People say dumb things every day.
When you are grieving, the dumb things penetrate your sensitive psyche more easily. You are already lost in space, contending with the black hole of the unwanted absence of your loved one. It takes all of your strength to navigate the simplest parts of life like getting out of bed. So when someone says something really dumb, unintentionally, or “with the best of intentions,” it is a slap in the face that you did not see coming, adding insult to your already overwhelming injury.
This is something that happened to me more than a few times after my seven-year-old son, Calder, died in 2014. He was killed in our home swimming pool due to faulty wiring on an underwater high-voltage pool light. At the time I was still in shock. When there is a death you can’t predict–like a sudden heart attack or a car accident–there is an added layer of disorientation. I remember feeling like I was coming apart and doing everything in my power to hold myself together.
A shocking call from a friend
Two months after my son’s death, a friend called me. This was my friend who also has a little boy, someone who had been to our home many times for playdates, who had gone to the Miami Children’s Museum with us so the boys could get some fun time in the firetruck. This was my friend who came to birthday parties every year. I figured I was picking up the phone because she was checking in; I was so wrong. She was actually calling to inform me that she had decided not to tell her son that Calder had died. Furthermore, she wasn’t planning to and she and her son were not going to be able to see us anymore. She wanted me to know she felt this was for “the best.”
Talk about feeling stunned. It was as if I had been slimed by her inability to process my loss. I could not identify my feelings in that moment on the phone but I knew I felt shocked, hurt and bad. Really, really bad. I felt like a marshmallow that had been jabbed with a hot poker and my insides were oozing out of my already overwhelmed body. I have no idea what I said, but we hung up and I did not see her again in person. I did, however, think about that phone call for a long time. It would pop into my mind without warning and I’d remember that hot poker feeling all over again.
Almost all grieving people hear insensitive comments
This is one story of many that happened to me during the early period of grief. Anyone grieving has at least one story like this one. People don’t know what to say to you. They say things like, “Your father is in a better place,” or “At least your sister isn’t in pain anymore.” Being clueless about grief does not mean it’s okay or that you, the griever, have to help others figure it out. Most importantly you don’t want their “ICK” to stay with you. You need to let it go for your own well-being. I have created a routine to discharge those bad feelings. This is how I release all of that from my mind and body.
I send the person to Pluto.
Yes, you read that correctly. PLUTO, one of the furthest points from earth in our solar system.
This is how to release someone to Pluto, and it’s an exercise you can also share with children who are preteen and older who are grieving.
How to release someone to Pluto
Find a quiet place, maybe in bed after you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed or as you’re falling asleep at night. One of my favorite places to do this is alone in my car in my driveway. Take three deep breaths. Breathe down deep into your belly button, letting your abdomen expand for a count of four. Then breathe out for a count of four. Do this two more times.
Then imagine the person who slimed you and all the uncomfortable feelings that were foisted upon you during that exchange and wrap both the person and the feelings in a big bubble. As the bubble expands, make sure the bubble pulls away from your body like blowing a soap bubble from a wand, only the wand is the size of a hula-hoop. While you continue to breathe in and out, send the bubble on its mission to Pluto. Watch it drift away, out above the earth and past all the other planets, through space until it gets to Pluto. Leave the bubble there. Not in an angry way, so the person is banished or hurt, let the anger go too. Just let it all drift off making sure all that insulting and negative energy is as far away as possible.
When you are sure the bubble has made its way to Pluto, breathe in the clean air around you here on earth. Visualize the air in your own bubble all around you and push the bubble out 360 degrees around your body. It’s like your own personal protection pod. When you are calm, open your eyes and wiggle your toes. Smile.
You can repeat this with the same person, or as many people as you need to. I once felt the need to send the same person to Pluto every day for a week.
Don’t worry about the person you sent to Pluto, they know how to get back. But if they attempt to slime you again, remember space is a vast place and you can send them right back to Pluto or with a gentle push, even a bit beyond.
This post first appeared in Experience Camps.Org