Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Exquisite Pain




Thank you for all of the supportive comments following my post about "What You Can Do to Help a Grieving Family." As I said, I am learning from YOU, not the other way around. I am certainly no expert on helping people, as I often give in to awkwardness, helplessness, and/or lethargy instead of reaching out.

Just this week, for instance, a card I sent to a mom in our town who recently lost her son got bounced back to me because of an insufficient address. I don't know if she is receiving the kind of support we are. I doubt it. I want to tend to her, comfort her, grieve with her, but I'm showing my suck-tastic colors by not doing it as week after week passes.

I want to share a note from a reader about the difficulty of reaching out to grieving people. It may be the most beautifully written, spot-on statement I've read. So even though the incredible writing may intimidate and humble me to such a degree that I'll never type another word here, I still want to share it with you today:


"Grief, for those standing at a distance, seems too sacred to approach with common hands, and comfort a priestly duty. Consoling is utterly impossible, and surely a job for some expert who knows the flavor of agony, or some close family member who has a right to speak.


That is how the outsider feels; but grief is a lowly, deep, and violent wound, and the pain so exquisite that every kindness has the potential to be, not consolation for such loss, but perhaps a cushion against the writhing.

I'm so sorry. I wish there was more.

Thanks for what you teach, what you share."


WOW.

62 comments:

Steph said...

Wow indeed. What powerful, moving words. Thank you for sharing. I pray for you and your beautiful family.

Anne said...

Anna,
Perfectly said.I know going through our own situation (not death) no one else knows what you are going through.No one will ever know unless they went through it.And all anyone else can do is pray and try to be there for you and your family.I can't imagine how you all feel everyday forever.But just know that people you don't know and may never know will continue to pray for you all.Sometimes that is all we can do.
Blessings,
Anne

Anonymous said...

She really was able to put into words how I've often felt. Thank you for sharing.

Michelle

Lauren K said...

I am grateful for this message. A young boy, in a nearby town, died yesterday in a horrible accident. I do not know the family, but can't stop thinking of them. Because of this post... I will be sending them a note...or do something for them. I have no idea if it will help...but I will try. Thank you for your amazing words that you share each week.

starnes family said...

Yes, such a beautifully written message.

I was just reading this with my 2 littlest and "my Jack" asked who the little boy in your picture was. I said he was Jack, too. My 5 year old remarked: "Will I wook yike dat when I get big? Will I be yike dat Jack?"

Tears formed in my eyes and I was suddenly struck with a tiny, tiny morsel of the pain you must be feeling. I told Jack that your Jack was in heaven now.

We prayed for him and your family.

Anonymous said...

Such a great picture - the actual one and the word picture.

Always thinking of and praying for you and your family.

Lisa G.

Meredith Self said...

Yes. What a true capturing that is to the outsider.

This inspires a blasting away the divisions between outsider-insider, them-us; we have this pain here and since it exists how am I moved to meet it. How will I meet you as a friend right here, right now, whether it is to be there in suffering or in joy.

Thank you, Anna, again!

Anonymous said...

That really is beautiful. And true! The urge to reach out is stifled by the sense that the gesture may be unwelcome or unwanted at the time. Your long list of ways to help, though, belies this. Try, try again to get that card to its recipient. That mom will find comfort in knowing that you are there for her.

love,
jbhat

Megan said...

Wow is right. Thank you for sharing that message and all your messages with us. Thinking of you all the time.

Love and hugs,
Megan

mgh said...

stunning.

JennyExplainsItAll.blogspot.com said...

A friend lost his son to a drug overdose on Easter. I read back through your list to remind me of the ways I can be there for him and the rest of his family. A few months back a young musician whom my son had performed with also died, and I gathered up my courage and wrote to his mother (whom I had never met) and told her something I remembered about her son. Thank you, Anna, for reminding us that doing SOMETHING is better than doing NOTHING.

Debbie said...

