Grief is Dirty

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This past weekend was Oktoberfest in my hometown. As the day wrapped up, I ran into a woman I had not seen in years. Her family was in 4-H the same time I was and my dad farmed near their home. She had been the accompanist for many of the musicals and school concerts I had participated in throughout my teenage years and I was delighted to get a chance to say hello.

She asked about my children and I said what I usually say, “We have six, but our 5th child, Emily, died a year and a half ago.” (yes, it sounds a bit rehearsed because sometimes you just need something rehearsed to lean on)

And then she said something that took my breath away and immediately brought the tears to the surface…

“I know what that is like.”

I had forgotten.

I had forgotten that her middle son…fair-haired, smart, quiet, wonderful Todd…had died of cancer as a second grader.

And in that second between her words and my regaining my composure, I remembered.

I remembered her son’s life and I remembered her son’s death and I said…

“Yes, you do.”

There is a bond between those who have lost children that supercedes other relationships.

And then there is another kind of bond. It is with the people who dare to step foot into that pit of grief with you…the ones who meet you where you live…the ones who go the extra mile and get dirty. Those people, be they friends or family or strangers, they are the ones who never expect anything from you, never try to make your grief less than what it is, and never make not knowing what to say an excuse for saying nothing at all.

Recently, Molly Piper wrote a post entitled, “Make a Decision to Love: Educate Yourself” that speaks to the need of loving those who grieve by learning more about their grief. Molly recounts her feelings upon reading the inscription of a book given to her by a friend,

I could hardly read his words through the thick tears in my eyes. All I could say over and over, through my sobbing was, €œHe read the book. He read the book!€

What was a single guy with no children doing reading a book about stillbirth? I€™ll tell you what he was doing. He was loving me in one of the most profound ways I€™ve experienced from a friend since Felicity died.

Molly’s friend got dirty. He stepped outside his comfort zone and he stepped into the pit with her. No, he doesn’t truly understand what she feels, but he cares enough about her as a grieving mother to want to.

Grief ain’t pretty. It doesn’t sit nicely on the mantle, it doesn’t tie up neatly with the words The End, and it doesn’t shove everything black to the back of the closet after a year. It startles at certain sounds and smells, it keeps company with guilt and fear, and it remembers when everyone else forgets. And honestly, no one wants to go near it.

But a few will.

Like the woman who checks your daughter’s grave to make sure the weeds are trimmed back from the marker, or the man who says your child’s name with heartfelt emotion as he looks you straight in the eye. It’s the doctor who cries with you and the nurse who changes shifts to come to the funeral. It’s the strangers who piece together a quilt for you and the friends who continue to check in on you long after everyone has returned to their normal lives.

These people are precious…

because for a moment in time, they grieve with you, and as they hold your heartache in their arms they don’t even see just how dirty this grief is…

because they love you…

grief and all.

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25 Comments on Grief is Dirty

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25 thoughts on “Grief is Dirty

  1. Having those people who are willing to grieve with you is, indeed, a blessing….and when the Lord sends another grieving mom along who will simply say “I know what you mean” (and does) is such a blessing!!

    I continue to be encouraged each time I stop by your blog. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  2. Amy, one day I sat down and read through almost your entire blog and wept and wept. What a story. I have 7 children and am expecting one now and cannot even imagine your pain. What a wonderful message and thought. Recently, we had four young men in our church pass away in a car accident together. One was a young husband expecting his first baby. The other three were teenagers, and two of them were brothers, the two oldest of 6 children.

    In light of your post, I have no idea what to even do to “get dirty” with these grieving people. When you weren’t close to the people to begin with, how do you grieve with them?

    Thank you for sharing your heart with complete strangers.

  3. Poignant Amy. I’ve been thinking more about how can I really help when someone is going through something that might result in grief. The difference b/t saying I care & doing something when they don’t know what to ask for. I still think it is tough- sometimes people only want so many prepared dinners. I appreciate how you provide suggestions & I will check out the link.

  4. Amy,

    Thank you for sharing for us what people who are grieving need the most. They need to know that they are loved and cared for long after most people forget. These are the people who don’t that impact our lives forever.

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  5. Only today i posted on my blog how i was feeling about my grief. the never ending pain, how you move forward but leave your heart in the past. I have a few that have got themselves dirty but many more who havce left us alone. I guess some people cant handle our pain.

    Hugs to you today.

    sara xx

  6. Amy, I do not know the pain of your daily walk, but I want you to know that I pray for you and your family all the time.

  7. (((HUGS))) Amy! You are sooo right. There is no ‘the end’ to grief. You wonder why it doesn’t get ‘all better’ one day.

    The most precious friends are the ones who get dirty with you in the mud puddle you are often reduced to without warning as you land on the ground in a heap of tears and sobs! I thank God for those friends every day. Even nearly 6 years later for me, it is still amazing how certain times of year are still so hard and bring so many tears to my eyes.

    I came to read your blog because of people sharing Emily’s story and asking us to pray for you. I have stayed because I wanted to be here to help you on your journey in any small way I could and to cheer you on as you took those painful steps forward. Thank you for sharing so honestly the good, bad and the ugly parts of your journey. (((HUGS))) – Deedee

  8. Hi Amy,
    I just recently found your blog and have been reading Emily’s story and Micah’s birth story. God bless you and your family as you continue to live to follow him, and remember your sweet girl with him, while raising those he has entrusted to you here. Your blog is inspiring, real, and I will be back to read more. God bless you!

  9. I still cannot think of Emmy, speak of her or look at her picture withouth tears coming to the surface. I still remember her sweet hair, and delicate content little face. We never forget your grief. I think of it a lot, and pray often, and even though I cannot say I know your grief, I know my own. I could relate to so much of what you wrote. (((HUGS)))

  10. I have a friend who has done that for me since we found out that our unborn child would die soon after birth (he died one hour after birth at full term, but we had known of his congenital abnormality since 12 weeks). My friend Cathy posted on Matthew’s life on her own blog several times, and particularly on key dates, such as his first birthday which has just been. That kind of emotional involvement in someone else’s loss really touched me.

  11. This is a beautiful post that nearly brought me to tears.

    I pray that God continues to comfort you and your family.

    In Christ,

  12. Amy, Corrine posted a link to your blog on facebook. I want you to know I think often of you and Emmy when I look into the face of my son. I remember we were expecting at the same time. I remember my son was just a week younger than Emmy. I remember reading about all that happened on the momys board that February and being totally devastated for you. I cannot even imagine the pain you still must feel. I have cried many a tear for you. Thanks for your honesty and please know that you and Emmy are remembered so often in my heart and home. Yvonne

  13. Thank you for this Amy.You are helping other grieving mothers(AND fathers) by telling us how to help them.((((((( HUGS)))))))))) I will always remember your beautiful Emily.I can picture her face perfectly and I don’t think it could be erased from my mind as her story made such an impression on me when I read it. (*JUST* after she died.) My heart was breaking for you and I was one of those who didn’t know what to say.
    (((((( HUGS)))))))) (Angiedawn from MOMYS)

  14. What a good reminder. A dear friend suddenly lost her 34 yr old son recently and I have not been diligent enough in checking in with her and giving her time. I’m sharing this post with a group of her friends so we can all do a better job at being there. Thanks!

    • You are welcome, Paula. I know it is hard for others to know what to do and say. She will appreciate your desire to be there for her more than you will probably ever know.

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  17. Hi Amy,
    I was looking into homeschooling when I found your blog. Thank you for writing this. Yes, grief is dirty and knowing that somebody is willing to get dirty with us is comforting.