We humans say the most ridiculous and inappropriate things when we don’t know what to say. I have certainly had several things said to me, since I lost my middle son, that didn’t need to be said. Unfortunately I have a memory like an elephant (so I’ve been told) and these things usually stick with me. I have to work at forgiving and letting go of things spoken to me that are hurtful. Now, lest you think my finger-pointing is only pointing away from myself, I should add that, even having gone through (and still going through) a horrible tragedy and having many ridiculous and hurtful things spoken to me, I am still quite good at saying inappropriate things, as well. It seems to be the curse of humanity – not to be able to control our tongues.
One of the most hurtful things, causing me not just hurt feelings, but confusion and a feeling that I was rather feeble-minded, was when a person sent me the Serenity Prayer in an email a few short weeks after our son died. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” I know this person meant well. But it did not help. It hurt.
And I have recently begun to realize why being told the Serenity Prayer weeks after losing my son has bothered me for so long. It made me feel like I was somehow grieving incorrectly, and this person knew the “right” way to grieve, and was going to set me straight. I felt put down in my grief, and that my grief was disapproved of by this person, so was probably disapproved of by everyone who knew me. The suggestion that I learn to accept the death of one of my children was incredibly invalidating.
And that, I have come to realize, is one of the main reasons I write about my feelings in this blog.
No one should ever feel like their feelings are invalid, no matter where we are in our journey through life, but especially not when we are journeying through grief. And because of the grief I have been walking through, I would add that especially not when they are journeying through the grief of losing a child. But that is because that has been my experience in life for the past 36 months. Everyone’s grief is legitimate. And everyone needs to feel validated – made to know their feelings are real and okay, and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve – while they are journeying through grief.
A little over a year into this awful, horrible, dreadful, unwanted road of learning to live after one of my children died, we visited with a grief counselor. I knew, moments after we were seated in his office, my feelings, my grief and mourning, would not be invalidated, no matter what they were. I remember feeling like a burden had been lifted from me, just knowing someone knew and understood how I felt and would patiently allow me to unburden my feelings with him without judgement, criticism or correction. That helped me more than anything else had helped up to that point in my journey through grief.
Being authentic while journeying through grief is paramount to working out internal feelings in a healthy way.
But feeling validated in our journey through grief is equally, if not more important to arriving at a healthy sense of acceptance of life and living after tragedy strikes. Trying to instruct or coerce someone to get there has a devastatingly opposite effect.
Validation. (recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile)
We all need it.
We all crave it, in fact.
Respect, validation, mercy and compassion for where each one of us is at in life, whether just trying to make it through a hectic day, or grieving the loss of a child, is what makes life bearable.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
“Identification with others in their joys and in their sorrows is a Christian’s privilege and responsibility.” From the notes on Romans 12:15 in my study Bible.
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18