Platitudes Are Bullshit
One of the great things about starting Grieving Dads Project is the ability to help others through this nightmare. I know my blog posts have become less and less over the years, but that’s because I feel like I’ve said almost everything I had to say through this blog and through my book.
I feel like I’ve laid everything out on the table for the world to see as a result of me lowering my guard and allowing others to see the pain that I carried inside. I was brutally honest and transparent, which helped me get a lot of the bad stuff out of all of the dark corners in my head.
However, that doesn’t mean everything has been swept clean, far from it. There are still times that something new pops into my head. A topic that I think others will connect to or find value in. Today’s post came for a fellow grieving dad who was kind enough to send me an email about an article that he recently read. The article was written by Tim Lawrence and was posted on his website called “The Adversity Within: Shining Light on Dark Places”.
The article is called “Everything Doesn’t Happen for a Reason”. I know all of us have heard this statement from others at some point along our grief journey. Although there was a time I tried to justify why I lost my children, but I couldn’t find a reason. I blamed it on myself for not being a good person. Maybe it was payback for something I did in my life. Maybe I was supposed to learn a lesson. Maybe it was supposed to happen because I was meant to write my book and help others. I now know that all of the questioning is bullshit. I’ve come to the realization that bad stuff just happens, that’s just the way it is.
There are a couple of lines in the article that I can really relate to, one is “Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried” and the other one is “In the nothingness, they did everything.”
Read the article and let me know what you think.
Here is a snippet of the article for you to ponder before you read the article in its entirety, which I encourage you to do.
So if anyone tells you some form of get over it, move on, or rise above, you can let them go.
If anyone avoids you amidst loss, or pretends like it didn’t happen, or disappears from your life, you can let them go.
If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go.
Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit.
Photo Credit: StarksMedia13 via Compfight cc
Kelly, thanks for posting this article and blog. Best thing I have read in awhile. BTW, I hate hearing the religious platitudes also.
My 26 year old daughter has been dying of an illness for which there is no cure only premature death. Melissa has been like this since the age of 17 where this illness stole what little body functions she had left.Her death was to come quick due to her deturation yet here we are 9 years later and Melissa is still with us as only a human shell.
Oh yes I have heard all the move on , get on with your life, so on and so on now I have finally gotten to the point where my life is no longer useless and have excepted that one day I will loose ,my only child for there is no turning back for the fact is Melissa may even out live me.
It took my 5 years before I excepted the fact that she was dying and that I had to make funeral arrangements for her. I am now at peace am able to move on with my life, the day Melissa dies well I will deal with my feelings then. It has been a long road and I have read many stories in your book and many articles have helped me to move on.
In closing, it doesn’t matter what people say, they are only trying to help but it is You,yourself who must go on for this is what your child would want for you to do.
I will end my story there for I could wright a book on what Melissa has been through in her short time on this earth. Go in peace and my God Bless.
Dad of a dying child.
So sorry Rudy for your road of suffering and do whats best for you. There is many layers of your kind of death with your daughter that I know nothing about. My daughter was gone in a instant. Thank you for sharing a aspect of whats going on for yourself… it make me look at things on your side and know anothers pain- take care one step at a time.
Out in the country
A friend recently sent me a link to this article and I completely agree. It’s a great article and that particular phrase has always really pissed me off.
Kelly- I think Tim Lawrence’s article rocks! Thanks to him for writing it and to you Kelly for sharing it and creating awareness to our culture of “grief avoidance”. Still though.. I have plenty of these platitudes told to me and it still hurts. One can’t completely remove them if they are your family?? its brutally painful but it is so lonely to be in a room of family when not a one asks you how your are really doing or what’s going on in your life or mentioning your child’s name. It feels empty. Reading blogs like this helps dissipate the pain.
Hi Nancy, Sorry to hear you are going through this. We had some family members who had real trouble figuring out how to deal with my wife and I and the new people we were after we lost our daughter. Although I’m not saying it will work for you, or that it is the right approach for you, we just kept including Kate in our conversations as a normal part of our conversations and were very direct about how we were feeling at any given time. Our other kids always include her and always have, and by making it clear that we are not only ok with her being mentioned we actively encourage it, our family has become used to it, and used have come around about understanding that some days are just rough, even 5 years down the track. I know this puts all the pressure on you, but I hope this might help.
