One of the things that have been hard for me over the past few months is meeting new people. Adding a meet and greet to grief is like adding ammonia to bleach; it doesn’t mix and it can cause some bad reactions. I just don’t have any desire, at this point, to answer questions about my family, especially the dreaded, most common one; ‘How many children do you have?’ Of course, I know that I will always have four, so that seems easy enough, right? Not exactly. The question hardly ever stops there. It is usually accompanied by, ‘What are their ages?’ And, see, this is where it can get tricky. ‘Well, you see, my son was one age when he passed away, but he would’ve been another age now…’ It’s hard to say that. I did hear one grieving mom say that sometimes she says four and other times five, depending on her mood or what she feels like sharing on that particular day. But, that won’t work for me. I could never say three. Never, ever.
Friends who know of your situation will most likely try and be more careful. For the most part, they are purposeful with their dialogue. Although it is somewhat unreal how many times people use death in a joking context. Like the dramatic friend who says, ‘I almost died,’ or the joking wife who says ‘I just wanted to kill my husband,’ or, the one that hits closest to home, the exhausted mother who has had some rough nights and proclaims, ‘Well, everyone survived the day. I didn’t kill any kids.’ I know these are all meant in good fun, but boy can they hurt. What I would give to have Christiano causing some ruckus around here again.
But still, it is meeting new people that is the biggest challenge. Meeting new people forces me to tread on unknown territory. It feels very unsafe, like walking the tight rope with no experience. (And, believe me, I have lousy balance.) I just never know what’s going to come out of their mouths. For example, I was at an engagement recently, and there was a couple I had never met before at our table. They were nice, nice people. But, somehow the topic of pets came up, and my husband and I began to share our pet stories, also known as our pet disasters. We shared about the unexpected death of our cats, our hamster, our fish, and our lizards. Everyone was laughing, and I thought, ‘This is great. No kid talk.’ Well, that was until the gentlemen came out with this doozie, ‘Oh, boy! You haven’t killed any kids yet, have you?’ I reacted way too quickly and said, ‘Why, yes. Yes, I’ve done that, too.’ They just laughed nervously; I think they thought I was joking. I wish it was a joke. I felt bad immediately after because it was an awful reply, and they were very nice people who meant nothing by what they said. But, again, when treading in unknown territory anything can happen. I’m walking in a place unfamiliar to me and so are the people around us. The grace of God is there to carry us, but it is still difficult; for me, especially. Partly because I don’t want to run into comments like that, partly because sometimes I’m not up for sharing Christiano in an up close and personal way with others just yet, and partly because I feel like an outcast in each new place I go. And, sometimes, I even feel like an outcast among my closest friends.
This is a new feeling for me, altogether. I’ve never cared about fitting in, but by Gods grace, I have never had trouble making friends. I have always been the ‘friends with everyone’ type; not tied down to a particular group or type. If you were a person, (and if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you are) I was gonna love on you, and that was that. I am just a lover of people – newborns, infants, children, tweens, teens, young adults, grown-ups – just people of any age. To go from being extremely in love with people to a sort of protective isolation has been traumatizing for me, in and of itself. There are many times I don’t feel like I fit anywhere anymore, and that’s so different for me. I’m not saying I was ever the most popular person – popularity doesn’t even appeal to me – but I could fit anywhere before. If friends of mine felt like they couldn’t fit I always just told them to put themselves out there. So cliche, right. But, now I see that it’s not always that easy. I’ve learned a lot in that way. So many preachers say things like, ‘If you want to be happy, just BE happy.’ I wish it were that simple.
The positive side of not fitting in with people is that I’m finding myself in Christ. Just as I’ve had to find who God is during this time of grief, I’ve also had to allow Him to find me. No more hiding behind a fake smile, or phoning a friend before going to Him. And, He has been there to define both, Himself and me. My prayer is that I can learn to fit again, but by his shaping and molding, not my own and not anyone else’s.
Picture a fisher-price shape sorter. It’s a cube with all different shapes cut out of it; squares, circles, ovals, triangles and stars. The toddlers job is to fit the blocks into the right spots. So many times, I’ve seen a little two year old, trying to fit a square block inside the circle cut out. But, it just doesn’t fit. And, so often, that is us. Trying to conform to the pattern or shape that wasn’t made for us. Trying to walk like someone else, trying to act, talk or be like someone that God never called for us to be. As I write this now, I wish I wasn’t a grieving mother, that losing a child wasn’t part of my identity. But, it is. What is that thing you wish you weren’t? Or, maybe it’s something you wish you were. The best people we can be is exactly who God made us; to let Him be our shape sorter; to let Him make us fit.