3 Lessons Grief Has Taught Me

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAGrief is a journey that is hard to understand until you are forced to travel it yourself. It is difficult, painful, exhausting, and constantly changing. Yet I believe it can teach you so many things about life that otherwise you would never know. Adam and I have learned so much about ourselves and others. Here are three of my recent discoveries…

1. You never know what someone is going through

Just a few days after our loss, Adam and I went out to run a couple of errands. It was our first real “outing” other than going to the funeral home and cemetery for burial preparations. We were in a blur, to say the least. 3 stores and one tearful breakdown later, we decided to stop by a cookie shop. We weren’t exactly in a clear minded state, but it seemed like a safe thing to browse dessert flavors. When we finally made our choices, we were met by a very rude, short-tempered clerk who was annoyed that we weren’t more educated and decisive about our selections. Our entire transaction, she went out of her way to show her disapproval and make us feel very stupid that we didn’t know more about how a cookie store worked. It didn’t take much at that point in our journey to bring me to tears, but thankfully we made it out without another breakdown. As we walked to the car, I thought to myself…

You never know what someone is going through.

I’m sure that clerk did not know we were preparing to bury our baby in two days. She didn’t know it was all I could do to hold myself together for an hour at the mall.

I suddenly wondered how many times I had done the same thing. How often I had gotten annoyed with someone, belittled them, thought they were stupid, or simply taken out my frustration of the day on them. Maybe they were experiencing the most difficult days of their life. Maybe there was a reason they were slower to make a small decision, or they seemed “out of it.”

I want to be sensitive to the people around me because I know the agony of “silent pain.”

This is the heart of Jesus. He was sensitive to the needs of other people, and the Bible says He was “moved with compassion.” I want to be moved with compassion toward other people as well, even when I can’t see their pain.

2. Watch your words when describing something difficult

I think it is a human tendency to exaggerate. The more dramatic something sounds, the more interesting it seems. But I’ve found that often times we use words out of proportion to a situation.

Just recently, I was on an airport shuttle with a group of four middle-aged men who were clearly coming home from a golfing vacation. As we drove, I couldn’t help but overhear their discussion about the upcoming games of their favorite sports team. They complained about the time an away game would be showing locally on TV, and how it was “practically unwatchable.” They went on to describe this situation as “brutal.”

As I sat there, my mind shot back silent responses…

If that is your definition of ‘brutal’ you’ve had a pretty good life.

To me, “brutal” is finding out my baby died inside me.

“Brutal” is knowing there is nothing I can do to save her or bring her back.

“Brutal” is picking out a tiny casket to bury her in.

And “brutal” is living my whole life without her.”

I really felt their word choice was ridiculous. And yet, I know in the past, I have done the same thing. I have used grand words to exaggerate something that is challenging or annoying.

But lately, I find myself describing slightly uncomfortable or disappointing things very differently. I’ve tasted of real disappointment, and it creates a different scale of description. I guess my whole definition of what is “hard” has changed. And I realize how silly is sounds when we use big “horrible” words to describe things that are really trivial.

3. Be careful how you present your own life experiences.

When things go well in life, I think we like to credit ourselves. We did a good job, we did everything right. Yet when something goes horribly wrong, sometimes we never know why, and that can be very difficult.

Recently, I was talking to a nice lady who was telling me about her family and children. She explained that she had experienced two “perfect” pregnancies, and concluded that she was “meant” to be a mother. Mind you, she didn’t know about my loss, and was not trying to brag. She was just sharing her absolute joy in mothering her now mostly grown children.

But as I listened, my mind questioned…are you saying that I wasn’t meant to be a mother since my baby died? Am I less of a mom since one of my pregnancies wasn’t anywhere close to perfect?

I know that is not what she meant. Yet that is how my heart tried to hear it.

I realized that before my loss, I too spoke very highly of my mothering experiences. I believed that since I did everything right, that is why I got the best result. Now I know more. I know that a mom can do everything right and still lose her baby. I know that a mom is not less of a mom if her baby dies. I know that hearing other moms beam about their blissful pregnancies can be hard.

Every mom is proud of her kids and usually her pregnancies and births are kind of her “trophy” experiences. There is nothing wrong with that. Mine are the most precious memories I have. Yet I am now more sensitive how I present my life experiences to others, especially when I don’t know how easy or difficult their own mothering journey has been.

I’d like to hear from you. What lessons have you learned from a journey through grief?

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