What Do You Say When You Don’t Know What To Say?


Last week I wrote about how to bounce out of the blues. This week is about another emotional issue …grief. For the past 10 days, it seems to be circling over the heads of many in this community.

No, I’m not a psychologist, mental health professional, or anything remotely related to those practices. But I am well-versed in grief. I’ve lost loved ones since I was 5 years old. I remember peering into the caskets of my great grandmother and my beloved babysitter, Mrs. O’ Neill, and my beautiful Aunt Metha. A 5-year old playmate drowned and I lost my beloved grandfather in my teens, my own father in my early twenties; my close friend, a cousin, more cousins, a sister-in-law, and my first husband and his father (the best paternal representative, ever) in my thirties, my mother and brother-in-law, and an Aunt in my forties, and my mother-in-law’s husband—my partner in all things vino—in my fifties.

Charlie_theHealerLet’s not fail to mention our dear pets. I remember losing Charlie, my pet hamster in third grade. I cried for three days. My mother was so frightened of the depths of my grief she was ready to take me to a grief counselor. But God provided me with another Charlie …seventeen of them, all stray black cats with green eyes. The hole in my 7-year old heart was healed with a menagerie of cats that my mother allowed me to feed while my father was at work; she considered it grief therapy. My first lesson in managing a broken heart.

And let’s not forget the loss of hopes and dreams. Passions and beliefs of who I believed I’d become were denied or dashed because I was “too bright for my britches,” or the schooling was denied. The loss of careers based on changes in administration or simply flat out animosity towards me. Injury that swiped away in a flash my intellect and current capabilities. The mentors that moved away and/or retired. The relationships that crumbled into the dust of failure or divorce. The babies that never got carried to full term.

Grief is heavy. It is dark. It wounds in so many different ways that no one can “own” it. We all feel it, carry it, in our own ways. It is a fog bank that moves in and sometimes seems as if it will never move out. I know. I’ve been there too many times.

But… we cannot root ourselves in this emotion. We simply cannot or we will die. Like roots with too much water, we’ll drown, or without enough, we’ll perish from thirst. We have to find a way to navigate in this fog.

So many times I hear people say, “I don’t know what to say,” and so they say nothing leaving the one they care for in isolation. Isolation is that last thing they need. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to say.”

It’s even better to say it followed by a hug and a “Let’s go …(fill in the blank)” to get them out of their sad environment. Gently insist and hope they join you. They may not in the beginning, but be diligent and they eventually will follow.

When my mother passed away after my brother-in-law a year earlier, and both my family dogs in between them, I couldn’t breathe. I was inconsolable. I held it together in public, but my friends and hubby knew me and knew I wasn’t in my right mind. My friends stepped forward and took me out to coffee shops to sip coffee and write in silence. They didn’t really say much; they were just with me. I felt their love, their caring, their concern. I knew my depressive behavior was becoming scary to them, yet they patiently waited for me to find my voice and my smile to return.

Hope…and it did, eventually. One day I woke up and the world seemed brighter, like a light had been turned on. The fog had lifted enough for me to see hope and happiness in the rays of the sun. It finally came. I made it through.

If any of this resonates with you, you’ll survive too. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Trust those around you who respect the place you’re in, yet gently push you towards happiness. It isn’t a crime to feel a sliver of happiness when you’re drowning in grief. Think of it as a life preserver.

And know that I still miss many of those listed above, every day. I talk to my mom daily about life. I ask Doug and Tommy which way to go. I talk to my Dad about the spiritual side of life, and my grandfather …well, when I’m terrified I’m going to fall, he’s the one on which I call.

So why all this dark, gloomy talk of grief? I was at the annual fund raiser I’d spent the last year working on, delighting in our success when I received a text message from one of my associates who was to sit at my table. He obviously wasn’t there …but the reason, he explained in the text, was he and his family had lost their 7-year old jewel of a granddaughter to a car accident a few short hours beforehand; they had arrived to the E.R. to pray and support her parents, but were met with “she didn’t make it” and ushered into a room to view her lifeless, bloody, little body. Once again, I couldn’t breathe. It was surreal …to be so happy, free, relieved, and joyous one moment and in a flash, the carpet is pulled out from under me—and it wasn’t even my family.

His text is still in my phone …a reminder of how fragile life is and fleeting. I pray for my friend and his family while they grieve, and you too, if that’s the world you’re living in now. I promise, in time, the fog will lift, the clouds will part, and hope will reemerge. You’ll feel joy and happiness again at some point in the future.

And if you’re the one left peering into their world, helpless to pull them out of their grief, don’t give up on them or leave them alone for too long. Our role is so important in showing them that life does go on even with the holes shot through our hearts. The pain doesn’t really go away, it just recedes to the back of our minds instead of the front. Our gentle, loving support will help them find their paths back into the light.

God bless you on your journey of life …and loss. We’re all in this thing together, right? I pray your journey is blessed with all you need, want, and love. Know that I love you, but more importantly, God does too.

Remember, it’s your money, your rules, your way!

Money Savvy Woman, Inc. © 2016

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