“How many children do you have?” It’s a question I ask often as I meet new friends here in Florida, and it’s a question that is often asked of me. On one hand it is a very simple question to answer. We have three boys: Christopher, David, and Daniel. But here is where it gets difficult. What do I say if they ask, “What are they all doing now?” Do I say, “Well, Chris is married and has two boys, Daniel is married and finishing up his Bachelors of Arts, and David died seven years ago and is hanging out with Jesus in heaven?” I know when they hear that my son died they are going to immediately feel sorry for me and most likely a little uncomfortable. They want to say something appropriate but fear saying something stupid, so the conversation stops or is redirected to who I think is going to win the NCAA Tournament. As I stand there in that pregnant pause of silence I wonder if I should have simply said, “My two boys are both married to two beautiful woman and we are so proud of them.” Sadly, when I chose to exclude the reality of David and his death so others don’t feel uncomfortable, I am once again isolated and alone to grieve the loss of his beautiful presence in our lives. They miss out and I miss out. I say all this to prove the point that most of us are horrible at grieving.
A few weeks ago I watched a wonderful five minute video called “The Power of Wearing Your Pain” by Bridget Foley, a woman who lost a child. My favorite part of the video was her “Wet Chair Wet Pants Method of Grief Sharing.” She paints the following scenario: You are out on a walk and your favorite elderly neighbor ask you to join her on her porch to sit down for a few minutes. As you are about to sit down you realize that the chair is wet. You know if you ask her for something to dry it off you will embarrass her or make her feel uncomfortable. She’s elderly, her dog is sitting in her lap, and you don’t want to be a bother. So what do you do? Do you just sit in the chair and get wet pants? Or do you make your neighbor a little uncomfortable to spare yourself a greater discomfort?
You see, a wet chair is a choice a grieving person encounters when they have to decide to either say something that reminds others of the reality of death or to simply choose to remain silent and sit with wet pants. After seven years I have to say I am tired of wet pants! The more I am willing to allow others to feel a little uncomfortable, the less I feel alone, the more I heal by sharing David’s incredible story, and the more my story helps another grieving person know it is normal and survivable.
If you have a few minutes watch Bridget’s video, I would love to hear your thoughts.