Saturday, March 12, 2011

Isolation (plus some tips for helping grieving friends)

One of the things I hate about grief is the feeling of being alone - that no one can understand you, no one can feel your pain, no one can share it with you.

And this is at least partially true.  No one person can ever fully understand another's grief, or the myriad of ways that they respond to it.  Dan and I have both been impacted in different ways by Vincent's death.  We've responded differently as well.  And that's OK.

Grief is isolating by nature.

But when grief is shared properly, it has the power to bring people together. I've seen this happen, but it requires a little risk on both sides.  I know some people don't want to talk about Vincent with me because they're worried about saying the wrong thing.  It feels risky for them to step outside of their comfort zone to address a grief that's larger than they've personally experienced.  (For the record, that doesn't help at all, to at like nothing happened. Of course I want to talk about it.)  What has helped, though, have been moments where people just looked into my eyes and said "We're so sorry you have to go through this" or "I can only imagine what you must be feeling right now." There are people who talk about Vincent with me, his life, his treatment, our grief now.  That helps a bit.

It's also a risk for the griever to allow the other individual to share their pain.  Just the act of opening up the wound to the other person is risky because of how they might respond.  I remember the Christian mom on a field trip with us who smiled at me after learning Vincent died, and said, "At least Theo won't remember any of this because he's too young!"  (awful on so many levels!)

So sometimes it's just easier to withdraw from people and grieve in seclusion.  But it's not as healthy, because I as the griever need to know that even though I'm walking this path alone, there are people cheering me on.  And it's healthy for you too, having grieving people around you, as it enlarges your heart and helps you be more thankful for what you have.  Plus, grieving enables all of us to identity more with the rest of the suffering world where awful stuff happens every day.  (Like what's going on in Japan!  Ugh!)

My husband Dan is very clever. He likes to comes up with these little witticisms, some of which are better than others.  (Sorry babe, it's true! :) After Vincent died, Dan said this - "The journey through grief is an unpredictable voyage, but the ship is more stable with many hands on deck."  Doesn't that sound like an ancient Chinese proverb?

Dan's right. Grieving in community can be better than grieving by yourself.  So next time we're hanging out, ask me how I'm doing.  Ask me about Vincent, about how his treatment went, about how his personality was and how much we miss him.  And together, we'll grieve for what's been lost.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Rebecca for helping us to better understand your feelings. I would love to hear more about Vincent and even see pictures of special moments you shared together as a family, if you would like to tell us about them.

And Dan's witticism is definitely true. Wow, actually profound.

PS, I replied to your note, but am not sure you received hope it didn't get filed in the spam folder. Sometimes my emails go there. =(

Rebecca said...

Thanks Anita! I found your e-mail no problem, thanks!

I'lll definitely be writing more about Vincent, especially as his 2-year birthday approaches.

Jana said...

Becca this is one of my favorite posts that you've written so far. I feel like I personally have learned a little bit more about how I can support you and others in my life who are grieving. I love Dan's saying that he came up with. I'm going to have to pass that along to Den, it might be useful for some of the clients he works with, if you don't mind! I know that people grive in different ways, but one thing I'm sure that everyone who is grieving would appreciate is someone just asking them how they can support them, instead of just ignoring it and pretending it never happened. Thank you and keep writing!

Rebecca said...

Hi Jana!

Thanks for the comment... For the record, I think that you are a terrific friend with very good instincts and actions when it comes to helping grievers!! And please pass on to Den whatever you think may ever be helpful. thanks for being there for us!

Anonymous said...

I loved reading your post. I agree. It's better to grieve together than alone, but risky to open up that grief to others. Today at a wedding reception. I found myself sitting next to two widows. ...We dove right in, and it sure felt better to all of use to talk. Its painful to cry but helpful to not cry alone.