Monday, November 26, 2012

Out in the Open

I’m big into acknowledgment. 

When Jack and Margaret would fall down, I didn’t say, “Get up! Shake it off!” even though I know that works for some people. Instead, I did what I would want someone to do for me, “Wow! That was some fall? Where does it hurt?” It’s not that I wanted to turn tiny things into big things, or make my kids into wimps, but I don’t believe that’s how acknowledgment works anyway. I think acknowledging someone’s pain, stress, or struggle helps them feel understood and strengthens them to move forward.

 I tried to teach Tim this early in our relationship, because we seemed complete opposites in this regard. The results have been mixed. When I would be going through something, either big or small, and try to tell him about it, he would be silent. Like no sounds whatsoever.  This could be because he processes things more s-l-o-w-l-y than I do. Or that he was under the impression that if you ignore a problem, it goes away, but if you acknowledge it, it grows. Ha.

Take, for example, if I got sick, like maybe even cracking a rib from coughing while pregnant. I'd want to hear, "That sucks!" or, "What a pain!” This would make me feel cared about, and I would want to be brave and strong and try my best to get better.

I don’t think Tim ever thought about it consciously, but it seemed to me that he worried if he acknowledged my pain, whether physical or emotional, that somehow he’d get stuck staying home from work taking care of me and who knows what kind of chaos and madness would erupt? 

I think it’s the opposite.

I believe acknowledgment, or letting someone know she’s been heard, diffuses many situations.  In fact, when he didn’t acknowledge that I was sick or stressed, I’d feel the need to say, “Boy I still feel terrible today! Cough. Cough” again and again, because, Hello, he obviously hadn’t heard me the first 5 times! Same thing with problems in our relationship. I would want to acknowledge when we were in a bad spot. Not talk it to death, mind you, but at least bring it out into the light. He would look scared, shocked, and silent.

This has improved over the years as Tim gingerly uses a few phrases I’ve taught him, “That must be scary.” “You sound pretty upset about that.” “That stinks.” He has found if he acknowledges me, I feel like he is present with me and is not just hoping I’ll just shut up and go away.

When it comes to losing a child, particularly in a split-second accident, many people are ready and able to acknowledge your pain. They may not be able to fully grasp how terrible it is to try to live without your child, but they freely acknowledge a huge, huge loss has occurred. The acknowledgment we have received from so many people (YOU!) has surely made us feel less alone.

But there are many people suffering losses who might not get the kind of support we have. They may be going through a divorce. They may have lost their job and therefore, their identity.  They may be mourning an elderly parent or a good friend.  They may have lost a child during pregnancy or at birth.
Acknowledgment of child loss could also be complicated by it being a suicide, drunk driving, or a drug overdose.

I wonder whether those who lose children to cancer get as much acknowledgement as those who have died in a sudden accident like Jack did. If a child has struggled for years, friends may compassionately think it is a blessing for the child to be free from treatments and pain, but they may forget parents are mourning the healthy child they knew and loved and also all they hoped for that child in the future.

Even as I crave acknowledgment in my life, I admit many times I’ve avoided acknowledging others’ pain because I was afraid they would then need too much from me. Sound a little like Tim? It’s like when I prayed and prayed for new neighbors because I wanted to be a bright light for them, helping them find their way in our town. But I really didn’t want them to be too needy or vulnerable, just enough for me to swoop in (and OUT!) with a smile and maybe a cookie tray. 

Now, with Jack’s death, I am the hurting, vulnerable one. I am the one who needs acknowledgment and support. I pray that I can meet the needs of those around me without worrying that being with them in their pain will require more than I can give.
I want to remind myself that acknowledging others' pain can be a balm to their hurting souls.
I want to show up for others as you have shown up for me.





Anonymous said...

Well said, Anna. It's hard to be empathetic sometimes. Most of us tend to avoid issues or jump to solving them (I am guilty of both)--but mostly, people just want to be heard and understood.

Cute tag re the spelling, btw.


Anonymous said...

I was wondering how you acknowledge people acknowledging you? Do you ever feel like people are bugging you and trying too hard? Do you let them know that you appreciate it? There is a woman in my town in a similar situation and I want her to know how much I care but my attempts at acknowledgement seem to be an annoyance. Do you ever just want people to back off?

