Several years ago I met several times with five grieving families in a small town in Texas. Two car wrecks ten days apart had claimed the lives of their sons and daughters. That many young people dying in such a short span had the whole area in mourning. At my first meeting with a single mother whose daughter had died she told me almost in defiant anger that unless I could bring her daughter back there was no such thing as giving her comfort. I did not understand her then, now I find myself saying the same thing.
It sounds harsh and hopeless to say there is no such thing as comfort, but it is just reality. The bottom line to grief is that she is not here. The only thing that will make that better is if she can come back. If she cannot come back then I must learn to live without her being here. That will take a long time and will cost an awful lot of tears. Folks can help me in the process. They can acknowledge my pain and not try to explain it away. They can let me know they are thinking about me and understand why I am not being my usual self. They can be companions and not forget to invite me to participate with them even if I am a fifth wheel now. A few of them can be those special friends I feel safe talking with and can allow myself to cry in their presence without feeling like I am making them uncomfortable. I am not sure anyone can come though grief alone and end up healthy. When we hurt we need people period. So maybe there is comfort in presence, or in concern, but that is not what that mother was saying nor what I am saying here.
The myth of comfort is the belief that there are some magical words that can be said and the pain will go away. That if we can just “spin doctor” the pain and think of it in some new way we will not hurt any more.
There are no magical scriptures that will make me glad my wife is in heaven and not here. No magical prayers that will make my heart glow with peace and joy.
We don’t get well by hearing speeches. I was explaining this to a friend who is in AA. I said “You don’t get well by hearing a speech about alcohol. You get well by walking through the hard days of withdrawal and facing the demons that caused it in the first place. Friends can help, but the struggle must still be faced. That is also true in grief. There are no pep talks that can substitute for the long hard struggle of learning to live again without her being here.
Copyright Doug Manning of In-Sight Books, Inc. Doug’s books, CDs and DVDs are available at www.insightbooks.com. Post originally published on Doug’s Blog at The Care Community www.thecarecommunity.com.
Updated: September 4, 2013