The first time I sat down with a family to explain a terminal diagnosis I felt my whole body trembling with the weight of the conversation. My voice stuttered, I felt faint. I can’t remember a word I said, only the despairing dark eyes staring back at me.
I am sorry for every time I let my fear take priority over your grief.
After several months of these conversations I had learned to navigate them outside of my emotions. I could gather the family, do introductions, make small talk and then squint, take a deep breath, and calmly deliver the bad news. I’d answer questions and then leave, pick up a package of peanut M&M’s, and move on to my next patient.
I am sorry for every time I faced a grieving soul as a robot.
Now as a mother the pain of the world is amplified. Sometimes my own helplessness gets the best of me and I can not quiet the impulse to do something. I send a sappy note, talk too softly, my eyes too wide, and deliver a thoughtless cliche that probably feels like a punch in the chest to the grieving heart.
I am sorry for every time that I met grief with arrogance.
Right now we are reading C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed in the Liturgy of Life Reading group. In it he describes interactions with his colleagues after the death of his wife.
“An odd byproduct of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Some funk it altogether. R. has been avoiding me for a week. I like best the well brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to a bar as quickly as they decently can.”
Living among the dying is hard, yet it is a task we are all called to. Everyone we know will die and yet caring for the grieving remains elusively difficult.
Death exposes our deepest fears. We have no control. All of the preparation and intelligence in the world can’t make it any easier. Death dismisses our plans, our future becomes utterly unexpected.
I want to be someone who can stand with you in grief, facing the unknown world, letting the pain roll over us, knowing that trying to fix it is futile, surviving it together.
I know I will fail.
But I will not stop trying.
Lord grant us your peace.
Only in you can we live in safety.
This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group. We are currently reading A Grief Observed. We would love to hear from you. If you blog feel free to link up with us every Wednesday and share your thoughts on our latest book.