September 17, 2013

When You Feel Awkward About Someone Else's Grief

Recently I was in the grocery store and ran into one of our old neighbors. First, let me stop and say that 95% of people who see us for the first time since we've lost Grace don't mention her or our loss. Ninety-five percent. That blows my mind.

So I was in the grocery store and I ran into this woman. As we talked and caught up a little bit I wondered if she would say something. I thought I could see on her face that she wanted to. At the end of our conversation as we were wrapping things up, she grabbed my arm and with such compassion etched on her face said, I'm so sorry about your Gracie-girl.

My eyes immediately filled with tears and I could only say, Thank you so much. I appreciate that. 

The interesting thing to me about that exchange was that this woman is from a different country, having moved here only about seven years ago. There was nothing awkward in her demeanor and she had no embarrassment in grabbing my arm and acknowledging my sweet girl. And looking back I realized that I don't think she was deciding if she was going to say something, but I think she was deciding when she was going to say something.

And it made me wonder if they don't do grief a whole lot better in her country than we do in ours.

Another day I was having an awful, awful, awful day. One of the dark days of grieving that inevitably comes. That particular day I had to call the boys' insurance provider to get some things straightened out. I talk with the same person every time. When we lost Grace Matt handled all the insurance stuff. There was no way I could have actually said the words, Our daughter died, to anyone at that time.

So as I was talking to this guy, the same one I talk to every time, he mentioned my birth I had just had in April, and I realized I was going to have to remind him that it was a stillbirth. I stumbled for several sentences, finding that I was unable to simply say, She passed in my belly, it was a stillbirth. I finally got it out and he said, Oh my goodness, I remember that now, I'm so sorry. And then he choked up! He actually choked up, this Stranger-man who doesn't know us from Richard Petty. And he said, I'm so sorry. I just...I'm so sorry for your loss. 

And the amazing thing is it turned my day around. I'm not sure how to explain it and I didn't know at the time I needed it so badly but his compassion is exactly what I needed at that moment. It was this tiny act of light that pierced my heavy shroud of darkness.

And it made me wonder if we're withholding light from people on a dark day because we feel awkward. We don't know what to say. We don't want to look the fool. We would rather stay at the surface because it's more comfortable.

I hope this doesn't sound like an attack but rather as a challenge to stop doing the easy thing because it's more comfortable for you and start doing the hard thing, the compassionate thing, because it's not about you. And it's not about me either. It's about that we're salt and light to everyone around us. Our lives should bring a distinct flavor and illumination to the people whose paths we cross. We have got to get over our "Christian" platitudes that are not actually Christian at all. Do a quick read-through of Acts, or 1st and 2nd Corinthians and get a glimpse into the type of depth and interwoven-ness that existed between people.

There was weeping with weeping. Rejoicing with rejoicing. I've had people weep with my weeping, more than I can possibly say and it still blows my mind. But the test for me is not whether I'm able to weep with others, but rather do I choose to rejoice with their rejoicing. Because they got the miracle I didn't. I told a friend that recently. Do the hard thing. Yes, it hurts because they got the miracle we didn't but do the hard thing. Don't steal their joy. Rejoice with them.

I read this post by Jen Hatmaker today and it may be one of the best things I've read to date on suffering. I'd encourage you to read it to gain a deeper understanding of suffering as it fits into Scripture. Like she said, If you haven't suffered, just live longer.

I know I can do better and I appreciate any chance to grow. Having had our own experience with loss, it's colored my perspective. It's made me think differently and want to go back and punch my old self in the face for all those times I did the easy thing and didn't take the opportunity to be light for someone else's darkness.

Be a light. Maybe even the city on a hill that Someone once talked about.

On a lighter note, here are some pictures from our recent days.

Asher has been devastated every morning that we've dropped Micah off at pre-school that he couldn't stay, so this particular day we had a special treat to make up for it.
(Hot chocolate, not a latte.)

Some cell phone pictures of the girls' getaway we had to the lake this past weekend.

Apparently that lake behind us gives Jami supernatural directional abilities.
"How do you know that way is north?"
"Because there's a LAKE!"
This became our go-to answer for all of life's questions.
Why does life have meaning? Because there's a LAKE!

Lots and lots and lots of conversation.

Playing Partini.

SO WHAT if one stack was larger than the other?? We're all winners in my book.

This match lasted all of 2.7 seconds. 

Took this picture of my screen to show the time. We didn't end up going to bed until 2am.


Jen's amazing breakfast. From-scratch cinnamon rolls, baked hashbrowns, and the most amazing egg scramble I've ever had.
Not sure why I was smiling in this picture, it was freezing. 
By the way, I'm still feeling out the direction I want to go with the Stillbirth Series. I may end up only submitting my articles to one of two other websites that I like that are specifically for babyloss mamas. Not sure. I'm willing to write my story but I want it to help the most amount of women who can relate. So semi-putting it on the back burner for now.


  1. I appreciate your guidance to say something when others are grieving. As one who hasn't dealt with grief that deep, sometimes I don't know if others want to be reminded of their loss and pain. But I remember when I was 15 and my friend died, his mom told my mom, "it hurts more to think that others are going to forget about Ethan. I like it when people bring it up because I know he hasn't been forgotten." I think about that often, I think about him often, and I tell her. Because I want her to know he isn't forgotten. Your Grace will never be forgotten either.

    1. Thank you so much, Serena, that means so much. Your comments always mean so much. <3

  2. Great post, Sara. Serena, after my son died I also WANTED to talk about him, a lot. There is no way that a person can be reminded of their loss and pain....believe me, they remember it. Having it acknowledged in a compassionate way is perfect. I totally can relate to the awkwardness that comes after such a great loss. Someone who hadn't seen me in a while said "I thought you had two kids." Of course I had to say "I did, but my second son died." They felt so terrible for bringing it up so I had to console them and assure them that I loved talking about him.

    1. Laurie, I'm so sorry for your sweet boy.
      I agree with what you said - it's not as if somebody sparked our memory and we forgot we were grieving their loss. It's always there and the most benign things can be the hardest triggers of grief.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Praying especially tonight that you are wrapped in the grace of our God and his unfailing love. <3

  3. This is really great. I try to remember this for other people's situations ... I hope I can always be brave and "go there".