals that says they’re not open to this makes conversation awkward, stilted and difficult. This is one thing I feel that only time will help me to deal with, but for now, I don’t feel the onus is on me to ‘deal with it’ on their behalf. I can only do what I can do to make them comfortable while I feel tense and obliged to pretend I’m okay. One day, I’ll be stronger.
To face up to one’s emotions and allow them to surface without fear is a vital element of building strong relationships and enabling a grieving person to feel as though they don’t have to conceal their feelings. Though having experienced both sides of this, I feel it’s perhaps harder for a person to support a grieving person than it is for the bereaved to accept support. I know how I’m feeling in my grief, but in the past I wouldn’t know how another grieving person was feeling, so I would be more wary about what to say or do. Now, to my sorrow, I feel better equipped to do this, but I appreciate many people don’t; it’s not something you get lessons in!
Grief should be shared as well as private, though none of us react the same or even know how we would react until we are faced with it. Just as each death is unique, so is each person’s reaction. It seems impossible to judge what to do for the best, but masking the sorrow, I know, doesn’t help anyone.
No matter what you might think of the Bible, there is so much wisdom in there which speaks to us just as much today as it did when it was written thousands of years ago.
‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.’