Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Do Not Look Away

Whidbey Island 3

When death comes with finality, do not look away. Hammered by blows of tragedy, overwhelmed by human frailty, no matter how much you want to, do not look away.

Do not slink from the sorrow of others. Their brokenness is your own. Their devastation. Do not flinch in the face of pain. Do not blink. Do not look away.

Let their wounds disturb your cool exterior, get you off your complacent posterior to go over and listen to their hearts. Listen to the silence between their words that holds the unspeakable. Feel their confusion and despair. Do not look away.

Even if you feel inadequate for the task, even if you aren’t fluent in the language of emotions, even if you are terse in your attempts to console, you can still be present and listen. You can still hug them long and hard. You can still look them in the eyes with compassion. Do not look away.

Nothing anyone can say will take away their pain, or shorten sorrow’s long, winding labyrinth. But you know the rocky terrain. You understand grief’s specificity. Many people do not want to know this reality. They run from death and its complicity. But you feel the thrum of the great heartache, and you need to witness to this. Do not look away.

And if your own heart is broken beyond belief, if you have lost someone so dear to you to a heart attack, accident, stillbirth, or cancer, and it has thrown your life into the hamper, allow those who love to come and care for you. Do not look away.

Bearing witness to pain is a radical act. My friend Megan Devine said that. It takes courage to stand up for grief when people are being oppressive and abusive, when they lash out with their tongues, are dismissive, when they are judgmental and stupid. Even when your grief is in remission, you have my permission to mourn. Do not look away.

When the darkness grows dense, when everything we trust lies limp on the floor, when grief wrenches our hearts with unending ache, we know to slow down and love one another. Compassion is never wrong, and we are a strong people.

My brothers and sisters, care for each other, today and forever. Do not look away.


  1. OMG...the best yet...facing death, pain and grief...is realizing life...all the rest is but a false god..that will deceive you.

  2. You have hit the nail on the head. Just being there for someone is what matters.