Don’t Sing Songs To A Heavy Heart

I wish I could take down all of my Advent reflections from the last week.  It’s not that I don’t believe them anymore.  It’s that they feel like a slap in the face right now.  To those who are grieving, and frightened, and angry, the thought that this is a season of longing for Jesus to come back and make everything right is just too much.  At least, it’s too much for me.

Because how exactly is he going to make it alright that someone’s baby – a boy who still slept with his blankie or a girl who thought she was going to grow up to marry a pink pony – how is he going to make it okay that they wet themselves in fear before before they were shot multiple times in the face?  And please, if you think you have the answer to that question, keep it to yourself.  At least around me.

And remind yourself of these words from King Solomon:

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
    or like vinegar poured on a wound,
    is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

I don’t want to hear that you are holding your children tighter tonight – because it makes my heart break for the parents who can’t do that.

I don’t want to hear that you believe our country, or that town, or that family, will emerge from this stronger and better -because that sounds perverse to me right now.

I don’t want to hear a rant about gun control right now – because gun control won’t bring those babies back and I feel like you want to pretend like we can make this all better.

And I don’t want you to tell me not to talk about gun control right now – because guns did kill those babies, and I feel like you are more afraid that you might have to give up something you hold dear than you are about the families who will never get back what they held most dear.

Don’t tell me that you are so glad you homeschool – because that sounds like you are blaming the families for what happened to them.

And please, please don’t talk to me about how Jesus came in the dark of night, and this is a reminder of how dark things are and how much we need Jesus – because lives are not reminders.  They are lives.

Don’t try to make this make sense.  Don’t show me the silver lining.  Don’t even point me to the cross right now.  You can weep with me, and I’m sure to join you if you want to scream.  Or we could just sit and be quiet.  And pray for the grace to sit quietly some more.  And keep on doing that until we hear from God that it’s okay to do otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong; I still want Jesus to come back.  And even in the midst of this horror, I mostly believe that he will.  But I don’t want to hear that song today.

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  • Deb

    I won’t do any of the above, except rant about gun control. In fact, I think we need more voices than ever to rant about it – loudly! Of course it won’t bring those kids back, but mightn’t it help to save some other parents’ babies?

  • Daniel

    Solomon’s words are wise, and I love that you posted them, but you could have left out the rest. I have my own “don’t” for you. Don’t assume that just because someone talks about how to solve a problem after it occurs, they don’t care about it every bit as much as you do…Seriously, DON’T.

    • Tara Edelschick

      Thanks for writing, Daniel. I didn’t assume that anyone cared any less than I did, and I’m sorry if I conveyed that. What I hoped to say was that explaining and solving when people are in deep pain can add more pain. I know that people show their concern and express their pain in all kinds of ways. I just know that I felt assaulted by many of the responses to the tragedy. In my heartsickness, I may have added my own assault into the mix. Please forgive me.

  • Cee Love

    I wish this had gone unpublished. I can’t go a minute without thinking about the day time stopped. Life was snuffed out by evil and it crushed my soul and spirit along with it, but this dark, ugly, angry post isn’t helpful to anyone. You would think after the horror of what happened to those sweet little souls that nothing else would even matter, but that is exactly why I felt the need to comment. I first read this article days ago and it has been bothering me since, like a bug stuck in my throat. I actually felt worse after reading your post; which is something I didn’t think was possible. I wish I could unread your message.

    • Tara Edelschick

      I’m glad that you took the time to respond, Cee. And I’m deeply sorry that my words added more pain. I certainly didn’t intend to convey anger. I wasn’t angry about people’s responses to the tragedy as much as I was yearning for people to just let us sit with our sadness and pain. But I hear your rebuke that I did exactly what I was having a hard time with – people jumping in with advice about how we should respond. I hesitated in posting, and perhaps I was unwise to do so. Still not sure.