Thank you for sharing. I suck at reaching out to those in grief. It's not because my heart does not ache for them. I shy away because I'm afraid I'll say or do the wrong thing that may cause them greater sadness. But the messages that you are sharing are teaching me that no matter how insignificant I feel my contribution is, my reaching out may strengthen and encourage someone for a small moment in their agonizing journey. Thank you for being willing to teach the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

That was very sweet, and thank you for sharing all you do. I feel your pain and wish it on no-one. A good friend lost her 25 year old son and I took food over all the time, went for walks with her, let her scream and it seemed to help a little, but there is only so much we can do to help our friends heal at this most difficult time. Mary in NY

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

Like my students say, "You took my answer."

Wow.

L said...

Oh my. Really wow.

Domestic Diva said...

That was so perfectly written. It is exactly how we feel. My goal is to reach past that boundary and do anything. Thank you for continuing to inspire and instruct me. We continue to pray for you and yours.

NanaDiana said...

Anna- That is a powerful message, indeed. I love that picture of you gazing at Jack...pictures like that must give you one of those moments of exquisite, yet painful, joy xo Diana

Amy said...

That reader nailed it! I often feel...silly, I guess, leaving comments of love/prayer/hope on blogs of strangers. (You know, like here!) It feels almost arrogant or something, to think that words from someone you don't know can do anything to lift the sadness. So I love how s/he put it...that even though we can't console, maybe we can cushion. Thanks for sharing.

Lady Jennie said...

That is exquisitely expressed.

I did leave you a comment on that post, but two times the comment failed due to some unknown I'm a non-tech geek. I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do when I lost my brother. One of the most memorable things was seeing two old high school friends at the funeral when I didn't let anyone know what happened, and then they brought me back to their house and fed me hot chocolate and rubbed my feet. I'll never forget it.

Lisa said...

Oh. My. That's just...wow. Completely spot on.

Camille said...

I think your card was returned undeliverable for a reason. I bet when you resend it, she will receive it when she needs it most. And I'm sure it will mean the world coming from you.

Heidi said...

Breathtaking. Truly.
Love you, Anna.

Anonymous said...

Double wow indeed.

Grief IS a staggering "violent wound." One thing I "used to do" and have attempted to start again - is to continue to send a "thinking of you card" after I think maybe most ppl have "moved on" with their lives as we are apt to do. A wonderful family just lost their beloved son last weekend to a tragic car wreck - I only met them once but his aunt is my friend. In the blink of an eye, all our lives are subject to a "violent wound" ....

Thinking of you and praying for strength from God to give you strength day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. With love in Jesus Christ from Tennessse.

Jessica said...

Oh wow that is amazing, I'm so glad you shared.
And I give into the lethargy too but I thought it was just me. Weeks go by before I do what I should and in the early days, I did none of what I should, I didn't even answer the phone for a good three months, didn't take some of the support that people attempted to give. I wish I was the mom across town to help lift you up when needed too.

Sharon M. said...

Very inspired words. If I've learned anything recently, it's that it's always better to do something rather than nothing. I'm thinking of all the times I did "nothing," and all of the excuses I made, but truthfully, no one wants to step outside of their comfort zone. We get caught up in our own lives and having to face others' grief is really having to face our own mortality. We all need each other, especially in hard times, so I am learning to step out of my comfort zone, to stop my excuses and to just reach out. Thank you Anna for reaching out to all of us when you are the one who is grieving. As always, hugs and prayers to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous photograph! The light is very gentle and soft. The same things could be said of your friend's words. Beautifully put.

Still Playing School said...

We are becoming a community who grieves, breathes together, and learns from each other. Thank you to you and your commenter.

Kara said...

I'm going to have to clip and save that quote, which is pretty perfect. I truly am so grateful for what you share here. I've learned more what to say, what not to say, and how to pray for people going through deep loss. Something about the way you're looking at Jack kind of kills me and set me to crying.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for that list of things to do for grieving families. I copied it and saved it for when the sad need arises. I always feel at a loss and your direction will help me love others. Thank you. I am so sorry for you loss.

Anonymous said...

WOW, indeed. I came across your blog just a week ago via another reader's comment on another blog I read. I didn't realize that I'd be spending the next 2 hours reading your past blogs, wanting to reach out to you and somehow 'cushion' your pain. In the past week, you and your family have filled my thoughts. I've mentioned you to close family and friends, as if I knew you. I've thought about you as I drive through town or lay with my children as they fall asleep. I've read and re-read your old posts. I've cried many tears for you and your family. I really have nothing at all to offer you, which is why I never commented. But I hope you know that you have someone here in California who is praying for you and your family, and who wholeheartedly wishes there was more I could do. Thank you for sharing with us.

ella said...

