Awhile ago my kids and I were talking about the period of time after their Daddy died. They shared their perspectives and memories. There were things said that stung. Recollections that I myself do not recall. What I noticed as the conversation unfolded was that I had to work to stay present with their pain. I noticed that my immediate reflex was to defend and explain (in my head). However, that is not what they were looking for me to do nor should I. This sharing was about them.
When we’re grieving it is easy to get wrapped up in our grief. That’s natural. Grief can be all consuming. But we must work to understand we are not the only grievers, even if it feels like it. Being present for someone else’s pain not only validates them, it provides space to understand that we are not alone.
As we spoke, one thing particularly pulled my heart into a knot. My son shared how he remembers asking me to throw the football with him. And each time I would smile and say, “Tomorrow, honey.”
Tomorrow never came.
I know what he is talking about. So I looked him in the eyes, mine welling with tears and I acknowledged his pain. His memory. His reality. I apologized because I want to do better and now that I can, I will.
I beat myself up for a few weeks after that conversation. I recounted all the ways I must have let my children down. And then one day, I was finished. Grief has stolen many things from us, but no more. My self shame turned into gratitude. I am thankful for the ability to SEE and FEEL and to UNDERSTAND outside of my personal grief.
That conversation happened with my kids at 13 and 10. Sometimes people go a lifetime with hurts like that and never have a chance to share or be acknowledged. We don’t have to wait because presence allows us to act as things unfold. And we’re no longer waiting for tomorrow.
PS. UPCOMING SPEAKING GIG: If you live in DFW, come join me on October 14th at 10:30 am. I am speaking at the Community Unitarian Universalist Church (2875 E Parker Rd, Plano, TX 75074). The title of my talk is Death: An Invitation for the Living.
*Are you interested in learning more about grief guidance and wayfinding? I offer a complimentary 30 minute session.
Photo Credit: Neil Thomas