Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday's Therapy - Tears: You're Stuck With This Pain

Thursday's Therapy

Tears: "You're Stuck With This Pain"


A TCF Speech – 8 Things I’ve Learned About the Grief of a Grieving Parent

Part One of Eight

Jayne Raines Newton of The Atlanta Compassionate Friends mailed me this wonderfully therapeutic speech this week, and I'd like to pass it along to you!

Jayne’s words:

Charlie Walton and his wife Kay joined us in Marietta last night to hear Alan Pedersen perform. Charlie is near and dear to me. He was the first person who introduced me to TCF in Nov 1996..two months after my son had died. Thank you Charlie for all you do for bereaved parents.


Sunday, July 6, 2003 - TCF National Conference

Conference Closing Speech by Charlie Walton

Charlie’s words:

Thank you for the kind introduction... and for the invitation to speak to this audience of "reluctant heroes." I clearly remember sitting where you are sitting, watching some poor guy step to a microphone like this, and mentally daring him to try and say anything that would make a difference for me.

One of the real downsides of writing a few books about anything is that people get the idea that you know the answers. But the most important thing I have learned in these years of talking with people in grief is that

The world's leading expert on your sitting right there in your chair.

Human grief has no easy answers.

I named my first book When There Are No Words... because that is exactly the situation when your child dies. There are no words that help.

The pain comes to stay and. no matter how much people want to kiss it and make it well, grief runs on its own timetable.

Your kid... was like no other. Your grief... is like no other. And the gradual easing of your pain is not going to happen by anybody else's formula.

Maybe the most liberating thing that first book did was to give its readers permission to grieve in their own time and in their own ways.


I'd like to spend a little time with you this morning talking about a few things I have learned during the past seventeen years since two of our three sons died. These are personal observations based on, first, being a bereaved parent, and then drawing on a lot of conversations... and emails... and letters that have come as a result of my books.

Let me emphasize that

This list of "things I have learned"... did not "drop from heaven."

So, some of what I say may be the absolute opposite of what you have experienced. But. like your mama told you... "If you don't like it, just leave it on the plate."


The first thing I want to tell you is that...

You are stuck with this pain. You are going to hurt. real bad. for a long time.

And even though everybody around you is going to be wishing your pain away, you're gonna keep on hurting for a long time.

There will come a day when you will have longer periods between the pains but, at least in my experience, when the memories do come flooding back, even after seventeen years, they are going to hurt just as much as the first day you got the news.

But the surprising thing is, that's the way it ought to be. Just think about it. If I told you that I have the power to wave a magic wand and instantly remove the pain you are feeling, and if you really thought about it for a bit, I think you would say, "Well thanks, Charlie, but I guess maybe I better go ahead and hurt a little while longer."

Even though your first thought might be "I cannot stand this pain any longer!" your second and third thoughts would reveal to you that the unprecedented, unequalled pain that you are enduring is actually your tribute to what you have lost.

What would it say if you had a most precious person torn from your life, and you continued along in your life as if nothing had happened?

Pain is lousy, and it hurts, but the depth of your pain testifies to the depth of your love, and the significance of your loss.

You know, nothing gives me more pleasure in life than to hear that something I have written has helped somebody. I've tried to analyze why my book has helped. And beyond the basic fact that I have personally sat where my reader is sitting, there is also the fact that the book does not promise that everything is going to be all right. I didn't want anybody to tell me "What has happened to you is terrible, but it's gonna be alright!" I know now that that was true, but I didn't want to hear it then.

So, I tried to write a book that said, "What has happened to you is terrible" and stop at that, leaving the words about healing until much later when they might be more useful.

So, "thing one" that I have learned.

Enjoy the pain. Appreciate it. Savor it. It hurts, but it is the appropriate response to overwhelming loss.

Your tears are your tribute to one who has been taken from you.


Thank you to Charlie Walton, and to Jayne Raines Newton, both of The Atlanta Compassionate Friends.

TCF = The Compassionate Friends


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