Proverbs and Pound Cake
By Russell Friedman - The Grief Recovery Handbook
Sometimes we open this column with a suggestion that you grab a coffee because we've written a longer-than-usual piece. Today, you might get a piece of pound cake to go with your java. Why pound cake? Because pound cake is a simple thing and digests easily. We're about to broach a topic that will fly in the face of conventional awareness and could benefit from a digestive aid.
"Singing cheerful songs to a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing someone's jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in a wound."
Who said that? Where does it come from?
That, my friends, is Proverbs 25:20 - and one of the rare times you'll see us quoting scripture with a correlation to unresolved grief and recovery.
The power of that proverb is in its innate wisdom that grief or sadness are necessary and even essential emotions when we've been affected by a major loss. Any attempt to "cheer-up" a grieving person puts them in conflict with their emotional, spiritual and even intellectual truths.
A strange twist in modern times causes people to counsel hurting friends in an emotionally illogical manner. It's as if there's a reflexive reaction to the grief of others that compels friends and family to intone the phrase, "Don't Feel Bad."
Our response is: "WHY NOT ! ?"
All caps, bold, underlined, in quotes, plus exclamation point means we are yelling as loud as we can. Why shouldn't a person who has been massively affected by a death feel bad? We cannot think of a single reason that a person should not feel bad when affected by a heart-wrenching loss.
"Don't Feel Bad" is most often a preamble to another communication - as in, "Don't feel bad, she's in a better place."
While it's entirely possible that the person who died is in a better place, the surviving loved one is not. In addition to any sense of relief that a loved one is no longer suffering, the grieving person is often overwhelmed with the normal, natural, and painful feelings attached to the death of their loved one.
This verbal phenomenon is not limited to death. Recently separated or divorced people are told, "Don't Feel Bad, he or she wasn't 'right' for you." Again, what is invoked is the absurd instruction to NOT feel what you're feeling, and to think an intellectual thought, as in, "...he/she wasn't right for you." Even if true, that doesn't diminish the heart-ache.
Again we scream, "WHY NOT ! ?"
Maybe we need to resort to another scriptural reference to put this in perspective. The phrase, " A time to weep and a time to laugh, A time to mourn and a time to dance," leap to mind, from Ecclesiastes - A Time for Everything. If indeed there is a time for everything, then why do we tell the people we love not to feel bad when they have every reason to do so?
We are better advised to allow and encourage those we love to feel exactly as they feel, and not force them to lie because we are uncomfortable with their honest sadness.
Please remember that grief workshops are available to you through The Grief Recovery Institute and sponsored by the Family Support Group.