Mandy said...

This is so important. You continually drive me in the direction of thoughtfulness over my actions. Onward together. xx

NanaDiana said...

Anna- You hit that right on the nose. There are many of us who want to be needed but only on our own terms. I can support you until 4pm but please don't call me after 7.

We lost a precious granddaughter due to hospital error 7 years ago (just by fluke) and, you are right, people don't know what to say so, often, they say nothing.

I think of you often and what you go through on a daily basis. I miss our little girl, too. xo Diana

Alexandra said...

Yes, I try to remember to do this. It's hard. When you have grown up with tragedy, you become ( or I feel I have become) too nonverbal in stating others' pain.

It's like I think everyone knows that I know the pain of loss. Not true, I still need to say it, I'm sorry this has happened to you.

I can't imagine, Ann, I think of you so much and it grips my heart in a cold seize--the unimaginable of my life, this would be it.


Maggie May said...

I really loved to read this. I am the uber acknowledger. I believe it does encourage and heal, just as you say, and my entire childhood I felt all my suffering was totally ignored, which turned me into someone who says to the barista at Starbucks ' Oh it is a rough day here, huh? I know how that feels '. I can't stand to think of anyone suffering in lonliness and that feeling drives many of my interactions.

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

Reaching out and acknowledging others is amazing, but it is also difficult, especially when we need acknowledging ourselves. I have found that the more I do, the more I pray for and encourage others, the more burdened I feel. It's almost as if I am taking on all their emotions, their hurts, on top of mine. I know that emotion is powerful, and that love is the greatest of all emotions because it can lead to the greatest of actions. But, sometimes it seems like too much.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Mental illness - it's as if the person/child you knew/loved has died, but people don't realize it. It is the same mourning process, the same grief - although it may sound callous of me to say that to you - you're probably thinking, "But it's not the same at all - at least the person/child is still there!" But no -- no, he/she isn't. And the mourner guiltily wonders - would it have been better if the person had truly died, when he/she was still him/herself? At least then, there would have been only good memories. And, as quickly, the thought is dismissed, because it seems so wrong to think that way. And, anyway, it isn't as if we are ever given any choice in the matter!

mollysmith222 said...

I remember telling you about losing my dad in July. Yes, he was 68 and it is not nearly the same as losing a healthy happy 12 year old SON. I wondered why I even told you. Surely, our grieving is different but you, Anna, acknowledged it and said you were sorry and knew that even though it was my dad and not a child, that you cared. You are a wonderful wonderful person and you helped me, can't put my finger on exactly why but acknowledging my pain was so gracious of you. I think of you all the time and have your sweet Jack on my fridge as a reminder that there is another angel with God. I am deeply sad for you, and I don't know how it feels but there are so many of us that care, and hurt with you. I wish you the best through the holidays. They can surely suck when you are missing someone. I didn't make it through dinner without bawling and leaving the table. Praying for you, always. Hugs.

Suburban Correspondent said...

I got off topic there a bit - I meant to explain that, if you know a person whose loved one is suffering mental illness, they need support, too. Because mental illness is like a death. I didn't cry at my mother's funeral in 2010 because, to me, she had died back in 1986. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

I'm struck by the honesty of what you wrote about the cookie tray. Wow.

I'm so sorry for all the losses mentioned in the comments, both loss in the traditional sense, and loss through mental health issues.

Lynnette said...

Such a timely post Anna! Acknowledging grief during the holidays especially since it such a family time. We are experiencing our first "Triple Holidays" without our precious grandson and trying to be there for our daughter and son-in-law. It's so hard to know exactly what to say or do. I just urge people to continue to use angel's name...I think that is important element of the acknowledgement. Hugs to you this sad holiday season as well.

Anonymous said...

You always know what to say. I struggle with wanting to be "here" and not wanting to be "here" because life is just so hard and then I think how selfish that would be because I have 2 children and a husband and then I think how lucky I am to have what I have and even though it's hard I have to push through.

If you can get up every morning then then I have no excuse and I thank you for continuing to write to us because we need you

Anonymous said...

