I’ve been given a lot of advice over the past few years. Most of it amounts to how I should be feeling, how I should be parenting and how I should be looking to Jesus since the death of my son.
Most of it is annoying. I am left with a vague desire to say something. Because, really, there ae just some things you shouldn’t say.
Like, I’m sorry you lost your dog. Really, I am. But it’s a dog.
I’m sure your great Aunt was a wonderful woman and I’d like to try her pie, too. In fact, we could sit down to a piece and you could tell me all about her . . . just don’t tell me you know just how I feel because you loved her and now she’s gone.
Don’t tell me it’s time to stop grieving. That started ONE WEEK after the funeral. Apparently, Christianity is a single emotion religion because if I really had faith, I’d know he was in a better place and I would rejoice. But then, the Bible says it is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of feasting and that sorrow is better than laughter. (Ecc 7:1-4).
“Keep your eyes on Jesus” is a great idea. But it is usally said in a manner that implies I’m not. As if, “Keeping my eyes on Jesus” would eliminate the pain. I’m not sure most people realized that, particularly in those early months, everything else had been stripped away. Jesus was all that was left. He was the only light in a very dark and terrifying world. That didn’t make me happy. It just made each day possible.
Interestingly, people who have lost a child don’t give a lot of advice. At least not directly about how to deal with the grief itself. They don’t tell me that I’m doing it wrong, or that I should be “over it” or that if I “give it to God” somehow all this pain will be lifted from me.
Instead, they say things like, “The pain never goes away. It just doesn’t. It gets easier. It gets less overwhelming. But it never goes away.”
And they tell me about the time they stood screaming at some random object that had nothing to do with anything but for some reason, that was the point that brought all the anger to the surface and they just screamed.
And they tell me that in time, you learn who you can talk to and who you can’t. Most people mean well, but there comes a point when it is better to say you’re doing OK than to get into another discussion that will only upset you anyway.
And they talk about the “new normal.” It’s like a code word for waking up in this alternate universe where everything –EVERYTHING–has changed.
And they say call me. Email me. Write me. Even though they are complete strangers I know for only one, terrible reason. And when they say it, for some reason, I actually believe the invitation is genuine. And that they know exactly what that call, email, letter will look like and they ask for it anyway.
So do I prefer advice from strangers or from those closest to me? I don’t think it really matters. I think what matters is whether or not the person giving the advice has a personal and direct connection to the issue.
Because good advice comes out of the wisdom only experience can bring. Most people mean well. But very few people have any idea what it is like to lose a child. If someone close to you is wrestling with this grief, the best advice I can give is to just be there for them. Listen to them. Pray for them. It is a lonely road and they need all the support they can get.