Sunday, August 24, 2008

On Grieving and Abiding

Tertia started this thing a couple of days ago where she asked a number of bloggers who have experienced loss of some kind to talk about grieving and how to approach a grieving friend. Go read them all, I can wait.

At first I didn't think I could have anything to add. I mean every one of the guests of honor has pointed out exactly why the stupid platitudes are stupid. So why keep wasting electrons? And yet, I felt like there was something in the air, something that the loss bloggers understood instinctively, but did not articulate. Because it is so a part of who we are now, this understanding. In matters of education, concepts that are routinely not articulated because they are so much a part of the foundational understanding of the field that experts often forget that it is possible to not know or understand these concepts are said to fall into an expert blind spot. I guess I am presumptuous enough to think I can illuminate our expert (a dubious flipping distinction if I ever saw one) blind spot. So here goes.

We hear time and again that people say stupid shit because they don't know what to say. That they say stupid shit because they want to help, because they feel badly for us. Um, yes, maybe, sort of. It is my contention that stupid shit is generally about making the situation seem less sucky than it is ("at least you are young-- you can always have another" anyone? Yes, because my children are much like trading cards, and I can surely live without the damaged one). Or making it seem like it had to be this way ("it's all G-d's plan." That G-d of yours is rather a sadist, don't you think?), or that it is better that it is this way. Many other lovely sentiments have been covered by the original group of bloggers in Tertia's circle, so I will leave the recitation alone. I will sum it up by saying that I believe that people say stupid shit to make themselves, and not the grieving person, feel better. About the unfairness of the universe. About this being OK. They want it to be ok. Or they want to "fix it."

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I Won't Fear Love is a guest blogger for Bridges.


SeaStar said...

I noticed there are abunch of wonderful, deep, helpful comments at the "I won't fear love." blog, but none here. I don't know yet how it's best to do commenting with Bridges - her, blog, or both - but this post feels so important, I'm doing both.

Powerful and important post. "Abide" is one of my favorite words. I chant it in my head when things have gone wrong and it helps me be still and present. I agree that people act out of fear when horrible things happen. We want to believe there are rules and if we act right terrible things won't happen to us (just world theory) or if htey do, there's some ind of cosmic reason. It is very hurtful when we fall back on this kind of protectionist thinking in the presence of someone for whom the bottom has fallen out. all of us have enough tendecy to second guess anyway without the implied blame in comments ostensibly intended to help. And the abandoners, they are protecting themselves too by simply fleeing. Not helpful! So yes, Abide.

luna said...

this is such an important post, julia. thanks for agreeing to share it here. I can't believe I didn't comment the first time, since I linked to it and have thought about it since.

abiding is such a powerful act. most times, it's all we can do. thank you.

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

Yep, just make me a big old target, and let's put God at the center of the bullseye, shall we?

Better to leave God out of it. Let me come to terms with reality before I start looking at who (or Who) is at fault.