    • kari

      Cee, I couldn’t say it better myself. This post did nothing but make me feel worse. It is judgmental and pushy and the attitude is simply rotten. If I could unread this I would.

      • Tara Edelschick

        Again, Kari, I’m sorry for having posted something that added pain. I don’t know if it helps, but it was in part a reaction to my own posts from just before the shooting – posts that I felt came off as insensitive in light of what had happened. As I re-read it now, I hear how it sounds judgmental. That was not my intention as I wrote – but intentions are irrelevant when you say things that cause pain. I also realize that while I was not angry at people, I was very angry about what happened – and that anger came spilling out in the post. The last thing anyone caring and hurt person needs to hear is judgement and anger. Please forgive me.

  • Karen Miedrich-Luo

    Tara, I didn’t intend to comment until I read the other comments. I, too, came back and re-read this because, like Cee, it bothered me the first time a few days ago. I hear you. I hear the pain and the frustration. I know it. I lost my own five year old just before Christmas in a tragic accident in 1990. And Sandy Hook brought it all back like it was yesterday. Only worse, because there were so many, and oh the horrors. I remember the numbness – the looking at everyone else as they processed my agonies. It was the friend who sat in the corner and wept that I most remember. She didn’t try to reach out to me. She just mourned the loss of my child and it is what I needed most to see. But let me say more. A few months later, I attempted to offer “words of comfort” to a grieving friend – senseless platitudes. They were out of my mouth before I realized it and it shocked me. But I learned this. Whether callous or not, all attempts to comfort or cope are natural and normal. As different as Mary and Martha. Some need to weep, some need to question why, some need to clean the dishes. I thank you for being the one to sit with sackcloth and ashes and give voice to our grief.

    • Tara Edelschick

      Oh, Karen, I’m so sorry to hear about your child. You may have read my testimony – My first husband died when I was seven months pregnant. Ten days later, I had a stillbirth. It’s not the same as having a five-year-old die (and even if it were the same, it still wouldn’t be the same), but I understand something of having new losses re-traumatize you.

      And I thank you for your generous re-reading. As I’ve read it over myself several times today, I realize that my attempt to use the word “don’t” repeatedly to try to sketch out what it means when Proverbs says “Don’t sing songs…” ended up making the piece sound harsh and judgmental. (That among other problems.) And as you said, we all react very differently. The way people’s expressions of optimism and hope trigger me don’t do that for everyone.

      Be well this Christmas season, sister.


  • Jessica

    Thank you for this, Tara. It reminds me of what was, for a long time after my brother’s sudden, young death, the most meaningful verse for me: “Jesus wept.”. He was right there — he knew that he was about to raise Lazarus back to life momentarily, no less — and yet he wept, for the grief of those around him, and I believe out of his own grief. In the midst of sometimes feeling like there was an expectation that, as a Christian, I should somehow just be happy my brother was with Jesus — that grief somehow conveyed lack of faith on my part — those two words gave me great comfort, paired with, of course, the “your brother will rise again — do you believe this?” This post conveyed to me that same sense of what it’s like to be overcome with deep pain, and railing in the midst of it, but with hope. Thank you.

    • Tara Edelschick

      Oh, Jessica. I love what you wrote here, and I’m sure that Jesus was, and is, right there with you weeping over the death of your brother. And the Lazarus story is is one of the stories that first made me fall in love with Jesus. It’s also a big part of what Advent means to me. I don’t know if you saw the post I wrote about that, but here it is in case you missed it: Love you, sister.

  • Sharon Smith

    I just read your post for the first time, along with the following comments, and wanted to let you know how much I APPRECIATED what you wrote! The following line is what struck me the most: “Or we could just sit and be quiet. And pray for the grace to sit quietly some more. And keep on doing that until we hear from God that it’s okay to do otherwise.” It reminds me of what Job needed from his friends….and the comfort that comes in grieving together – without giving answers. Also acknowledging that everyone grieves differently. Peace to you as we continue to grieve….current and past losses.