Currently, I have a very dramatic five-year-old son. I thought the strong emotions were supposed to begin when he is a teen, but I was very wrong! In my experience, at every age they go through a roller coaster of emotions as they develop. With that being said, the things that make him most upset at this stage of life seem so minuscule. A toy broke. His brother took his toy. He got a small paper cut, but you would think his arm got cut off from his reaction. He lost a sock! It is so easy for me to look at him, roll my eyes, and tell him to get over it. I will admit I often tell him it isn’t a big deal, or I try to put a positive spin on it. I may even try to make the situation better with a distraction like a cookie. Anything to stop the crying and whining! However, if I make this a pattern every time he experiences a disappointment in life even if they are currently small, how will he deal with the bigger things? Or the better question is how will I be a safe person for him to share the hard stuff with if I never truly acknowledge his pain?
So recently when one of his toys broke, I didn’t point out all of his other toys or tell him we can always buy another. I sat on the couch with him, recognized it is sad when things break, and let him cry. It didn’t last long, but it taught him in that moment to work through what he was feeling rather than avoid it or simply find an easy fix. Later in life, whether I like it or not, he will have to face things that don’t have an easy fixes. It is my job to help him know what to do with that. Although the next time he gets a skinned knee and cries for two hours over it, I might lose my mind.
It is easy to put a positive spin on just about anything. We so badly want to bring a ray of light to a dark situation. We are uncomfortable with the darkness. I have experienced people doing this to me, but to be honest I do it to myself more often. Those of you who have lost one parent may look at my situation of losing both of my parents early in life as completely tragic. In the same way, I look at others who lost their whole family in an accident and conclude I am lucky. I think, “at least I still have my husband and kids.” What?! That is twisted for sure! I am trying to minimize my loss and pain, which allows me to avoid walking through the hurt. I am bringing sunshine to my own situation. I believe those who have suffered many losses in life, whether deaths, relationships, health, or whatever else, do have a lot more to grieve. I also believe grief makes you more away and thankful for what you do have, but that does not mean you push the hurt away of what you have lost.
Brene Brown states, “At least is never a good start to an empathetic statement.” Every funeral I go to “at least” statements are used at some point, even by the ones experiencing the loss firsthand. At least they are in a better place. At least they are no longer suffering. Of course this is true! There was a time I prayed for God to just take my mom, because I didn’t want to watch her suffer any longer. Also, if you do believe in Christ we should take hope in the promise of His love and second life with Him. I know I find comfort in the fact that I believe I will see so many of my loved ones again. However, that doesn’t take away the pain I am experiencing now in this life. Maybe I am alone in this, but these statements make me feel angry! I believe we use them to cover up our real feelings. We use them to justify the horrible thing that just happened to us. You can acknowledge you are glad they are no longer suffering, as long as you also acknowledge the pain as well. We should never bring sunshine statements into someone’s darkness. There are other ways to bring hope into their pain, which begins with first acknowledging and experiencing the hurt with them.