This is a guest post from my sister, Christina. She has good things to say and I’m glad to have her say them here. Read this if you don’t know what to say to someone who is hurting or read this because you want to understand our hurt a little better.
Caroline, as I’ve said, is the wordsmith. So much so, that while greeting people at the visitation, I accidentally received many compliments for her beautiful writing, by people who hugged me while saying some version of , “Oh Caroline, I’m so sorry! And you’re such a beautiful writer!” and I hugged them back, “Oh, you are sweet! But I’m Christina!”
But grief is this weird thing, this weird thing that completely takes over your personality and your world, and you start thinking, “Hey, whatever works.” Maybe this whole “writing out your thoughts thing and publishing them to the world” helps. Too many quotes? That’s just the kind of classiness that you get with this brown haired sister. My beloved sister-in-law and I were talking the other day and I mentioned that I was going to write a blog entitled ‘World’s Least Spiritual Griever.’ This is that blog.
A portion of you who read this blog don’t know us, or at least don’t know us well. And some of you we consider ‘our people’ and you are struggling to love us through this. This post is for both of those groups. For those of you who don’t know us, read this and keep it in your back pocket for when you meet people like us, people drowning in a sea of sorrow and grief. For those of you who know us well, the ones we consider ‘our people,’ this is for you too.
To our people: We’re sorry for being weird. For not calling or texting you back. For zoning out when we’re talking with you. For probably waiting too long to send you a thank you for the home-cooked meal you brought over to our homes. For ruining our conversation with you with our new-found perspective, trying in the softest of ways to let you know that your problem isn’t a real problem, because in your problem everyone is still alive. We’re sorry that our emotions, the things that upset us, and our demeanor change a million miles a minute. We’re sorry that we won’t commit to plans. We’re sorry that there are only a few people that we can tell the whole story to (because re-living the worst minute/hour/day of your life is something you just can’t do very often). We’re sorry that it’s hard to engage with us, even though you clearly love us very much.
And the things that are probably just me… I’m sorry I almost passed out on my porch when you brought me a meal last night. I’m sorry I can’t stop apologizing for this new personality that is so radically different than my old one.
We can’t explain why all these things are true, and it’s hard for us to not know when we’ll feel ‘better.’ But I’m afraid it’s going to be a long time. And that terrifies me.
If you want to help: Even making this list makes me feel like such a needy person, such a diva. “Here are the things I need, please do them!” But I have to believe that there are a few people who truly are ‘in this’ with us, awful as it is here, in this place. Assuming I’m correct, this is a list for these people.
Friends, please let us talk about him, and what happened. Please don’t avoid us because you aren’t sure what to do. If you are not sure what to do or what to say, can I make a few (more) suggestions?
“How are you doing/ feeling today?”
“This is terrible. I’m so sorry.”
“Sometime I’d love to hear about William”
“What’s one thing I can do to help you/ love you today?”
Let us feel happy and joyful when we have those moments and act normal around us, but gentle.
Let us tell you stories about him and our life with him and make us feel safe doing this, like it’s not weirding you out to hear about this thing that happened, or about him. He was an incredible man (the best I’ve ever known, honestly,) and one of my favorite people in this whole world. I like talking about him.
Invite us to things but don’t be offended when we don’t come. Text us and don’t be offended when we don’t text back. Call us but don’t be offended when we let it go to voicemail.
Have I mentioned that (if you are close to us) please please ask how we’re doing, and ask about Will? Of course, don’t ask these questions as you quickly pass by. That’s the worst.
You know what else you could do? If you really want to step inside this dark cave of terribleness with us? Read about grief a little. C.S. Lewis’ book ‘A Grief Observed” is incredible. Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff is also a perfect depiction of grief.
Crazy, unhelpful things sometimes burst out of people’s mouths. We have tons of grace for this… sometimes. Flippant comments about different things making it ‘worth it’ or different reasons why we should be thankful, those are tough to hear, because we are living in a nightmare and nothing is a fair exchange. Some things you will try with good intent and those things will go very wrong. But please still try them?
One thing you can assume…
We are not ‘doing well.’ We are not ‘handling it.’ We are not confident of anything right now. We’re losing it and at least this grieving sister has spent multiple hours in the last week considering vintage motorcycle and/or treehouse tattoos and searching online for girl baby names that start with the letters ‘Will.’
So, that also happened.
Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.