Relationships are messy, I was so very messy in my deep grief and I could either shut out well meaning people and leave a sea of broken relationships or I could learn to be gracious, inviting messy relationships, laying my expectations for others down, and experience healing in unexpected ways.
A month after my first daughter died, my husband and I walked into our church, and a young not even twenty something girl approached me. As she began to speak I knew the conversation would not go well.
“Lindsey!” she said with excitement in her voice as if she had just discovered something profound she just had to share with me.
I stood there and braced my weary, sad self as she proceeded to say “I was thinking the other day why God only allowed Sophie to live for 10 hours.” Oh no, I thought in my heart. I should have stopped her then, but I let her go on.
So many people can’t comprehend grief or loss and must figure out why something has happened to comfort their own questioning heart, where the answer surely doesn’t comfort the grieving heart. Often there are no answers. But she proceeded to tell me her answer for my loss, waiting in anticipation of how I would internalize her “comforting” words.
I was not comforted and I responded with less than gracious words. It was not one of my finer moments and it wasn’t the first or last time I was less than gracious.
I wish I had been more gracious and I’ll tell you why.
I have lost 2 children, and part of my journey to healing has been learning to be a gracious griever. My lack of graciousness has often left me in isolation, anger and deeper hurt. But learning to be gracious has opened my heart to healing relationships and released me from anger and resentment.
But what does it mean to be a gracious griever? Grace simply put is an undeserved gift. Its when we give something another does not deserve or receive something that we do not deserve. And graciousness is how we demonstrate grace to others. But why would we learn to become gracious in our grief?
1. Graciousness leads to forgiveness
I could not let every ill timed reply, or ill spoken words create bitterness inside of me and cause me to hold a grudge or shut that person out who I felt had no idea what they were talking about. Holding onto anger or bitterness has more often left me stuck and not moving forward in my grief. When I have chosen to be gracious I have been able to forgive even the harshest words, and it is I who have experienced greater freedom to move forward in my healing.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you” –Lewis B. Smedes
2. Graciousness reminds us of our own need for grace
When grief crashed into my world it was easy to forget that just a year earlier I hardly understood how to step into the grieving heart. I know I have said my fair share of ill timed and ill spoken words, even now. It was so easy when grief arrived to set expectations on others that they “should” all of a sudden know what to say or not say.
I needed to remember that as people extended grace to me as I tried to enter into their losses (when I didn’t understand what loss was like) so I could extend grace to others. Goodness, I would sit across from my husband, grieving the loss of our daughters and neither one of us would know what to say or what the other needed.
In the depth of my own grief where unfiltered words and thoughts and pain could come out of me, I began to recognize my need for others to extend grace to me, to not grow bitter at my words, to not shut me out but to be present with me in my pain.
It wasn’t an excuse to unleash but when we have close friends who can extend grace to us in those moments it becomes a safe place for healing. I needed grace in my grief as much as I needed to extend grace. It wasn’t one sided.
3. Graciousness can speak truth in love
When I have had a posture of graciousness, choosing to believe the best in others even when their words may sting I have been able to more kindly correct and share how their words have affected me. Most of the time people aren’t intending to be hurtful, they really do want to enter in, but just don’t know how. We can help them when we are gracious.
If I could do it all over with the girl who approached me at church, I would have wanted to share with her how I’m thankful she moved towards me but often a grieving person just needs to hear I’m sorry and sometimes there are no answers to the “why”, I wonder if a sweet relationship could have developed if I had been more gracious.
As time has gone on, I have been able to more gently tell others how their words affect me and that in turn more times than not has invited authentic relationship as each of us learn how to enter into each other’s stories.
4. Graciousness invites relationship
My best friend had a baby girl just a little over a month after my second daughter passed away. And in the midst of my deep grief, I had a difficult time entering into her journey of adjusting to life with a second baby in the way I would have wanted. And as she adjusted to having a new baby she didn’t have the energy to enter into my grief in the way she wanted.
We had honest and hard conversations and were able to grieve together how we wished we could have been there for each other in ways that we just weren’t able at the time. Choosing to enter into the messiness that surfaced in our season of loss and gain allowed a relationship that could have easily been broken to become stronger and sweeter. And while not every relationship may unfold this way, we may be surprised at the ones that do when we choose to be gracious.
Relationships are messy, I was so very messy and I could either shut out well meaning people and leave a sea of broken relationships or I could learn to be gracious, inviting messy relationships, laying my expectations for others down, and experience healing in unexpected ways.
It is easy to be a bitter, grudge holding, angry griever. It is challenging to be a gracious griever. But could it be that while learning to be a gracious griever may open us up to the risk of being wounded, it could also open us up to sweeter relationships, to deeper love, greater hope and healing?