I know acknowledging pain is important, but it's so hard. I'm so scared I'll say something lame or stupid or thoughtless.
I have a friend whose husband is now in the latter stages of pancreatic cancer. She's a believer, as is her husband, and they're being well cared for by friends and our church.
I'd love to encourage them in these last weeks… especially to Rick because {barring a miracle} he won't be around for me to care for later.
I have heard that those going through something like this are inconsolable. As in nothing we can do will help or make them feel better.
However, I can't just not do anything.
Do you have any specific ways that people were a blessing to you without having to speak?
Thanks for your wisdom out of a place of intense grief.
Know that I am thinking and praying for you and hanging my blue ornament on my tree while I remember Jack's impactful life.
Hugs to you…

Theresa O said...

All I can say is you TRULY are an amazing person - mom, wife and friend. I continue to remember when I complain or something has gone so wrong in my life (divorce, financial issues, being a single mom and trying to make it day by day etc), that I shouldn't complain. I have gone through no loss like you have. I know everyone's "loss" is different...could be little, could be big..but I say it all the time. I still have Zach and I need to be THANKFUL for that. And I wish I could give Jack back to you each and every day of my life. If I was ever granted ONE wouldn't be to win the lotto like most people say all the would be to bring your Jack back to you and your family.
Thinking of you.....

Arnebya said...

I do try to be there for others, but I find that I internalize so much of others' pain that it makes it harder for me to function. I don't know how NOT to do that, though. How do you speak to a friend in turmoil and then be able to eat dinner? How do you know your spouse is hurting but there's nothing you can do about it, and still show up to work AND be productive? I don't know how to separate, I fear. So, sometimes, I do check out. I stop asking. I stop acknowledging. I've made a conscious effort to go back to those friends who I've left on the sidelines and explain that I didn't intend to hurt them further; I simply need to find a better way to cope with helping them and with not taking on the stress.

At the same time, I WANT desperately to be that person everyone calls. I want to be needed. I want to be the figure-outer, the one who comes up with just the thing to fix a situation, to make everyone laugh, feel better. I want to be everyone's everything. And still, I don't want to be the overbearing "Oh you poor soul" if that's not what the person needs right then. My oldest daughter is a perfect example: sometimes she just wants a nod of acknowledgement, but not an outright "I'm sorry your day was so crappy." It's hard. I have been avoiding and I don't want to be that person. I also don't want to overdo my acknowledgements. And I want to be heard, but then I really don't want to be heard on Saturdays.

Meredith Self said...

I love this. I love the word acknowledgement. It does mean encourage. It doesn't even mean empathize. It simply is witnessing, noticing, listening, simply being there in the honesty of whatever is happening without judgement. Love that. Love you. Thanks for sharing and bringing into the open some of the silly ways our culture gets awkward. I love when someone doesn't try to make me feel different than I feel, but simply agrees that I feel what I feel, however silly it may be. To just be in agreement that it is my experience, whether or not you understand or think it is wise or not. Just acknowledge it is my experience. I agree with you, that the acknowledgement, the agreement, helps people get into the moment and not resist it...and heal. Have real strong feelings about this one! :)

Christy said...

Well, this just left me in tears, and speechless. You are so amazing Anna. I love you, and pray for you all the time.

Masala Chica said...

I think that sometimes I am a bit like Tim. I don't mean to be - I want my friends to let them know I am there for them when they are in pain - but I also don't want to push them too hard if they feel like every time I bring up the topic of their pain, it's a little like I am pulling off a bandage on a part of them that has healed. I think that is always my biggest fear. It's not that it's not in my mind or my heart does not ache, I just don't want to catapult them back into the depths of what they might be trying so hard to leave behind.

This weekend I saw my sister-in-law. Her daughter, my niece - committed suicide right after Christmas last year. The last time I saw her was last Thanskgiving - so this year brought it back for me a lot. Yet I found myself not knowing what to say to my SIL. I held her really tight when she did cry, was there to refill her drink when it was empty and it looked like she could use another one. But I feel like I failed on knowing what she needed from me.

A beautiful post, Anna.

Lisa said...

This was beautifully written. You put so eloquently what so many people struggle with when facing a loss.

Thank you for this one...sometimes it is just nice to hear, "oh, I'm so sorry." It really is.

Susie said...

Wheather it hurts or may need a hug. Would a hug make a kid a whimp?? I don't want to ever think it would. xoxo, Susie

Erin said...

