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. To follow, please leave your email address.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Writing About Shadows

Whidbey Island 1       

There is little we can say to people who are grieving that will make them feel better. Words cannot take away their pain or sorrow, or bring back their dead. We can only sit with them, listen, and help them bear the weight of grief’s heavy robe.

Because the generations before us ceased to speak of grief, we no longer know its language. They would speak of death only in hushed tones, hoping that silence would be a talisman and keep death away. But silence did not prevent their loved ones from dying. There were stillbirths and miscarriages, spouses dying in their 20s, parents dying in their 30s, and still they did not speak. Their dying were whisked away to hospitals, the dead tidied up in funeral homes, and people were left to weep behind shuttered windows and closed doors.

In this decade, there is a movement among people who are tired of hiding their sorrow, tired of denying the devastation of grief. We seek to be heard and understood, and we want to find ways of sharing with others and to create a new language for grieving.

To write one's grief is to write from a shattered heart. The death of someone we dearly loved has thrown us into a new reality, and we stumble around trying to write about matters that words can’t fully express.

So why do we try? We try because we have seen grief tear lives down when it’s not confronted. We have watched people come apart when their feelings of grief are dismissed. Grief denied multiplies and gains strength; its edges grow sharper. In our society’s vacuum of speaking of grief, every honest word helps. We need compassionate hearts to speak gentle words.

We try to write about grief because we need to understand what is happening to us, how we are changing, how our world has shifted from being a landscape of sunshine and apples trees to the shore of a gaunt, cold ocean where the empty shells of our dead lie scattered on the rocks.

We try because when people ask us what they can do to help, we want to offer them an opening in the face of a horrible reality — that people we love have died. We try so that friends may understand and care with more insight and compassion, and prepare for the time when grief comes to them.

We try because we find solace in sharing our words with others who understand grief. Often something you have learned helps me with my grief, and by sharing a community of support develops. Sometimes even we don’t know what to say. Our words are mute and our pens still. Then we express our compassion through smiles, hugs, tears, and holding hands.


I want to tell you that grief is a straight path, with way stations where we can rest when grief becomes too much. I can't. Grief is a labyrinth that keeps doubling back, and we need companions on the journey if we are to find our way through.

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