Listening Well

My experience with people who have expressed sympathy and offered help since Susan died has been extremely positive.  Extremely.  So many kind people, so many folks that care – we have truly been overwhelmed by kindness.

I came across this quote, though, in a book I’m reading called “Children and Grief” and I thought it was well-said and worth sharing.  It’s from Debbie Gemmill, who went through the horrific experience of losing a child.  It really speaks to what those of us who are grieving need the most.

My baby has died.  Please don’t tell me you know how I feel.  You don’t.  You can’t.  I hope you never do.

Don’t tell me he’s with God and I should be happy.  How can I be happy when every time I go into his nursery all I see is an empty crib and toys that will never be played with?  How can I be happy when my arms ache to hold him?

Please don’t tell me God needed another angel.  It’s hard for me to understand why God would take away this little one who was so loved.  Maybe I’ll understand later.  But for right now…let God find another angel.

Please, please, please don’t tell me I’ll have other children.  Maybe I will…but my son was not a puppy that ran away.  He cannot be replaced.

Maybe you could just listen when I remember out loud all the things we did together – the walks, the early morning feedings, the first time he rolled over.  Maybe you could just sit with me while I cry over all the things we’ll never do together.

Please don’t tell me it could be worse.  How?

I really don’t want to hear about your grandfather’s death.  It’s not the same.  Don’t think my pain will be eased by comparison.  Of course I’m glad he didn’t suffer, but I’d be a lot happier if he hadn’t died at all.

I know it must be hard for you, but would you mind looking at his picture just one more time?  We don’t have many of him, and I’m just a little bit afraid that I may forget what he looked like.  He wasn’t here that long, you know.

Could you please just listen?

Don’t tell me I’ll get over it.  There is no “over it,” only through it.  Maybe you could just be with me while I take my first steps through it.

Please don’t tell me I should be glad he was just a baby, or that at least I did get to know him.  I knew him.  I knew him before I ever saw him.  He is a part of me.  And now he is gone.  I haven’t just lost a seven-month old baby.  I have lost a part of myself.

I know you mean well, but please don’t expect me to tell you how to help me.  I’d tell you if I knew, but right now I can hardly put one foot in front of the other.  Maybe if you looked around, you could find some things to do, like taking my daughter for a walk, or doing the dishes, or making some coffee.

Please don’t try to remove my pain or distract me from it.  I have to feel this way right now.

Maybe you could just listen.

(Debbie Gemmill, Getting through Grief: From a Parent’s Point of View, (Escondido, CA: Beachcomber Press, 1996), 129.  As quoted in Children and Grief, Ch 3, by Joey O’Connor)


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4 Responses to “Listening Well”

  1. Joyce Says:

    Hi Gerald,
    Thanks for continuing to post and teach all of us as you walk through this journey. This post strikes a particular chord with me. I lost a baby in-utero when I was six months pregnant. I could see friends struggling so hard with not knowing what to say and telling me “it was for the best;” “everything happens for a reason;” “Logan is in a better place now;” “something must’ve been wrong with him.”
    Though I knew where their hearts were, I wanted to scream and shake them. Those words were like daggers to me. I couldn’t articulate what I needed because what I needed was my baby. I experienced all this mother wrote and more.
    So I won’t say that I know what you’re going through. But I can say that I have been through the hell on Earth experience of feeling like EVERYTHING has been ripped out from under me – my present and future. I know how scary the future can be when facing it without a piece of you. I can also say now – many years removed – that it really does get better. Laughing and smiling and having a good time, when you’re ready, does not mean that you’ve forgotten her or that you don’t miss her or don’t love her. It means you honor her wishes for your future. I didn’t know Susan, but I can tell from her writings and your love for her that she would want you to go on and embrace your future and buoy your children and celebrate each day and love and laugh and hug and enjoy. Please know that the prayers of many – even strangers – are with you each and every step of the way. Even when we don’t know what to say to you, we know what to ask for you when we take it to the Lord in prayer.
    My hopes for peace to you,
    Joyce Hicks
    (By the way, I understand that we went to Martin Middle together. My maiden name was Joyce Clark. So I guess that we’re not complete strangers)

  2. Joyce Says:

    Of course, I misspelled your name. I’m so sorry, Jerel. LONG day, and I’d just run into a Gerald earlier.

  3. Pam Beam Says:

    Always thinking of you, Jerel. Thanks for this post.

  4. Ruth Winn Says:

    Thank you, Jerel, for sharing your thoughts through the writings of Debbie Gemmill. I don’t know how you feel, and I cannot even imagine the grief you are experiencing. But, I do love to read your posts when you write about Susan, yourself, and your children. Write as much as you can and as often as you can. I’ll never get tired of it—-it is a blessing to me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and “opening the window” for us to share a little of your life.

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