Thanks for posting this, it is very fitting for my life right now. Hope you're doing well.

Lisa said...

Our community suffered a tragedy this past week (automobile accident that killed one girl and injured four others, one severely). I don't know any of the families, but my son is friends with the sister of the girl who was killed, and he asked me this morning (the first day of school after the accident), "Do I say something to her?"

I told him that he needed to, even if was just something as small as "I'm sorry for your loss." He is, naturally, as a 15yo boy, nervous that she might cry, and I told him she probably would, but that he still needed to say something. She needs her friends to acknowledge the enormity of what happened.

MissingMolly said...

Oh, this post made me cry. Thank you for writing this, Anna. It's unfortunately true that pregnancy and infant loss isn't well-acknowledged. My husband and I often feel that people turn a blind eye to our loss and our pain. Sadly (?) I've hardened myself over the past year--it's just too painful otherwise.

I know what you mean, too, about needing affirmation for the little hurts. My husband is a bit like Tim, and sometimes I have to push him to recognize my wounds, whether physical or emotional, and then once he does, it *is* easier to move on.

I agree that acknowledging is not enabling; it's a way of saying "I see you."


ScrappinLita said...

Beautiful post. You reach many people on both sides of this. Folks in pain that need acknowledgement (I don't know you, but I am SO SORRY), and folks wanting to give acknowledgement.

Years ago I was with my then 8/9 year old daughter when we met up with an acquaintance that had lost a loved one to death. I embraced her, looked her in the eye and told her how sorry I was for her loss.

When we parted, my daughter asked why I did that. She thought maybe I brought up the pain.

I explained to her that the pain was always there.

I explained that I had not seen her and I had not yet acknowledged her loss yet.

I explained that this would give a person the chance to continue to talk if they felt like it, or simply say a quick 'thank you' if they didn't want to.

I hope it helped her, and I hope I passed on a good lesson to my daughter.

Sharon said...

You do "show up" by the simple fact that you continue to blog even after the most unthinkable tragedy has happened to you.

It is important to acknowledge other peoples' pain. While going through my divorce, which was equivalent to a death for me, someone told me, "You'll get over it." Ouch. It was like a bandaid being ripped off my tattered spirit. Not the acknowledgement I was looking for. A simple, "I'm so sorry that happened to you" would have worked wonders to let me know that someone cared.

Thank you, Anna, for caring with each and every one of your blog posts.

<3 U!

Gigi said...

This post (and the comments) touched me on so many levels. Thank you.

And know that I am still praying for you all.

Anonymous said...

@Sharon, I'm so sorry that your divorce felt like a death, which is how many, many people feel about the end of a marriage, and I'm so sorry that someone made that hurtful comment. I can only imagine the pain you were in throughout your whole divorce. It sounds like the ordeal has left you with a bigger heart, or maybe you were caring already.

Happy holidays to you.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Oh wow Anna, what a powerful word - acknowledgement. I think we all so desperately want to be acknowledged on so many levels, but never more profoundly than when experiencing grief. Thank you for the reminder of just important acknowledgement is. Hugs to you Anna!

Stimey said...

You have an enormous heart and an amazing way with words.

Susie - Walking Butterfly said...

I believe that you have the gift for "showing up" for others. I sense it every time you leave a comment on my blog. Even if it is a short sentence, I always feel like you "get" me and it makes me feel loved.

thank you for being who you are in front of all of us.

Patricia said...

You are showing up - You are there for all of us. When you put so much of yourself into your beautiful, touching posts in this blog - you are answering, and being there, for all of your readers....your supporters...

Anonymous said...

Anna, this is a great post. When I heard about that precious boy who was killed at the Pittsburgh Zoo, my heart absolutely sank. I literally couldn't go 10 minutes without thinking about it and this went on for a week. I told my husband I may need therapy to get over it (and was serious) If that was how I was feeling, a stranger, I could not even imagine what that sweet boy's parents were going through. And I thought of you and what you might say to that woman. I really think your book will help a lot of people. I hope it's going well so far.

Love & prayers to you always

Jen G. said...

