Chairs, Candles, and Tissue
Not long after losing Calvin, Louie and I began attending a bereaved parents support group through the hospital. We met in the same room every week for two months. The chairs would be arranged in a circle, and in the middle of the circle would be a circle of candles—one for each of us to light before we began then to blow out before we left. On every couple of chairs, there would be a box of tissue. The tissues were there, of course, because tears were expected. But their placement and the amount of tissue boxes (instead of one that could be passed around) were deliberate.
One of the therapists who facilitated the group explained that they wanted us to be able to reach them ourselves, because the act of handing someone a tissue is often associated with asking that person to stop crying, to stop the flow of tears. They didn’t want us to feel that pressure of needing to stifle ourselves and hold back. They wanted to honor our grief and our emotions, and they wanted us to do the same for each other and for ourselves.
Comfort, Tears, and Power
This has stuck with me over the past three years. It changed my understanding of what it means to comfort to others: to abide and to bear witness, instead of finding ways to “stop” the aching. It has also changed the way I view my own mourning and given me the grace of accepting and acknowledging the waves of grief, instead of trying to fight it or run away. Yes, there is vulnerability and even discomfort in watching another’s tears and in allowing oneself to cry, but as Washington Irving said:
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love.”
So, for my first baby’s 3 years and 3 months in heaven today, I created this printable:
Click on the image to be brought to Flickr where you can choose to download the card in various sizes.
Dear Calvin Phoenix, there are not enough tears in me to express how much I love you and your siblings. But so long as they flow, I welcome them; it is one of the few ways I have of offering my heart to you. Mommy and daddy love you so much.