Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Piano

When you lose a child, grieving is a lifelong experience
When our first child is born, a loud voice says, “Runners, take your marks!” We hear the starting gun and the race begins. It’s a race we must win at all cost. We have to win. The competition is called “I’ll race you to the grave.” I’m currently racing three sons. I really want to win.
Not everyone wins.
I’m here at the national meeting of Compassionate Friends, an organization offering support and resources for parents who lose the race. I’m wandering the halls during the “break-out” sessions. In this room are parents whose children died in car accidents. Over there is a room full of parents of murdered children. Parents of cancer victims are at the end of the hall. Miscarriages and stillbirths are grouped together, as are parents who have survived a child’s suicide. And so it goes.
In a few minutes, I’m going to address Compassionate Friends. This is the toughest audience of my life. I mix with the gathering crowd, and a woman from Delaware glances at my name tag. Her name tag has a photo of her deceased son. My name tag is absent photos.
“So … you haven’t … lost anyone,” she says cautiously.
“My three sons are yet alive, if that’s what you’re asking me,” I say gently.
She tries to nod politely, but I can see that I’ve lost credibility in her eyes. She’s wondering who invited this speaker, and what on earth he could ever have to say to her.
My address is titled “The Myth of Getting Over It.” It’s my attempt to answer the driving questions of grieving parents: When will I get over this? How do I get over this?
You don’t get over it. Getting over it is an inappropriate goal. An unreasonable hope. The loss of a child changes you. It changes your marriage. It changes the way birds sing. It changes the way the sun rises and sets. You are forever different.
You don’t want to get over it. Don’t act surprised. As awful a burden as grief is, you know intuitively that it matters, that it is profoundly important to be grieving. Your grief plays a crucial part in staying connected to your child’s life. To give up your grief would mean losing your child yet again. If I had the power to take your grief away, you’d fight me to keep it. Your grief is awful, but it is also holy. And somewhere inside you, you know that.
The goal is not to get over it. The goal is to get on with it.
Profound grief is like being in a stage play wherein suddenly the stagehands push a huge grand piano into the middle of the set. The piano paralyzes the play. It dominates the stage. No matter where you move, it impedes your sight lines, your blocking, your ability to interact with the other players. You keep banging into it, surprised each time that it’s still there. It takes all your concentration to work around it, this at a time when you have little ability or desire to concentrate on anything.
The piano changes everything. The entire play must be rewritten around it.
But over time the piano is pushed to stage left. Then to upper stage left. You are the playwright, and slowly, surely, you begin to find the impetus and wherewithal to stop reacting to the intrusive piano. Instead, you engage it. Instead of writing every scene around the piano, you begin to write the piano into each scene, into the story of your life.
You learn to play that piano. You’re surprised to find that you want to play, that it’s meaningful, even peaceful to play it. At first your songs are filled with pain, bitterness, even despair. But later you find your songs contain beauty, peace, a greater capacity for love and compassion. You and grief — together — begin to compose hope. Who’da thought?
Your grief becomes an intimate treasure, though the spaces between the grief lengthen. You no longer need to play the piano every day, or even every month. But later, when you’re 84, staring out your kitchen window on a random Tuesday morning, you welcome the sigh, the tears, the wistful pain that moves through your heart and reminds you that your child’s life mattered.
You wipe the dust off the piano and sit down to play.

Copyright: Las Vegas Review-Journal
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling and Wellness Center in Las Vegas. Contact him atskalas@reviewjournal.com.


Read this for the first time a few days ago. Parts of this analogy really resonated with me, parts of it I don't like. Mostly, I just wanted to share it with people who read my blog who are dealing with their own loss or walking with someone who is.

I have this fear that people are expecting us to be "over it" once we get through the first year or once we have another little daughter here with us. Part of that is me just hanging on to this huge heaviness in my soul and just not wanting to release it. I don't think I will ever be "normal" or my "old self" again. So, for those waiting for that, sorry.
Those things are gone to me now. I don't say that with negativity, just honesty. I am moving on into a different person. Parts of her I like, parts of her I hate.
I have lost friends, I have made new ones ones who can handle who I am now that my daughter has died and I am different. 
Hopefully not just different, but better?

The saddest part of "The Piano" was, when as a 84 yr old, you find yourself sitting down to play again through the tears. Remembering your little girl, she was YOURS, not just a baby that died or a sad thing that happened, but part of who you were and you will always grieve her, until she is handed into your arms at your arrival in Heaven. Always. 

There are no breaks, just distractions.

On days like today, the pain and sadness hit you, you remember. Remember that you forgot that you were sad. 
Forgot what you were doing this time last year and what you so badly wish you were doing this year. You wish you were someone else, anyone else, with a different life and on a different path. 
But then you stop and take a deep breath and find small glimpses of thankfulness and excitement over Heaven and the miracle inside your belly and you are convicted of comparing your life with another. 
You realize that God had all of this planned before you were born and He is still good and sovereign and He has your baby girl and He is healing you, even though it feels like you are at a stand still. 
He was, is, and will always be. 

So, He was there when you said hello a year ago and there when you said good-bye.
 He is ahead of you in time, preparing you for saying hello again. He knows how much it will hurt and also how much it will heal.
He knows how scared you are that might have to say good-bye again and He is helping you cope and handle that fear. He says, "Listen to Me."
He knows that right now, all that sounds good to your soul is to curl up and cry for a few weeks. 
He knows every thought that enters into your heart, mostly about her at random, uncontrollable times. He knows you hold back tears at her little reminders. He knows you get lost inside her pictures trying to remember what it felt like to hold her. 

He knows you are in a battle constantly trying to fight off who you want to be and who you know you need to be, the past and the present, bitterness, anger, jealousy, self-pity, etc. He has pity and compassion and comfort.
 He is not afraid of you or your sadness or the way you feel like your heart is breaking into a million pieces all over again. He is not waiting for you to be yourself again. He is molding you into a new creation. 
He cares. He remembers. He knows.

Hebrews 4:15

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses..."

 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."


Isaiah 43:18-19
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland."





  1. wow.
    poignant and beautifully stated, MM.
    will never forget your beautiful GEM.
    Can't wait to meet her someday!
    praying, so hard, for you, anyways, but esp in this early June.
    much love

  2. A hard year, a breathtakingly hard month. I don't understand, but I'm praying for you. Amy at Raisingarrows.net is a lady who knows so well... I have so appreciated her voice in her grief and I try to learn what it means to walk alongside others who have loss and deal with my own loss issues (not child related but very triggered by having a child). I loved how she said they are "not moving on, but moving forward, towards her".