"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark." --R. Tagore

I came across this quote yesterday and I've been mulling it over ever since. There is such hope in that small collection of words. I don't know you personally, but I am one of a thousand birds singing for you. I pray that the singing of all of us who want to comfort and console you will remind you that daylight is coming no matter how dark the dawn is.

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

Isn't it Oprah who said all any of us really wants is a little validation? It's funny but I totally understand the Tim stuff. My husband and I had a HUGE talk this spring about care and concern. I know he did care for me but he didn't acknowledge when I was going thru something, and no I wasn't whining just needed to know he cared. I'm glad for that conversation that we had, he was trying and it had made a big difference in our relationship. And I do understand what you mean, it's a hard lesson to learn. Thanks Anna!

Unknown said...

I relate so much to the in and out bit. I want to help - I do - but not more than I'm able to give. It's such a strange and tricky balance. I've always been a huge believer in acknowledging the pain. Anyone who hasn't had them done for them knows how much it's needed. I think there has to be an acceptance of how much is up to us and what we need to give and how much is up to God. I wish I knew that balance.

Geri said...

Thoughtful and well written post, as always. I am reminded of the time, about a month after our son died when I was in the gift shop at work and an acquaintance came up to me. I had not seen her since his death, and she started to acknowledge it, and I totally cut her off. It was the first day that I could put it out of my mind for a few minutes, and that I felt I wouldn't start sobbing, and I said to her "no, no, I can't think or talk about Nick right now". She physically took a step back and began to apologize for saying anything. So for that day, I guess I didn't want anyone to acknowledge it. Yet, if she hadn't, I know I would have been upset too. (I did talk to her later, and said that I truly did appreciate her concern, and I was sorry if I hurt her by shutting her down). It is hard. We want to be there, yet as many have said, sometimes being there takes us down so much it is detrimental to us. My sister always told me that she would wait to hear my voice, and what I said, before she would bring Nick up, because if it seemed I was having a good day, she didn't want to say anything to bring me down. We want to be acknowledged, but sometimes we want to just not think or talk about it. It's a difficult balance, for those who are grieving, and those who are trying to support them.

Fiona, Lilyfield Life said...

Lovely Anna, you and your blog are just amazing. I love the conversation here and while I'm so sad about why this conversation has to occur, I marvel at human understanding and compassion. You have create such a beautiful living memory of Jack.
Thinking of you.
Fiona xx
Btw I am in the States at the moment and thinking of you even though I'm in California and think you are on the opposite side of the country.

Stacey said...

Hello Anna,

I have been following your blog for sometime, and feel connected to you, although we have not met. I want you to know that your beautiful words and incredible story have helped me in my own life. I find myself trying to remember to be not quite so annoyed at the small stuff, especially where the kids are concerned. Your family is such a gift, and I am so very sorry about the loss of Jack. I think of all of you often and am humbled by your strength and courage, even when I know you would much rather not be so strong or so brave. A friend posted this on facebook this morning, and I thought of you and your family. It's from a site called free range kids:

Hi Readers — This note arrived about three years ago and I was saving it for some reason. It almost became my sacred creed. Now I want to run it. It needs no intro except: She’s right. — L.

Dear Lenore,

We spend a lot of time trying to control for risks in the lives of our children. We feed them right, we teach them to look both ways, we try devilishly hard to balance exercise and play with rest and work. But sometimes, despite our careful planning and watching and guiding, things just happen.

Three weeks ago, my 9-year-old daughter collapsed and died, in the space of less than three minutes, from a cardiomyopathy so rare that she was twice as likely to have been struck by lightning. She was ice skating, and having the time of her life. She never knew what happened and she was gone before I could skate the 20 yards to lift her from the ice. I’m not telling you this so your readers will all go out and have EKG’s for their kids. Probably couldn’t detect it if they did, to be candid.

This is, instead, about her life and what it meant. My father made a remark, while we were still in the hospital and the grief was devastatingly raw. But it’s sticking with me, and I am finding some solace in it: “She might only have been nine years old, but she lived 20 years in those nine.” What he meant was that she had done a lot, experienced a lot and just..LIVED…while she was here. She rode horses. She rode motorcycles with her dad (always with proper safety equipment). She went to old-fashioned church camps where they played in mud pits and made their own slip-n-slides and jumped in the lake and roasted marshmallows on fires with sticks. She played competitive hockey. She practiced Karate and Jujitsu. She rode her bike to her friend’s house, a mile away. By herself.