Beautiful. Very moving, and so true. Thank you for sharing. Love the picture. xoxo

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Sometimes I think that grief is the most powerful emotion possible. That comment really expresses it perfectly. ... And Anna, such a touching photo. Just look at the way you are looking up at Jack. It makes me smile and cry all at the same time!

Anonymous said...

I just want you to know that you inspired kindness and empathy in me today. I have a dear friend who is more family than friend facing a very difficult time. I've wanted to reach out, but haven't wanted to intrude. Your post today made me remember how very alone I felt and still feel at times in my own grief over a recent loss, and reach out to her. I am so very sorry for your own loss, and just wanted to thank you for using it so constructively to help others. You reminded me, "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted." ~M

Anonymous said...

On Saturday I was in Charlottesville to run a 1/2 marathon. I hadn't pledged to run in honor of Jack because I wasn't sure I'd finish all 13 miles & that didn't feel like a fitting tribute. There I was though, at the starting line in the dark, wishing I'd pledged to run for him anyhow & just then a runner next to me said to her friend, "why try for a PR? We'll be Jack's joggers. Joggers is good." They were there with blue ribbons! So there were 3 runners in Charlottesville this weekend, running rolling hills & thinking of Jack.

Lou said...

Exquisite, indeed. I'm often amazed, humbled, and inspired by the depth, soul, and kindness of your readers. So grateful for you and this place.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

That is definitely a WOW! I am speechless, this has me at a loss of words yet her words are some of the most powerful words I have ever read.

helenasc said...

I have been thinking about you more than usual since you posted about how to minister (hey I just realized that this is sort of a way that Jack is being a missionary too, you are using his memory to teach people how to love and reach out in the name of Jesus, which is what missionaries do)to people who are grieving. You see, the day after I read your post, I got a call that my cousin-in-law's mother passed away suddenly. In our family, cousins are much like siblings and we knew her mother, so this has been a terrible time. We did what we could, and I remembered your words. We got child care and left our children overnight to attend the viewing and funeral out of town. I kept reminding myself that this would bring some comfort despite my feelings of inadequacy. We did a few other things and will continue to reach out to them in the months to come. Thank you for reaching out. I feel wierd even asking this, and please ignore it if you have no desire to do it, but I thought I'd put it out there in case you ever thought of it and wondered if anyone would want to see it. If you ever feel led to share what books your family found useful/comforting, I'd love to see it. May God continue to bless and comfort you all.

Mellow said...

I feel like as I continue to grieve, I am learning to be more mindful of others hurt and pain. It becomes more clear to me, I am not alone in my grief. So many are struggling. One thing I have yet to master...How to help, other than being there to listen, and lend a hug of understanding. Sometimes it's all there is. Thank you for sharing.

Laura said...

Oh, my.
Amazing words.

And that picture? Breathtakingly beautiful and exquisitely painful all at once. My heart hurts so much for you.

Fervently praying.
xoxo

The Mommy Therapy said...

Truly amazing. Thank you so much for sharing her words!

Princess Kate said...

When I woke up this morning, my first thoughts were of your family. I hope you could feel the prayers of comfort and peace. Thinking of you always. {{{hugs}}}

Ryan said...

Agreed, wow.

wild trumpet vine said...

This Easter I was thinking especially about your family and others in our community who have lost their children recently. It was on my mind when I did the Children's Word at church on Easter, and I wrote about it in a recent post, The Easter Promise. Our church's flower-butterfly will always remind me of Jack. My prayers for you continue.

Mrs Changstein said...

Her words are so true. Somebody asked my husband to boil the meaning of love down to one word...and his was 'selflessness'. When we put others first - love them like He loves us, we let go of excuses & feelings of awkwardness & fear, and just 'do it'. The loneliness & isolation of grief is so hard to bear.

When we sang "I'll Fly Away" @ church this past Sunday, your rare bird was in my mind, and you all were in my heart. Keeping you in my prayers.

