Lisa and I lost one of children to cancer almost 10 years ago. During the days, weeks and months that passed after David’s death, we were moved by the powerful expressions of love and support we received from many, many people in our lives. We were also pretty surprised at how horribly others responded. My personal favorite, looking back at it more with sad recognition than hurt (although it hurt then), were the people at work who couldn’t even look at me. Over time, I have come to understand the reaction – the whole thing was so unspeakably awful, they had no idea what to do or say. Speaking to me, even making eye contact, meant confronting something more painful than they had ever experienced. Easier just to walk on by.
Then there were those who told me that everything would be alright. We were young, after all, and could have more kids. Well, I didn’t want more kids. I wanted that kid, and I was hurt, sad and angry that he had suffered and died. We have since welcomed more children into our family, which has been a wonderful blessing. They neither replaced David, nor erased our grief, however. And, the suggestions that they would never eased our pain.
Classmate Bruce Feiler just wrote a great piece that I will pass out to people when I find myself, as I sometimes do, as a compassion consultant to those unsure at how they should approach a family battling illness or wrestling with death. Bruce’s rules apply to those who are battling illness, but they apply well to those who grieve. They are good, solid rules to use when times are tough, so I commend them to you. Click below and give it a read. It is worth the time.