Loss, Grace, Intention And Why They Matter

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Today I was a model for a class of 3rd and 4th grade sculptors.

They measured me, drew me and crafted a wire skeleton of me.

And as I looked at the different stick versions of me on the paper, I was reminded of the power of perspective.

None of us wants to be a social klutz.

Most of us pick up our social skills in the playground. Then we refine and polish them in early adulthood.

But it gets trickier when we grow up. We start to face awkward situations, tragic circumstances.

Either our own or those of other people.

Over the years, I’ve read much about what to say to people who’ve experienced a difficult situation – a job loss, divorce, a death.

I’ve also read comments from those who are in the center of the gray, stormy circle.

Their anger is palpable as they deal with their loss as well as the hurt they feel at another person’s perceived insensitive words.

I would read these views and find them harsh.

Frankly, it scares me to walk up to someone who’s hurting so badly. But I try. Even if I’m stammering and shaking. I don’t walk away.

And I certainly don’t want to be criticized for getting it wrong.

But who was I to judge?

I had never experienced a major loss. No job loss, no divorce, no deaths.

And then, the inevitable happened.

At the age of 41, following two rounds of fertility treatment, I became pregnant. I had achieved my goal of adding to my family.

Or so I thought.

But then I had an amniocentesis and three days later became the poster woman for the argument that the procedure is dangerous.

When a baby is born that early, it is the still the real deal.

A tiny, perfectly formed, one pound little boy, the dead spit of my son Oliver, was born after eighteen hours of labor. Toes, fingers, ears, nipples. Milk came in. I was devastated.

It had been my last chance.

No follow-up baby to soften the loss of miscarriage for me.

I have a great bunch of friends and the vast majority recognized the extent of the loss and behaved entirely appropriately for which I remain hugely grateful.

But of course, there was the odd one or three who did not.

‘Probably for the best,’ ‘You’ll get over it.’ And my favorite, ‘It was God’s will.’

Now I could test my theory.

Was it possible to recognize the intention of words over content?

The first glib response received an angry retort. Visceral, completely reactive. The second time, I slowed. By the third, I had chilled.

I was able to separate my feelings of loss from my reaction to those words by understanding that the intent was to comfort even if the efforts were clumsy.

And knowing how hard it is to even respond to someone who is so sad, I had to acknowledge every person for at least trying.

I know it’s hard when you’re hurting to take a step back.

But it is inevitable these skills are not going to be well-developed in many people.

Someone who is moving to interact is attempting to bridge the gap, even if their attempts to do so are awkward and inept. They are, for the most part, groping to find a way to help even if they haven’t the skills to do so with grace.

And those people are often precious in the long run.

I would rather have an awkward, well-intentioned person on my side than a slick, disingenuous one. I would rather have someone who tried to say or do the right thing even if their voice was shaking and their heart pounding. And if I am ever offended by somebody’s words or actions, I try to understand the intent.

And only then is it time to judge.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy Presland
Twitter:
November 4, 2010 at 3:12 am

Alison,
So touching – I admire you for sharing…

It reminds me of what my brother-in-law said when he lost his wife a couple of years ago (our age very sad). Being on the receiving end of all the sympathy and comments made him realise how badly HE had dealt with other people’s bereavement over the years.

I guess all we can do is try our best and learn ?

*hugs*
Cathy
Cathy Presland recently posted..If We Don’t Watch The News How Do We Know Who To Vote ForMy Profile

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Alison Golden November 4, 2010 at 10:35 am

Hey Cathy:

Thanks! I don’t think we get enough practice to get good at it. Then add our society’s awkwardness about it and we’re hosed.

I think that looking at intent over content is a good way to go even with the little things. Seems a less stressful way to be. I do find though that if people are consistently offensive or awkward, that’s a complete no-no for me and I will swim oceans to stay away from them.

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adrianairis November 4, 2010 at 10:34 am

where my comment go? LOL
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Alison Golden November 4, 2010 at 10:37 am

I don’t know! But thank you anyway 🙂

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adrianairis November 4, 2010 at 10:35 am

new friend and follower.
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Joanna November 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I’ve always been a social klutz, and this is the only time that I’ve ever been a little bit proud of myself for being confident that I have no platitudes to tell people who are in grief and misery. I’m very sorry to hear about your miscarriage, you are a great writer – this is my first visit – and your honesty is very refreshing. You really laid it all out there.
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Alison Golden November 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Hi Joanna:

It’s true that sometimes not saying anything is often better than saying something bonkers. Thanks for commenting and your kind words. 🙂

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Minnesota Mamaleh November 5, 2010 at 11:10 am

i just wanted to thank you for sharing something so personal. you’re pretty amazing, you know that? sending you what i’ve got (klutzy or not!)!

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Alison Golden November 5, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Hey Mamaleh, you are soooo not klutzy. Thank you and yes, I know I’m amazing – because you keep telling me 😉 You’re pretty amazing yourself.

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