CheekyMomma said...

Hi Anna -
I've been a silent reader of your blog since last September when Kate and Lydia at Rants From Mommyland posted about you. For some reason, last night I couldn't sleep and decided to check up on you via my handy dandy iPhone. I don't know if you were awake at 2am and hurting, but for some reason I just felt the need to reach out to you. It may seem a little nuts, but I just had this feeling that you needed me - a woman you've never met who lives halfway across the country. I didn't really fall back asleep, and you've been on my mind all day long. I still don't know why. I guess I'm hoping that this comment finds you and in some small way comforts you and Tim and Margaret. I'm praying for you and your sweet family.

Leah C said...

I'm in awe.

mia said...

wow... I am glad to know that you feel comfort from support.. sometimes i feel intrusive. YOu and your family are in my daily thoughts and prayers. so much love and support always. xoxo

Aimee said...

That was powerful and beautifully written.

I love that picture, with you looking at Jack. ;)

New Mom said...

A funny thing just happened - I was so struck by how gracious you are to take the time to relate to your readers even as you experience an exquisite pain that we can't possibly know - and so I was just thinking to myself that your name should be "Grace". I decided to look up the meaning of the name Anna and found that it translates "Grace, Gracious." I'm sure this is common knowledge to everyone else, but all I could do was nod emphatically. You are so gracious, Anna. Thank you!

Bonnie said...

This was written so poetically that I "felt it", as opposed to just nodding to myself in understanding. You see, after I read it the first time, I read it a second time....and then where "grief" was, I replaced it with "living with cancer" and I read it a third time, and suddenly I felt understood, too.

This is what sharing our pain does. It has the potential to comfort others so naturally and peacefully.

Thanks for being here in your grief, Anna.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

So poignant.

The photo you shared is worth thousands of words filled with exquisite joy and pain, for it shows what an incredibly special boy your Jack is -- and how much you love him.

Anonymous said...

@ New Mom

I didn't know that Anna means "grace", and I love finding out things like that. Not common knowledge to me. Thanks!

Chimmy said...

wow, indeed. beautifully written. thank you for continuing to share with us every day.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

That was lovely. And something everyone can understand. Even the people who are currently grieving since they have a "before" to remember.

Love you.

Kristin said...

So beautiful and so true. For most of my life, I have been afraid even to offer words of condolence to grieving people. It always felt like another cliched "I'm thinking of you" or "So sorry for your loss" wouldn't add anything. There was no way I could make it better, so why bother. I'll never forget the coworker whose daughter died, and I never offered even a word of acknowledgment. Awful.

Now, because of you, I am learning to reach out to people who are hurting. Just last week, I made chocolate chip cookies and delivered them to a friend whose father had died. Maybe the last thing on earth she wanted at that moment was cookies, but I hope knowing that I cared enough to make them was some small comfort.

I'm telling you this story because I want to you to know that you sharing your story is making a difference. I understand love and loss so much more now than I did before I discovered your blog. The idea that you have been able to give so much to so many people, even in the face of such a horrible loss, is revolutionary to me. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Sounds exactly like something Ann Voskamp would say.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/

IrishRN07 said...

Thinking of you and especially Tim on this "opening day". Can't imagine how hard it is. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers.
-Maureen

Hokie Grandma said...

Please try again to mail the card - in my time of grief there were people that intentionally sent cards several months after the fact. Those were tangible reminders that others had not forgotten. Maybe you can find her through the church or funeral home were the service was held or a school. I am sure she will be blessed by your care. Lifting you all up daily.

annabel said...

That is such a perfect picture. It is so obvious how much you just love love love jack, and he and margaret look so happy and loved.

the mama bird diaries said...

Beautiful. Always thinking of you. xo

Anonymous said...

That picture, the way you are looking at Jack... It brings tears to my eyes. Your love for him is so obvious; and clearly it is because of that love that he flourished and was the type of person who inspires us all so much.

Anonymous said...

Anna, I have so much respect for you as a writer that I have been unable to form my thoughts of humble gratitude for the honor of your response to my post. Thank you.

These are things you've taught me, and I thank you most sincerely for it.

Ever in my prayers,

~A Sister