My heart is heavy tonight for a family I don't know, but one who is just starting out on their own grief journey. I don't envy where they are. I can't imagine it actually. I know how awful it is to bury my 2 year old. I do know sudden loss. I don't know how hard it would be to bury my 7th grader. I wish they didn't know either.
One thing I noticed early on in this walk is the lack of meaningful grief traditions and rituals in our culture. I think, in a large part, most people are so removed from death that they are afraid to face its reality. It is one thing to watch mass slaughter on a movie screen, but a totally different thing to attend a funeral. Death happens. Tragic death happens. Child death happens. No, it isn’t pleasant, but it is so important to grieving families to have the freedom to mourn their lost. So many times I have felt pushed—whether intentionally or not—to just be ok. To not openly grieve. I am sure, if you are reading this, you are not one of those people. I need to grieve. Mothers who have buried their children cry out whether you hear them or not, whether they let you see it or not.
Historically, society has offered a variety of ways to recognize someone is in mourning so that others, strangers, are respectful. So that others know to not give those in mourning a huge grin and ask them if they are having a good day--to not try to make small talk in the grocery line and ask how many kids you have. I hate that question now. I think of Victorian days when those in mourning would wear a black arm band as a sign of mourning. If you met someone wearing such a sign, you would be respectful. You would recognize their pain and maybe treat them with a little more gentleness. And they would be given the freedom to grieve and mourn and not just put on a smiling face and continue about their day as if all was well.
I have to get out of the house. More and more, I have to go to the store or take my kids to the park. I have to face strangers. I avoid crowds and happy occasions as much as I can, but there are times when I get stuck. Times when I have to go. It is during those times more than any that I wish our culture offered some recognition of grief. Some grief tradition and ritual that others would recognize. The pain doesn’t stop for those grieving after you stop for their funeral procession to pass. In so many ways, it is just starting then.
I wear a black bracelet for me. It is my own sign of mourning. It is my outward representation of my inner pain and turmoil. If you see it, say a prayer for me. Respect me in my pain. And when you meet someone who doesn’t return your southern smile when you pass them in the mall, remember, they might be grieving too and treat them with gentleness not superficiality.
For this new family just starting to feel the depths of this pain tonight, I am so completely sorry. Words can't express how my heart is groaning for you right now. I know those holes and pits of grief you are soon to find. I wish you did not have to know this valley of the shadow. Grieve. Cry out. Let others around you carry some of your pain until you can. Don't fight the waves of grief that are coming. You can't avoid them. Take them one at a time as they come. I would love to sit with you if you are open to that.