The lonely year is how one writer described the second year of grief. This “loneliness” has nothing to do with having people around you, it is an intense, interior aloneness. The second year brings an exhaustion that has nothing to do with getting enough sleep. The second year is a hard part of the “climb,” unknown terrain, few footholds, and the atmosphere is thin. The second year is a year of fragile patience.
When I tell you that we are “fine,” I am not lying. I beg you to not confuse fine with “we are as we were before Justin died.” No, we are not and never will be as we were before Justin died. We are normal for where we are in our grief. Does that make sense?…take a moment and picture that reality. Normal grief process for the loss of a child takes years…not weeks. Normal is not to be confused with words like minimal, easy, everyday, routine, or any other word that minimizes the reality of normal grief. There is nothing “normal” or “routine” in our lives. Please don’t tell us what we should or should not be doing.
Resist the urge to tell us that you know how we feel, unless you have buried a child, you don’t and that is very good thing. I pray that you will never know. Resist the urge to tell us that you understand or that our feelings are understandable. You may or may not understand or “get” any of it, don’t presume or feel superior in your ability to relate to us. I you think you can, you probably can’t and that is okay too, this does not have to be relational. We don’t need people to understand, relate, or extrapolate from their life experiences that they understand our life experience, all of the above is not compassion. Compassion is stripping oneself to embrace the other, for the sake of the other in all their mire and muck. Rarely are those we are called to embrace found clean and washed. Embrace the leper without fear of contamination. St. Francis did not engage the leper in any great conversation, asked nothing of him, did not chide him for having leprosy, did not seek to cure him of his leprosy, he simply embraced his wounds. Humble compassion.