A Gentle Day and a Loving Memory | When Sorrow Comes
It’s been a while since I’ve written about sorrow, but it arrived today in the form of a reminder on my calendar.
A member of my team whose mother died several years ago. This week was her mother’s birthday. Knowing how hollow those days can feel once the loved one is gone, I reached out to her and wrote:
“I know it’s your mother’s birthday. I hope it was a gentle day and a loving memory.”
It’s hard to know how to handle these anniversaries, because the truth is we don’t know how people are walking the path of sorrow after a loved one has died. But I know her, and I knew she would find comfort in my words.
And she did, with a “thank you, Karla💜” response a few hours later. That’s all that was needed. My text didn’t require her to even acknowledge it, and I would’ve understood had she not.
We simply must learn that holding space means we don’t get to dictate how people will respond to our expressions of comfort, even if they cost us time or money.
Does that need repeating?
It feels like it does, because I see a lot of people in comments, to put it bluntly, sucking at holding space for the grieving.
Let’s pause for a life lesson—when you are triggered by another person’s grief and feel compelled to share your story of sorrow, chances are you’ve missed your own opportunity to process your sorrow.
Using another’s sorrow to amplify yours isn’t it.
That may hurt, but it’s the truth.
My purpose for visiting grief today isn’t to make you feel bad for telling your grief story when someone shares theirs on social media (but just be aware of how often you’re doing it and consider how you may be ignoring sorrow in your own life, okay?)
I’m here to say this to all of us, including me….
May this be a gentle day and a loving reminder.
That is all.
Sometimes we don’t know what to do when sorrow arrives, even when we are expecting it around an anniversary or the holidays. We often feel that we should be “over it,” meaning it shouldn’t hurt any more.
But that’s not the way sorrow works, does it?
Sorrow reminds us that what was is no more, and what is no more hurt when it left. We don’t get to wrap it up in a box and put it under our bed for safekeeping, pulling it out, dusting it off and visiting it when we choose to do so.
No, we know better.
Sorrow arrives when sorrow arrives.
It can quietly enter the room and sit beside you as Google Pictures reminds you of a memory from some years ago, and there they are—so full of life, smiling for the camera. Or Facebook states, “we found a memory for you we thought you’d like to see” and suddenly you’re back on that park bench sitting beside your loved one, or cuddling the dog who liked to bask in the sun with you.
The entire energy of your day changes because of a simple picture from an app that has no idea the power those pictures hold—or does it?
That’s the power of sorrow, and now it’s here.
It can also just bowl you over under a wave of raw emotion when the deep chasmic void can no longer be ignored, and you’re reminded that your life will never be the same.
What will you do?
You do have choices.
Pause and sit with sorrow?
Stand and allow the waves rush over you as you once again stare into the void that once held the presence that you now so desperately long for?
Or reject sorrow’s invitation and turn swiftly back to your life because the pain is too raw and the reality too painful?
Yes, Beloved. You do have choices.
No one will judge you, or rather no one should.
Because if there is one thing about sorrow—it finds us all…
and when it does, it will change us, even if we turn swiftly back to our lives because the pain is too raw, and the reality is too painful.
I have no other motive for writing this today, except writing that note to my friend prompted me to remind you, that not if—but when—sorrow comes…
may the day be gentle.
May the memory be loving.
May it comfort you to know that from here, I’m holding space for you when sorrow arrives.
Accept its invitation to visit awhile.
For in doing so, you acknowledge that it has something to teach us about the human experience of living, loving and losing.