Giving Permission to the Can’t
When two people send you the same post within minutes of each other, you read it. And think. Thank you, Karen and Life After Divorce… Happy Chaos. Then Lori added it to this week’s second-helpings in the Roundup. I’ll read it, I’ll read it!
The post was Tim Lawrence’s, “Everything Doesn’t Happen for a Reason.” In it, he explodes the platitudes that often are said after a life-changing event, when the person should be encouraged to grieve but instead is encouraged to look at the silver lining in the dark clouds.
It’s a good post, though only presents the point of view of the person experiencing the loss — and there are a lot of sides to a single story — but it starts a conversation, starting with the idea to tossing out the idea of “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” and instead taking up the more accurate notion that some pain is not meant to be “gotten over” but instead carried. He writes,
I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn’t. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we’ve replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence.
I like this because it gives permission to the “can’t,” as in, I can’t get over this. I can’t move on from this. I can’t not feel this. I think, in some ways, it’s more important to give that support or permission to those who can’t because for that particular person, that load is just too heavy. It may not be too heavy for another person, in the same way that what I can physically carry is very different from the loads the twins can physically carry with their twig arms.
So I think this type of post is important because it’s an acknowledgment that some loads may simply be too heavy, and if we wish to help, it’s not telling the person they can do it or try harder or the load isn’t that heavy. It’s to help carry the load if we can help carry the load, and when we can’t because it’s a one-person job, to support the person emotionally, mostly by listening and not retreating when they comment on the ache in their arms.
And, at the same time, the post demeans an ideology that is very important to some people. That life isn’t random, that there is a point to everything. It presents the idea that there is only one way to help, a correct way to help, and all other ways of communicating hinder.
I guess I would prefer a post that acknowledges that there are a multitude of ways through an experience, and the method for helping should match the person in need rather than be the method preferred by the help giver. Moreover, I want a post with an acknowledgment that sometimes the person experiencing a loss has no clue how others can help, has no clue how they wish to be addressed. If they knew words that would help, they would say those words to themselves. Maybe the fact that they can’t find these words means that there are no good words, or finding magical words that would assuage the feelings are akin to finding a needle in a haystack.
And I guess I was also bothered by the idea of cutting someone out of your life just because they struggle to support you. You don’t know their internal thoughts, the words they rejected before they came out with the ones that offended you. I suspect that I would have zero friends if people truly cut people out of their lives because they didn’t deliver the right words. I am positive I have offended people unintentionally, and I am positive that everyone in my life has said something supremely unhelpful at one moment or another. There’s a quote I am completely blanking on in the moment about being forgiving because everyone has a story and we often don’t know what the other person has gone through.
So that is my take on the post. Your thoughts?
Side note: #MicroblogMonday is tomorrow. Get writing!