Bob Schieffer of CBS news summed it up when he said, “For those of us who make our living with words, we find ourselves not knowing what to say.”
When something happens that we have no context for, we’re at a loss for words. We just don’t have any mental vaults to explore when airplanes are flown into buildings, tornadoes decimate a familiar community – or someone shoots innocent children. We’ve never been there before; it’s new territory.
We don’t know how to handle ambiguity, and our minds want order. We’re instinctively driven to figure it out – to make sense of it all.
So we talk.
Talking isn’t a bad thing; it’s a way of processing with each other and sorting out our feelings. It connects us to each other when we’re in pain.
We’re glued to our televisions as we learn the stories of the children, the parents, the heroes – the human moments. We hurt with them, and feel the pain of people we’ve never met. That’s the way it should be.
It’s amazing, though, how quickly the dialogue moves from empathy to examination. Within minutes of the Connecticut tragedy, commentators began dialogue about things that are wrong in our society that allowed it to happen. Facebook posts focused reflect strong opinions about related issues, and bloggers use their platforms to suggest the need for urgent changes in policy and process.
There’s a place for healthy dialogue. But during times of incalculable grief, while the emotional wounds are raw, it’s not the time to fix, figure out or solve.
It’s time to hold each other.
Author Joe Bayly described the issue in his book “The View From a Hearse,” written to describe what he learned about grief after experiencing the loss of three of his children:
“I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly; he said things I knew were true.”
“I was unmoved, except to wish he would go away. He finally did.”
“Another came and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour or more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left.”
“I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.”
The Bible says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh . . . a time to mourn and a time to dance . . . a time to be silent and a time to speak . . . “
In other words, don’t mix them up. If we do, healing will take a lot longer.
Most of us won’t be the ones to come alongside and listen to those who are grieving in Connecticut. We can send notes and pray and be part of the mass support they receive. That’s a good thing.
But we need to feel.
For me, it’s a reminder of how to approach grieving people in my world:
- Don’t rush the dialogue.
- Hold their hearts well.
- Be there.
Please post your thoughts/comments: