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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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Writing the Shadows

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 heavy weight of grief’s robe.

Because the generations before us ceased to speak of grief, we no longer know its language. They spoke 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 still miscarriages and stillbirths, spouses dying in their 20s, and parents in their 30s.

Their dying were whisked away to hospitals, the dead tidied up in funeral homes, and, after the burial, survivors were left alone to go home and weep behind shuttered windows and closed doors.

In this decade, a movement has begun 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 are finding ways of sharing with others. We are creating a new language for grief.

To write of 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 express matters that words can’t fully describe.

So why do we try? We write 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 society’s vacuum of speaking of grief, every honest word helps.

We 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 a gaunt, cold ocean where the empty shells of our dead lie scattered on the rocks.

We write to respond to grief because when friends ask what they can do to help, we want to offer them helpful ideas. We write so that people will understand and prepare for the time when grief comes home to them.

We write because we have found 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. When even we don’t know what to say, we know to express our compassion through smiles, hugs, and tears.

I want to tell you that grief is a straight path. I can’t. Grief is a labyrinth that keeps doubling back. Yet there are way stations along the way where we can rest when grief becomes too much, and where we meet companions on the journey who will help us find our way through.

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