Lecture a man or woman for his or her shortcomings, and that person will be smart about it for a day. Educate them, and they will learn from it for a lifetime.
As painful and uncomfortable as it may be to open up and share what life is like after suffering through a life-changing loss, it is necessary. And with those who have not had the misfortune to go through such a tragic experience, it is even more important to be open and educate them on what life can become. Look at it this way: for those of you who have had children, do you remember wishing that if only your infant could tell you what was wrong, or what hurt? Solving the issue at hand would be so much easier. Instead, you had to wade through the darkness of the unknown countless times, hoping to make things better. Or at least searched for someone who knew something you didn’t, and could point you in the right direction.
This is where the ‘fortunately uninitiated,’ those who have not experienced that ever so painful loss, find themselves. They are wading through the unknown, unsure of the struggles that we have been through and continue to go through. What if we were to look at our interactions with these people and view them differently. What if we see them wading through the darkness and, instead of shying away, look to point them towards the light? Could we see an opportunity to make a change in this world, our world, and theirs? I am not advocating for them to join in our grieving, or for them to attempt to bear the brunt of a loss. But if we were to include them on our journey, how much more incredible could both lives become?
You and I could have read the plethora of books, journals, and accounts listened to whomever about what it will be like living life after the death of another, and still be completely unprepared. And if even those who have reached that deep, soul reaching a level of understanding beforehand cannot explain what our loss will feel like, can you imagine what it would be like for the ‘fortunately uninitiated’ to attempt to know and empathize with how we feel and think? Yes, we could say that common sense would tell them to be sensitive and understanding, but what all too often happens is that the situation pushes them far out of their comfort zone. They shy away, unsure of what to say or how to appropriately be sensitive and support those suffering. How much easier would it be if we were open and candid with them?
Three of the greatest tools we can use to overcome inexperience and ignorance are education, communication, and open dialogue. By sharing the obstacles we are facing with those around us who can’t imagine what it’s like to be in our shoes, we can help them to see and understand how to approach a difficult situation with sensitivity and support. And yes, while we are learning as we go through this stage of our lives, we can teach others about it too.
Let me ask you three questions:
- What well-intentioned comments have you received that felt awkward or hurtful?
- What comments have you received that were helpful or heartfelt?
- What would you like the ‘fortunately uninitiated’ to know about how they can be of comfort to you or others who find themselves in a similar situation?
If you’re wondering what to say and/or how to say it, let’s talk about it. Let’s work together, to teach the ‘fortunately uninitiated’ what we too have learned. We don’t have to sit silently and watch as a rift opens in our lives. Feel free to share your experiences and discuss in the comments below.
We truly are here to teach that which we are also here to learn.