My heart quickens when I meet a new person because I know the inevitable question is coming. These days I am usually holding or holding onto our littlest who is now approaching 2 years old when I meet someone new. His presence spurs on the question “Is he your only one” or “how many kids do you have?”
My answer is always proud and straightforward. ” I have 2 boys here and a 12-year-old son in heaven. ” I don’t add unnecessary details unless they ask. Some do. Some don’t. But, I have come to dread the looks of pity and awkward discomfort that follow my response. Watching them avoid eye-contact and squirm and fidget….I almost feel sorry for them.
I don’t want them to feel sorry for me.
When we feel sorry for someone, it doesn’t help them. We have to push past our own feelings of
fear uncomfortableness in order to connect with someone… this is almost always easier said than done.
Because everyone is going through something and we can be a blessing when we exchange that “feeling sorry for” energy to “doing something for energy.”
If you meet someone who tells you about a child who died (and yes it is ok to say they died – they are not going to fall crumbling to the ground) , please at least take a minute to acknowledge their loss.
- Exchange your awkward smile for truth. For those who are speechless, I have some suggestions… “I have no idea how to respond but what you are going through/have been through is horrible.” “I can’t even begin to imagine how you must feel.” Let the person know you acknowledge their pain and aren’t just showing them “pity.” I despise the looks of pity.
- Ask a question. “What do you miss most about your son?” “What was your daughter like?” “What makes you smile the most when you think of him?” When you allow a grieving parent to share even a tiny bit about their child, you are giving them an unbelievable gift.
- Whatever you do – RESIST your urge to runaway. Don’t cut the conversation short or switch it immediately to a different subject or runaway in fear that you might “catch something”. If you are feeling awkward and uncomfortable, suck it up! When you ask someone a personal question, be prepared to follow through – otherwise keep quiet or stick to “safe” topics. Safe topics are things like “it sure is hot outside” or “these apples are too ripe.”
- God calls us to love each other. People are going through all kinds of stuff – divorce, sickness, financial difficulties, loss of a loved one, (insert whatever you’re going through right now because we’re all going through something however big or small if may seem). When we put ourselves out there and ask a question – we had better be prepared to respond with love when we get a “real life” answer.
- Pray for God to use you to see beyond ourselves and lift someone up today.
“We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll
It doesn’t take very much effort to lift someone up and don’t worry – it won’t cost you much…just a piece of your heart if you do it right.
Words. Simple, heartfelt words. The right ones can make a difference.
Can we all strive to be difference-makers?
“I don’t want to end up having simply visited this world.” – Mary Oliver
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Be a difference for a family who is facing this journey. It can be a lonely journey. Let them know they are not alone.
Be blessed and be a blessing as we live and love a day and a moment at a time without our son, Zack.