Monday, February 13, 2012

Offering grace when others can't relate.

I would never, never wish the loss of a baby on anyone. However, I have been thinking lately that it would be nice if someone could borrow my pain, just for a day.

If everyone could just feel what we feel after losing a baby, just for a bit, they would be so much more understanding and compassionate to their friends who have experienced pregnancy loss. Considering 1 out of 4 women is in the pregnancy loss club -- that's a lot of woman that could be potentially be helped if their friends "got" their pain and responded appropriately.

As nice as it might be in theory, my wish is completely implausible.

In spite of it's impracticality, I've wondered how many other women have wished their friends could just borrow their pain, just for a day? How often have I been completely unaware of their particular situation, and have said painful words to them out of ignorance?

What about . . .

The woman who is fighting cancer and wishes the world understood what it's like to have to fight for every single day of life. Who longs to be there to watch her children grow, but must plan for her death. Who must give her husband permission to love and marry again if she passes away, but would give everything for the chance to grow old with him.

The woman who was molested as a child and carries with her shame, anger, and loathing for her body. She suffers in silence. She doesn't know anyone that suffered as she did . . . and doesn't know how to cross the chasm of shame to reach out for help or understanding. There never seems to be a socially acceptable time to bring up her history of sexual abuse. What would her friends think?

The woman who who politely listens to us complain how your husband never helps around the house. She wishes she could tell you how lucky you are. She's been enduring emotional abuse for years from her husband, and now has recently discovered he is having an affair. As she grapples with how to confront him, she wishes all she had to talk to him about was taking out the garbage. Everyone on the outside thinks they are the perfect couple -- how would her church and closest friends respond if they knew the truth?

The woman who struggles to hear about our pregancy loss. Our loss means we were once pregnant -- and creating and protecting the beautiful life of a baby will be something that she will never experience. She wishes she could even GET pregnant.  Since she was 5, she dreamed of becoming a mother. Her future should have been full of kids and all the joys and responsibilities they bring. Instead, every day she faces an empty house. The room that was perfect for the nursery when they bought the house all those years ago has since become a graveyard of boxes, old clothes and her husband's tools. Like her body, that room will never be a home to a beautiful, cherished little boy or girl. Her arms and heart are empty. And there is no hope for either her arms or heart to be full again.

Pregnancy loss is a very real pain that changes our life. And of course, we want everyone to understand what we are going through. But the truth is that pregnancy loss is not the ONLY pain. As we long for compassion and understanding, our friends may also be dealing with feelings they wish we could "borrow, just for a day," too.

As hard as it is when I know friends cannot relate to my loss . . . I have to realize there are other circumstances out there that are equally valid and need my compassionate response. Yes, they look and feel different than losing a baby. But that doesn't make them any less real or painful.

I hope that those of us who are now oh-so familiar with feelings of grief, loss, helplessness, anger and pain will be able to reach out with more grace, more compassion, and more understanding to those who cannot relate to our loss. Because, chances are, they might be dealing with their own hurt and pain wrapped tightly in a shroud of silence. And whether they verbalize it our not, they need our words of comfort and understanding, too.

Oh, and before you start to think that I've got this feeling compassion and offering grace thing under control, I just want you to know that I DON'T. I am a work in progress.

When the situation is what I might view as really difficult (i.e., the cancer in my first example), it is easier to feel compassionate. But when I really struggle to relate to a situation that I don't see as particularly something to get upset about, it is hard for me not to compare situations and think, "Well, at least she didn't lose a baby at the end."

I write this post mostly as a reminder to myself because I want to always choose grace, not bitterness.

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