Did these activities carry risks? Absolutely. Calculated ones. Ones we could account for and try to control. Was I worried about her? Every day. Every time. Did I let her do these things anyway? Yes.

Am I glad I did? More than you can possibly imagine.

A friend asked me if I had any “unfinished business” with my daughter when she died. I pondered that question. Did she know every day, without doubt, that she was loved unconditionally? I know in my heart she would answer an unequivocal “yes.” Did she leave this earth, far too soon, but having actually LIVED while she was here? Yes. Yes she did. So no; there was nothing I saw in her life that I regretted for even a moment, save that I didn’t get nearly enough moments with her. If she hadn’t lived every moment of her life to the fullest, she might have been here longer. The nature of the disease is that it takes the lives of the active and the athletic faster than otherwise. But if she’d been here, safe and sheltered, for 20 years, I doubt she would LIVED more than she did in these nine.

This act of living, of raising our children, of balancing risk and reward, is not easy. And it is, I have learned in the most painful way possible, filled with uncertainty. But we owe it to our children to teach them to live like every moment is precious.

Because it is.

Keep spreading your message, Lenore. It’s the most important thing you can do. -


Momma Holmes said...

Acknowlegement by a spouse is the part of this blog that helped me the most. I love that you've trained your husband and I will now try to train mine because this is a source of angst for me. Of course, we've been married 20 plus years so maybe this will give us 20 plus more. Always praying for you and all parents that lose a child. Amen.

Rach said...

Sometimes when the depth of your own pain is so deep and that pain is still so raw, it's difficult to open yourself up to acknowledging others' losses because the mere thought of adding pain to what you're already dealing with is overwhelming. I absolutely get this.

And, the thing is, each of us wants acknowledgment in our own way, which makes it all that much more complicated and complex an issue.

I had to stop attending my Compassionate Friends meeting because I just couldn't acknowledge some folks any longer. I found it terrifying there were some folks there who were still so deeply grieving after 10 or 15 years. Bad on me, I know, but self-preservation is sometimes more important than opening yourself up for more pain.

As with anything along this road, it's a matter of YOU deciding what is best and right for YOU and your family, and not worrying about what anyone else thinks.

Hugs to you all. I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.


Fi said...

Having lost my 12 year old son to cystic fibrosis 6 weeks ago I have had such mixed reactions from those surrounding us. Patrick had a slight learning difficulty as well but charmed all he met with his ready smile, infectious laugh and love of all things Disney. Although he had been slowly becoming less well we thought we still had weeks left with him so my elder son was in the US on a school trip - we are in the UK. Less than 48 hours after my elder son left for his trip my beautiful younger son died peacefully in my arms at home.
I have had friends who instinctively knew what to do, hug, laugh, cry and remember the happy times, deliver food parcels when I felt inclined to neither cook nor eat. Those who instead of sending flowers that would wither and die in the house, came round with plants for the garden so that we may watch them grow and bloom each year in his memory.There are those who have considered that I must feel it is a blessing that he is now 'at peace' with no more treatments and no more uncertainty and that in some way I must have a sense of relief. Some people have crossed the road to avoid me, one of my elder sons friends mother has done so three times.
Now that 6 weeks have passed I have had my two weeks 'tea & sympathy' and many think I should move on, others cannot comprehend why I am putting up our christmas tree to 'celebrate' the holidays. What I find hard is other peoples expectations of what I should be or not be doing.
My elder son spoke beautifully at his brothers service and it was a celebration of his life. He worries however that in time people will forget Patrick but I have said that those to whom Patrick was special will always remember him and speak of him.
We have to do this the only way we know, which is our way, no rights or wrongs. I know the theory of parachuting out of a plane but that doesn't mean I would be any good at it. Equally I know the theory of the stages of grief at losing a child but that does not make me good at this either.
What I want is just acknowledgement of my son, our loss, the fact we may be hurting as that is less painful than no acknowledgement at all.
Jack's story affected me deeply and if in Patricks memory I can help only one percent of the number of people that you have reached out to, then his legacy will be enormous.
You are in our thoughts and prayers tonight.

Anonymous said...

