I am reading "I Thought it was Just Me (But it Isn't)" by Brene Brown. I loved what she had to say about reaching out. She talks about how we naturally want to protect ourselves from uncomfortable feelings and so when terrible things happen to people, our instinct is often to separate ourselves, to cushion ourselves from their heartache. We find ways to convince ourselves that their tragedy is something that happens to "other" people. We create ways to make "them" different from "us." As bereaved parents, we often feel that separation from the people around us. The moment our child took their last breath, we became "different" from everyone else. To be thrust from the false safety of "us" (whose children are living), to "them" (who have children who have died) all at once is hard. It's hard to make sense of why the people that we believed would care aren't reaching out to us. It's hard to grasp why people in our lives are unwilling to hear or try to understand the amount of pain that comes with the death of a child. Brene Brown brings that natural response of wanting to insulate ourselves into the light and hopefully will offer something worth pondering for both those of us who are grieving and those of us who are struggling to find the courage to reach out. Here's what she has to say:
Once we've convinced ourselves that "things like this don't happen to people like me," then when it does happen it means we've done something terribly wrong. We've been kicked out of the group that kept us safe--that mythical group that always escapes tragedy. That's why people who survive cancer, women who survive sexual assault, adults who were once homeless, parents who have lost children and families who have been affected by acts of violence, often tell me two things: "Before it happened I never believed it could happen to me--it only happened to other people" and "You never know--it can happen to anyone. I just want to be there for others who are going through the same thing.
It's hard. We don't want to connect with people who are in pain, especially if we believe they deserve their pain or if their pain is too scary for us. We don't want to reach out. It feels risky. Just by associating with them, we could either end up in the same "other" pile or be forced to acknowledge that bad things happen to people like us. I hear the same thing again and again from women who are willing to connect: It's not easy. The women who take the casseroles when people are gossiping and judging or the women who walk through their own fear to comfort someone else aren't superheroes. They are ordinary women who sometimes have to force themselves to do it. It doesn't always come naturally, but they all say it gets easier with practice.
My mom is one of those women... She still tells me the same thing every time, "you just go to the funeral. You just take the casserole when the neighbors are gossiping and peeking out of their blinds. Put yourself in a trance if you need to, but get in the car and drive over there. Write down exactly what you want to say, but pick up the phone and make the call.
I think the most important thing she has told me about reaching out to others in crisis is this: "You do it because that's the person you want to be. You do it because that could have been me and one day it could just as easily be you."