The President of the United States has been in the news this week because of a conversation he had with widow of a soldier who died in an ambush. I have no comment on politics or policies; I'd like to share what I've seen, heard, and experienced repeatedly.
Reason doesn't comfort.
There is no explanation, logical or not, that takes away even a tiny piece of the shattering heartbreak of death. There is no amount of reason that soothes mourning or grief. There are no words that have a magical "feel better" property.
Why do we say these things? Why do we try so hard to say the right thing and then fall flat?
We are uncomfortable being with people who are experiencing tragedies. We don't know what to do or say, so we say what feels right. We say what helps us to feel better, and that's often an explanation of why everything is "okay."
He's in a better place.
It was her time.
At least he's no longer suffering.
As many bereaved people have said, these well intended comments that explain away the pain of loss offer no comfort. None. It's hard to appreciate a better place when it's not here. It's hard to appreciate the right time when it means less time. And while the end of suffering for one is a wonderful thing, it's hard to be grateful for that while drowning in a different kind of suffering.
Could we change the language of grief? Could we change the beliefs about and understanding of it? Could we start talking about it with each other?
Grief isn't linear. It doesn't care about logic. It can't be explained away, just as death can't be explained away. It must be felt. When we say things that are more reason than heart, we deny the emotional connection that we need. More importantly, we deny the emotional connection and support the bereaved needs.
We can change the conversation, and the President just opened a door for us. People are listening, whether they support him or disparage him.
Let's do better. Let's make safe spaces to feel. Let's have difficult conversations.
Let's leave reason and logic out of this grief stuff.
I see a lot of incredible moments of the human experience while being with families in love and grief. From each family I learn, and those lessons and points to ponder are what I wish to share with you here.