Sunday, October 5, 2014
Today was a hard day. Not even as hard for me as so many others. After an emotionally exhausting morning, I sought out the solace and peace of the woods. There, I reflected, as always. Things began to sort themselves out in my mind-- slightly, as grief is such a complex emotion it can't ever be compartmentalized--and a few things seemed clear. When someone is placed upon a path of grief, it is always a solo trail. There isn't anyone that will be on that trail alongside you. They have their own-- and each trail is completely unique. That is one of the cruelest burdens of grief. You are forced to continue, to navigate alone. There may likely be absolutely no sign of the path most of the time. The duration, the conditions, each belong to a single individual. That said, there are some observations to be made.
I've read about The Circle Theory in relation to a medical event, and it fits perfectly within the world of the grieving: Basically, Comfort in, Dump out. If you draw a small circle on paper, then surround that circle with concentric rings, larger and larger, you have the Circle. The Inner circle gets to say and do whatever they want. They may permit passage of information out of the inner circle or they may choose that it remain private. The surrounding circles absorb as needed, but the flow of stress is definitely one way: Out. The larger circles are only allowed to offer comfort and support in the direction of the Inner Circle. People outside of the Inner Circle are only allowed to dump their grief and stress and coping mechanisms to people in larger circles than themselves, not towards the Inner Circle. Don't fight battles that aren't yours, unless the Inner Circle has asked you to. While your grief is yours, and valid, and genuine, you are in an Outer Circle. Your needs rank below the needs of the Inner Circle. You may not--please-- make this about you. You are allowed to participate in the Circle, but you may not cause grief to flow inward. You may not agree with the Inner Circle's wishes, decisions, but understand: you are not in the Inner Circle, therefore you do not get to make the decisions.
Don't offer more than you are capable of. Genuine concern is always appreciated. The rings of the Outer Circles protect the Inner. It's very easy and obvious to the Inner Circle to see who actually walks the walk vs just talking the talk. Don't add to the burden by hurting the Inner Circle with your empty promises. If you're trying to make yourself look good by offering support, just don't. Really don't. You don't look good and you cause more tension and disappointment. If you jump on the wagon, do it because you're there to truly help, not because everyone else is. When the wagon starts to empty, it's a whole other hurt that perpetuates the process. Your presence is comfort-- you don't have to grandstand. Again, this isn't about you. Be there for the rough ride, the small moments, the large moments. Clearly, you may grow weary and need a break from the constant ache of riding the wagon. But don't leave the wagon: walk beside it, until you can take your place again. The driver of the wagon can't change places with you; this goes back to the path of grief being an individual journey no one can make for someone. But riding or walking along the wagon will help protect the wagon.
Don't assume you know how you would feel, or what you would do or wish if you were the driver of the wagon. You must respect the driver of the wagon, even if you can't comprehend their requests, their wishes, their feelings. If they ask you to get off the wagon, do it. Walk beside. Remember the Inner Circle. They are the only ones allowed to request something of the whole Circle. If you are not the driver, you are in an Outer Circle. If you can't figure out where you fall in the Circles, chances are you're not in as small of a one as you might think.
Parents of children and teens: discuss with your children. Ask them why they feel the way they do. Help them navigate their grief. Help them to understand different perspectives, illustrate to them the Circles. This visual often opens them in a way words can not. They are affected by grief too, and genuinely are not equipped with even the most basic tools to deal with it.
Please, do not spread venom and hate. I can't believe I even need to say this. Before you repeat something, ask yourself: How will this affect the Inner Circle? Will this encourage the flow of love, comfort and support? Or will this spread negativity, keep the wounds festering, cause them to falter and break down on their journey towards peace? Your Mother was right. If it won't help the Inner Circle, keep your damn mouth shut. And send your wishes for that wagon to someday ride on smooth, soft grass, full of light and love.