This week, I wanted to be teasing the royal family about their new arrival, Archie, and ask if Prince Jughead was next.
Didn’t get to.
Or maybe I could be celebrating and lamenting the Colorado Avalanche season gone by, with so much accomplished on the ice and so much left to do.
Heck, at any other time, falling back on Mother’s Day would be a valid plan.
But not this week.
This week, we had it all shatter again. Death in a place that’s supposed to be safe. Violence where it shouldn’t be. A lost child celebrated for heroism when his family only wanted a graduate.
School shootings are my least favorite topic. But it’s one that keeps coming back. And it has a way of erasing everything else that crosses its path, leaving no one sure what to say.
So this time, I’m going to start by saying nothing.
It sounds unnatural, I know. When someone is grieving, we want to help. We’ve all seen it – or done it – so many times: this friend helps a hurting neighbor clean things up, that one helps get them where they need to go, and everyone brings them dinner.
It’s one of our best traits. It’s what makes us a community instead of a bunch of people that just happen to live together.
And like any good trait, it can be taken a step too far.
Because what we also try to do, so often, is tell our story.
“I had a cousin who went through the same thing …”
“Oh, my gosh, I remember when that happened to me …”
“I bet I know exactly what you’re feeling right now …”
It’s natural. It’s human.
And unless it’s invited, it’s also taking over. All of a sudden, if we’re not careful, we’re making someone a spectator to their own grief while we make it all about us.
The best help starts by listening.
It’s hard. We don’t like silences. Or unanswered questions. Or pain.
But the pain of grief lives in a sacred space, a time and a place set apart. A time and a place for the one who’s living it.
It’s a space they can fill with their memories of what happened, their need to examine the details again and find their place in it.
It’s a space they can fill with their memories of who they’ve lost, reminding themselves and the world around them of the treasure that was here.
It’s a space they can fill with their anger. With their hurt. With their uncertainty. With their need. And (with time) their hope.
And yes, it’s a space they can fill with silence when they need it.
When we enter that space, we’re not the author. We’re the audience.
That’s challenging enough when the pain is a private, local one. It becomes even more so when it’s something so public that re-opens so many of our national wounds. There are issues that have to be dealt with, alternatives that need to be discussed, policies that need to be addressed – if only because it seems like we can never get anyone talking about them at any other time.
Those are conversations we need to have as a nation. They shouldn’t be delayed.
But we still need to respect the space.
Those who are at the center of all this have their own stories, their own priorities and needs. They’ll join that conversation if and when they choose to do so. If it’s forced on them – from any side – they have every right to say “not here, not now,” just as they did at a recent vigil.
Our hearts may break at their grief. But it is their grief. We don’t own it, any more than we own the new royal baby just because Harry and Meghan let us share a piece of their joy.
“A time to keep silence and a time to speak,” the old verse goes. We have our time to speak, in abundance. And I don’t doubt we’ll fill it.
But remember the silence. Remember to listen. Remember whose story this is.
If we don’t have the words – maybe they were never ours to begin with.