Friday, August 14, 2009

Walking With You - Wounding Words, Healing Words

Kelly at The Beauty of Sufficient Grace is hosting Walking With You and this week, she suggested talking about the things other people said. (Last week was sibling grief and I'm totally annoyed with myself that I missed it).

People say hurtful things. Not intentionally (usually) but because they just don't know what to say. The hardest one for me (and I"m still working on letting go and forgiving) was when someone compared our losing Seth at 6 1/2 months of age to be less painful than someone losing an older child (and in this case, the other child was 18 months old).. (Clarification, this was NOT the other bereaved parents but a third party). I was crushed. From the day we found out we were HAVING him, Seth was no less a member of our family than any of his older siblings. THAT was the motivating factor in all the decisions we made for Seth's care. (If we had taken our then 2 year old to the doctor and they said some thing's wrong with her heart, she needs 3 open heart surgeries; we would have unquestioningly got her the best care possible. We were going to do the same for Seth from the beginning!) Unfortunately, this wasn't the only example of that. People often implied that it must have been "easier" to lose Seth than one of our "big kids". I find that offensive.

I KNOW that people just don't know what to say. I know they struggle for things that are comforting and not offensive. I get that. I'm pretty sure I've done that. I was blessed to have people come alongside Leland and I who had walked this path. A good friend who knew that just sitting with me on Leland's first night back at work was enough. And I had good friends who were aware of their shortcomings and inadequacy to offer comfort. A couple of people quite simply said "I don't know what to say so I'm not saying anything, but know that I love you." I was very grateful for that. I think it takes a lot of courage to admit that you don't know how to help someone you care about.

I struggle as much though, not with what OTHER people say, but what I say. I don't know how to share how I feel. That some days I still hurt so much I can hardly breathe. That yes, we've HAD a fun summer.. and I still miss Seth every single moment; even if I don't look like I do because of all the fun I'm trying to make sure my "big kids" have. I don't have an answer for that. In some cases, I do believe that it helps the best for me to be honest. And in other times, I just want to will myself to feel better. I occasionally still think that I can "fake it until I make it."

Mostly though, I am grateful for the people who quite simply let me know they are keeping our family in their prayers. I know that the fact that we find any joy at all is because we have hope in the Lord and seeing Seth again. I am blessed to have people in our lives willing to help carry us through the dark times!


Jennifer Ross said...

I just don't understand why some people think that the age of your child has a factor in the pain that you feel ever single day. I feel like Isaiah is looked upon the the very same way. It's a sad way to look at the life of a human being. Thank you for sharing this point in your post. God Bless.


Lucy and Ethel said...

Great post Kathryn. I don't know why people always feel like they have to justify a death or a diagnosis. Or why they want to put a positive spin on it. "At least you're blessed with other healthy children" is one I've heard. I think it just makes everyone so darned uncomfortable that they'll say anything so that it makes it OK for them to move on to another subject. If only they understood that it only compounds the grief when a child's death is treated almost non-chalantly. Thanks for putting this out there. Blessings.


Anonymous said...

I can so relate to this. My sweet son Nathan also passed away from HLHS this past May at the age of three months. It does seem that people regard the death of an infant as somehow less painful than the death of an older child.

I am so sorry for your loss. Seth was a beautiful baby.

Kind regards,

P.S. I found your blog through McMama's - I don't have a blog but here is my son's Caring Bridge page:

Kelly @ The Beauty of Sufficient Grace said...

Hi Kathryn...I was so excited to see that you won MckMama's contest! Now...for this post. I am so sorry for the comment made by that misinformed individual. How can we...and why do some people try to place different values on life? Life lost at any age is something worth grieving. All life has value. Seth is your different than any of your children. I am sorry also for the way people sometimes seem to judge our performance as we grieve. Even as I say this...I know, I don't always say the right thing or judge rightly. We all need God's grace in this area!

Thanks for the Walking With You suggestion. I'll include that!

Praying God's continued comfort, sweet friend...

Love to you...

Kathryn said...

People can be so clueless! Our society has a tendency to want to fix or make better every situation & doesn't respond well when a situation cannot be fixed or made better. So, some folks come up with thoughtless comments trying to gloss over that. I'm sure the person speaking to you didn't mean to be cruel, but that doesn't negate the feeling.

Also, i think there is a tendency in some to do a one-up. "My hurt is worse than yours," or "You can't hurt as much as So&So cause ________ happened to her." I don't know why this is, but it is often a response.

On a different issue, but just as painful, i had a lady at church take me to task recently over my health issues. I'm so thankful i didn't talk to her about miscarriage & infertility! That would have been so painful.

It is hard not to compare & say thoughtless things, sometimes. We who have no children sometimes tend to think we "corner the market" on pain, but that is not true. We each have . . . i'm so sorry this has happened to you. I pray each time i comment here that i don't do something similar, as it can be so easy to wound each other.

I do pray that time will heal the open wound but i know it won't change the hurt. God's blessings on you.

Jess said...


i just kept nodding through this whole post, thinking, "yes, i totally understand."

people mean well, right? then how can they say the most hurtful things about the most painful things in our lives???

i'm learning - like you said - to be grateful for the people who really understand.

love you,

Kathryn said...

I found this post: from Gitz/Sara Frankl very helpful. :)

Holly said...

I hate it when people think that one loss is greater than another. How can they possible know that? How can they put the worth of one life over another? I think people need to know that if you don't know what to say then don't say anything. Just give a hug.

Karen said...

I came over to your blog this morning from Hallelujah Anyhow. I want to extend my sympathy to you in the death of your son. I lost my youngest at age three years and I remember the thing that meant the most to me was other parents who just came and cried with me. No words were necessary.