You Let Me Impose

“SHE DIED ON a Monday during spring break of our senior year. After her funeral, I immediately went back to school because she had begged me to do so. It was the beginning of a new quarter. In most of my classes, we were asked to introduce ourselves and say what we had done over the break. “My name is Cheryl,” I said. “I went to Mexico.”

I lied not to protect myself, but because it would have been rude not to. To express loss on that level is to cross a boundary, to violate personal space, to impose emotion in a nonemotional place.

We did not always treat grief this way. Nearly every culture has a history, and some still have a practice, of mourning rituals, many of which involve changes in the dress or appearance of those in grief. The wearing of black clothing or mourning jewelry, hair cutting, and body sacrification or ritual tattooing all made the grief-stricken immediately visible to the people around them. Although it is true that these practices were sometimes ridiculously restrictive and not always in the best interest of the mourner, it is also true that they gave us something of value. They imposed evidence of loss on a community and forced that community to acknowledge it. If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up. And if they don’t — if they have loved too deeply, if they do wake each morning thinking, I cannot continue to live — well, then we pathologize their pain; we call their suffering a disease.

We do not help them: we tell them that they need to get help.”

 

~ Cheryl Strayed

 

Thank you for bearing witness, for not averting your eyes.

You have let me into your personal space,

you have let me cross the boundary and talk about what isn’t talked about,

you have accepted my imposition,

  you have made room for my emotion.

As you have read, you have helped me.

You are a form of active listening.

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7 thoughts on “You Let Me Impose

  1. It has been an honor and a privilege to have been allowed to walk with you, if only through your marvelous writing. You have taught us how to grieve honestly and with grace.

  2. Since I lost my husband 8 months before you, following you and walking with you through your beautiful and honest writing has helped me heal. I thank you so much Tricia. God has used you in ways you don’t even know. I live in California, but in August I am planning a move to Denver where my son and his family live, so I hope to meet you someday!

  3. Your words are filled with grace, wisdom, truth, humor, and love in a most interesting and powerful way…. a way that God has gifted to you. Oh yes, I will continue to listen (read) your words that radiate the fruits of the Spirit!

  4. I will listen through grief and celebrations. I will listen through tears of sadness and joy. When you radiate Him as you do, that is a contagious thing to follow!

  5. And we love you!

    On 3/23/13 10:42 AM, “tricialottwilliford” wrote:

    > Tricia Lott Williford posted: “”SHE DIED ON a Monday during spring break of > our senior year. After her funeral, I immediately went back to school because > she had begged me to do so. It was the beginning of a new quarter. In most of > my classes, we were asked to introduce ourselves and s” >

  6. And, I hope, a community of disciples of Jesus caring for one another as He taught us to do. May you know God’s glory in all that you see and receive.

  7. Wow, I haven’t thought of it that way—that by reading we have actually helped you by being “active” listeners.
    Your writing is a blessing.
    It’s Saturday night—the night I have time to decompress after my shift at work and read what you’ve been up to— so on my way home tonight, I was actually thinking about what you might have posted on your blog—some great story about your boys or some profound post on grief or some words of wisdom….and you know what? You never disappoint!
    Blessings to you. Please keep writing.
    Hugs from PA,
    ~Kim A.

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