May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
-Irish Blessing

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Few Things I've Learned about Grief

I've dealt with my lion's share of grief through carrying my sons to term with a fatal diagnosis and then enduring their births and deaths and on those journeys I have learned many things. I would like to share a few things.

We are all human. I repeat we are all human. At times we (bereaved parents) will deal with our grief in unpredictable and sometimes even nonsensical ways. At times they (non-bereaved parents) will react or respond to our grief in unpredictable, insensitive, even nonsensical ways if they acknowledge our grief at all. I think it is worth saying a third time - we are all human and we err. Not one of us on this earth has all the answers.

We may feel that our grief is exposed for the world to see. Sometimes it is and sometimes it is not. Grief makes us uncomfortable so how can we expect it not to affect others similarly? Grieving a child's death is not a universal experience. Prior to our loss(es) it was likely unfamiliar to us so how can we expect others to understand it, to know what to do? Yet, that is part of the grief. We expect others to know, especially those we love and those who love us.

In my experience, others do not know what I feel or need unless I tell it to them, even those most familiar with me. We enter the world the ability to communicate our needs. When we were hungry or dirty we used to cry. Amazingly, most of us probably had different cries for our different needs and if our parents listened to and watched us closely, they would know. Those cries probably turned into whines and then at some point we began tending to our own needs. But our emotional needs are different. They are not visible and for the most part not audible. Even when we are courageous enough to bare them in the open they often go unnoticed. Our needs must be communicated in no uncertain terms to those from whom something is required. It is not sufficient to assume they should know how we feel or what we need. Doing this creates unfulfilled expectations and hard feelings. When did it become so hard to talk, and most importantly, listen to each other?

Technology has made us all so available to each other at all times and through so many mediums but in so many ways it has shredded the delicate threads of intimate human interaction. The nuances of body language, the volumes and tones of our voices, the emotions hidden in our eyes, the importance of touch. It is my hope that we (bereaved parents) can find empathy for them (non-bereaved parents) and through that empathy help them to see us differently because our journeys are too long for us to travel alone.

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