A loss is a loss and it deserves to be acknowledged. When I miscarried for the 2nd time, I felt like I had a time line to get over it. When I decided to return to work and see the other ladies who pregnant but due before me it was so difficult. even more so because nobody ever once said "God this must be so difficult for you" Instead in my review the words "you had your little thing and got over it so thank you"

Unknown said...

I definitely believe that I am way, way more aware of other peoples suffering since my son died. I saw a saying once (don't remember who said) that read "Empathy is your pain in My heart".

Thrift Store Mama said...

"I think acknowledging someone’s pain, stress, or struggle helps them feel understood and strengthens them to move forward." Of all the things in my life that I am NOT good at as a wife, mother, and friend, I am good at this one.

I learned how to do it by watching a friend say it to me and others. :-)

Anonymous said...

My 46 yr old sister was just diagnosed with breast cancer. She said she is surprised by the responses she is getting. Some co-workers who she doesn't know that well put a care package on her desk, while her best friend said nothing. The acknowledgement from her coworkers meant so much, while her friend's reaction hurt. I am becoming aware - through both you and her- how important it is to acknowledge what someone is going through, even if it is ackward.

Kathy at kissing the frog said...

I have found that when I try to "show up" for people, to listen and show empathy, quite often they say, "Oh, but it's nothing compared to what YOU"VE been through!" as if they feel guilty for complaining to me. I always say that everyone's tragedy is just as important because it's happening to them and it's what they know. Not eeryone will lose a child, but not everyone will get divorced or lose a job either. said...

I love your blog and have been following for some time; your strength and courage shines like a bright light. I lost my sister to a drunk driver a few years ago and know (unfortunately) all too well how your life can suddenly feel cut in half; in two chapters, before and after. It's not fair and yet helping others helps ease the your blog does each and every day. ~ Blessings.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Showing up is something I try to do. I know people hurt and often it is a pain I don't ever want to feel. I have been divorced and it broke me but with my brokeness I learned about compassion and regardless of the hurt people need to be acknowledged and know that you care even if you don't actually know the feelings of their exact pain. My husband is very much a Tim and sometimes I just want a small acknowledgement of my pain. I want you to know that you are always in my thoughts and prayers. Your life changed my life and you are changing the lives of those around you. ((HUGS))

Sue Hamblen said...

Wow - you are amazingly insightful! Although our family's situations are totally different, (and I acknowledge that losing a child is akin to absolutely nothing else!)it's interesting that so much of our pain has been caused by so many people who are NOT able to acknowledge what happened, or have no idea of how to reach out. A simple, "I'm sorry, this does suck, and how can I help" is often the only response that can be offered, and it can be so powerful. Sadly, I can count on one hand those that have offered these sentiments, and many more that have just avoided any encounter or (God forbid!) mention of the bad stuff.

You're an inspiration to many that you probably have no knowledge of! God bless your family.

Stacy O'Neill said...

Anna-I have been reading your blog since September 2012 when my dear friend, Susan Patras from Maryland posted your story to Facebook. Seriously, EVERY morning when I get up, I think "I hope I see An Inch of Gray in my inbox", repeat, because I always think it twice...that is how very much I love your writing. PLEASE let me explain what Jacks life has meant to me...Everyday I think of him and you, your daughter and husband and I send off a prayer. I have always wanted to say "something", acknowledge you in some small way to say how very sorry I am for his loss...words, I know, just never could mean enough. A complete stranger is CHANGED by your story, your vulnerability, your grief, your complete and utter transparency...and I thank you for that! Nothing ever is in vain...Jack was an immense gift to you and now to me...what a little man of God,,,THANK YOU JACK! I look at life with a new lens, new awareness, new sensitivity...and that is a gift that is immeasurable. Please know, everyday, here in Boca Raton, FL. I acknowledge your life, your son. I hug deeper, I love more, everyday with my kids, husband...because of you. You are one amazing, beautiful mother and woman!! GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS!! Stacy ON'Neill

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Anonymous said...

I have recently started reading your blog as your book was posted in a picture on a Instagram Account I follow. The mom had just lost her newborn son. I just wanted to say you are an amazing writer and your compassion for what another grieving person is going through is beautiful. Really it is. So many things you question and say.. I feel the same too! Love to You and Your Family xo