Dan Stringer

navigating the convergence of faith, culture and the common good

Grief journal (3 Months)

February 20, 2011

“I almost prefer the moments of agony. These are at least clean and honest. But the bath of self-pity, the wallow, the loathsome sticky-sweet pleasure of indulging it—that disgusts me.”

–C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

To grieve is to be excessively picky. Say this, not that. A pinch of comfort, but hold the clichés. A dash of Scripture, but go easy on the cause-effect theology. Treat me like I’m both normal and special, devastated and resilient—all at the same time, but only until I change my mind. And don’t even think about keeping silent on the topic because that’s not allowed either. Cue folded arms with a grouchy “Humph!”

The paradox of grief is sandwiched between unwanted visibility and insufficient recognition. Frankly, there are days when almost everything feels unwanted or insufficient. Case in point: the words people say. Two real-life examples come to mind.

“At least you still have your other son.” (Gee, I never thought of it that way.)

“This might sound terrible, but he’s not yours anymore.” (You’re right, that does sound terrible.)

Yes, those were actual face-to-face quotes (though the clever retorts remained unspoken). Welcome to grief, a place where kind intentions are often lost in translation. If only intentions were all that mattered. In a world without gaffes or guessing games, words would only hurt if you wanted them to. Giving and receiving comfort would be a cakewalk. No more headaches over choosing the right words at the right time spoken in the right tone with the right nonverbals.

But alas, such a world would not leave much room for the solace of an uncommonly simple validation or acknowledgment:

“I’m so sorry.”

“I can’t begin to know how you feel.”

Vincent died three months ago today. We visited his grave twice last week. The soil is still soft, no marker yet. He was such a great kid. I wish we had more pictures. Theo misses his brother. Rebecca is suffering. I’ll never get over this one. The tears continue, always will. I cannot drink this cup—like I have a choice. The permanence is overwhelming. We weren’t ready to say goodbye.

It’s not easy being picky.

[Photo by Luminosity]

  • Iman

    Thank you for your fragile and beautiful broken hearts – that they allow me to stay that much closer to our Jesus as we walk with you and lift you up. You are truly courageous. We love and miss your family and are sad for your pain.

  • Marissa

    Oh, Dan. I am so, so sorry. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to live through a parent’s greatest fear. We think of you all often and continue to pray for courage and grace to get through the next moment. And that is an amazingly beautiful picture of your littlest man.

  • yo

    thank you for articulating what many are unable to in such a terrible time. i’m definitely bookmarking this for the future b/c i know there are so many who will find comfort in your words, 2 cor. 1.3-6 style. praying for you still…

  • Rosemary Andrade

    Dear Dan.
    Today is my Birthday so it is so easy for me to remember Vicents passing. I know what
    you mean sometime when people say things they don’t understand the afect it will have on you. Like well you still have your other son. True but that does’nt take away the pain of loosing Vicent. After I had my son. I lost to pregencys. I wanted one more so bad and I had people say well at least you have one. Thats true but it doesn’t take away rhe pain. As time goes on it gets eaiser to handle. But it never goes away or you never forget! It’s been almost 48 years for me and I still think about it! Just don’t give up! Still praying for you,Rebecca and Theo.

  • ugh. I know, it’s so hard!

  • The tears keep coming. There’s a never ending supply. If it was just tears it would be easy but its everything else included. My heart aches. Love you all and am praying for you.

  • Beth Stutzman

    Thanks so much for writing… honesty and real expression so appreciated… Will continue praying… It’s that time when nobody on earth really has answers to the many layered questions and pain… but I really appreciate your willingness to share!

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