Wishing you all the peace you are able to find
Today I had to discuss suicide to my 8th grade class as part of a social/emotional class we teach every Tuesday. My only son was murdered two years ago by a man who then committed suicide. I thought I was going to be ok. I was not. I broke down in front of my class and could not finish the lesson. Fortunately for me, and in the midst of my grief, these young teenagers provided me solace through their empathy and consoling. In some ways I felt like I failed today, but then this article pops up in my email, and I know it’s just grief. I will never be ok again, and now accept that. Before, I was always smiling and laughing, like my son…now those seldom come and are sometimes forced. I survive day to day by staying busy and committing myself to my teaching and my students. There are days where my grief hides in the back of my mind, and normalcy almost returns, but then something like what happened today brings it right to the front. So, tonight my mind is on my son…pictures…listening to his music…and wondering “why” for the millionth time. I am not ok, but I know I will survive. Thank you for this article and the timing when I needed it.
wgreenlee – I am sorry to hear that you had such a rough day, but happy that your students were there for you in your moment of pain. You didn’t fail, you are mourning the loss of your son and that doesn’t happen quickly. Our society thinks its to long, but as someone that have been through a loss of a child, its just part of the journey.
Glad to hear the article helped you take a deep breath and realize your are not “failing” at this grief things. In fact, your ability to show you emotions to your class and allow them to console you tells me that you are in fact in the “healing” phase.
Hell, the other day I was talking to someone that had to put their dog to sleep and we got to talking about the movie Marley and Me where he has to say goodbye to his dog. I started to weep just talking about that scene. Motions come and go, but the recovery gets a lot quicker.
When I first read the title to this post, I had to stop and giggle. Some time ago, my wife and I discovered the BBC series, Broadchurch. (For some reason, stories that involve the death of a child catch my interest these days… Sadly, this involves the murder of a teenage boy.) When arguing with her boss, one of the main characters, Ellie Miller, stated one of the best lines I’ve ever heard on television: “Oh brilliant. Thanks for that shitty platitude. That’s fixed everything!” My wife and I could completely relate as we continue to walk our grief journey, so we backed up the video to ensure we remembered it correctly.
Tim Lawrence’s article is very well written. When I think about it, I have not been overly exposed to “shitty platitudes” since my son’s death nearly five years ago. There have been a few instances when someone has misspoken, but in general, others have been kind (or somehow I instantly “let them go” as Tim Lawrence suggests and quickly forgot what was said). For me, one of the greatest challenges has been what I tell myself. I try to believe that my son’s life AND death have made me a better man. His life enriched everyone who knew him. His death left a void for many, and it has given me a unique perspective on my life, my relationships, and my faith. When my son was diagnosed with cancer, I tried hard to find the life lessons. I tried hard to trust that God knew what He was doing. After his death, I finally hit the wall, and I discovered a place where I have never felt more close nor more distant from God – all at the same time. Not much really makes sense about it all, but I am learning that life can be lived again (albeit a different one than what I had planned).
One thing I know for sure is that I am trying to change what I say to others who are grieving. I know I am not immune to passing along shitty platitudes. I want to be like those Tim Lawrence describes: “The ones who helped—the only ones who helped—were those who were there. And said *nothing*.” I have always wanted to know the “right thing to say” in every situation. Now, I see greater strength in merely shutting up and being present.
Thanks for sharing this, Kelly.
Dear Tim — I lost my 26-year-old son two and a half years ago and your comments reflect my own experience. I tell people, “I learned more about life from the death of my son than I learned in the preceding 60 years.” I know you understand what I’m saying, Tim. One of the “positive” outcomes of my son’s passing has been the acceptance that I either have to work every day at being happy or else the grief will literally kill me. I must choose life because of my responsibilities to other family members, so my quest for happiness is not a choice but an obligation. I liked what you said about, “I have never felt more close nor more distant from God – all at the same time.” This reminds me of what I read in a good book I just finished called “Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness” by Sharon Salzberg, a veteran teacher of Buddhist meditation who experienced significant loss early in her life. She points out that the Buddha taught that sorrow and joy exist in the same heart at the same time and by accepting this and connecting with both, we become whole. I am not a Buddhist per se, but I find truth in many different “religious” traditions. My faith in God very nearly abandoned me in the wake of my son’s death but through some miracle I have gradually reclaimed it. After all, according to many Christian traditions God himself lost his son, as did Lincoln, Shakespeare, J.S. Bach and countless other highly accomplished mortals. Thanks for your comments, Tim. They are the opposite of the “platitudes” addressed in today’s post, which, by the way, I don’t hold against people who don’t know any better, since by no stretch would I wish for them the tsunami of awareness that engulfed me in the wake of my son’s passing.
Agreed. Every time I hear someone say “it happened for a reason”, I personally invite that person to show me where the silver lining is. I haven’t found it.
Thanks for sharing it Kevin, keep them coming. Peace!