Mother to Mother…A Statement of Support for the Silent Grief of Ghazala Khan
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.
I told myself months ago I was not going to get involved in the political discussion surrounding this election. I wanted to, but I know I have a limited amount of time on this earth to affect change, and I will not waste it on divisive words that serve only to separate us, or accentuate our differences.
My job is to talk about rising again after we fall, finding gratitude in the beauty that remains in our life, and continuing our conversation about finding purpose and peace after loss. There is no room in the stark reality of grief for political rhetoric. And to be honest, there is a unspoken unity in loss that allows us to cross party lines and comfort one another. In all my conversations with bereaved parents all over the world, I have never asked, nor been asked about my political affiliation.
Because loss is just bigger than that. It makes no difference to me who you vote for in November, although I do hope you cast your ballot with both your head and your heart. I do hope that you take the time to understand what the nominees are offering you, and vote with what is aligned with your hopes for not only your individual future, but the future of your neighbor. Because we are more alike than different. We are all just trying to work hard, take care of our families, make memories, be happy and leave a legacy.
But I have to respond to a recent news story about bereaved parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan, who lost their brave son, Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed while courageously serving our country in Iraq.
Both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions allowed us to hear the heartbreaking stories from bereaved parents all over our country. I cried for each of them, regardless of political affiliation, and celebrated their courage to share their stories of loss on a national stage. I hope that the country was watching, because we have an opportunity to learn from them and their loss. There are lives affected by our politics and position statements, there are families standing at gravesites wondering why we can’t work together for positive change.
As a bereaved parent, you know that there isn’t even a word to describe who you are after the loss of your child. Here’s a quote that sums it up nicely.
A wife who loses a husband is called a widow.
A husband who loses a wife is called a widower.
A child who loses his parents is called an orphan.
There is no word for a parent who loses a child.
That’s how awful the loss is.
– Jay Neugeboren – 1976
At both conventions, the words were strong. They were hard to watch, and difficult to process. These parents are confronting us on a national stage and telling us that change needs to happen.
But yesterday, Mr. Trump responded to the both the strong words of Khizr Khan and the silence of his wife Ghazala. So today, I feel compelled to write in support of a fellow bereaved mother.
Here’s the quote that gutted me.
I don’t know if you saw this speech, but there was a man named Khizr Khan speaking at the Democratic Convention last night. His son, Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq. And he had some very tough questions for you. He said you wouldn’t have even let his son in America.
He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that. I saw him. He was, you know, very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me. His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that. And personally, I watched him. I wish him the best of luck.
To be completely fair, I paid a visit to Mr. Trump’s website to ensure I had a completely accurate version of his statement. You can view it here.
Mr. Trump, please understand. It is not okay for you to question the silence of a bereaved mother. It is not okay for you to subtly imply that her silence is because she is different, thinking that will strengthen your position politically. It is not okay for you to not hear the message of our military families. It is not okay for you to think that nothing is off limits to you.
I watched this couple speak just as you did, and what I saw was the depth of pain that can only be felt when you have to bury your baby. As a mother who has buried two of her children, I know this pain. I know what it is like to have to hold yourself stoically, feeling you may shatter into a million pieces.
For the first year after losing my son Stephen, I could only speak to my immediate family. Every time I would attempt to talk to anyone outside of my inner circle, I would open my mouth and cry. The pain…that is all that I could get out.
I couldn’t go to the mailbox for the first six months after Stephen died, for fear that I may run into a neighbor, and they would see that I was in shambles.
This year, on the anniversary of my son’s passing, I could not speak to anyone but my husband and son. Seven years later, the pain that sits within my broken heart coexists with the joy I choose to find each day. But sit there it does. We are bereaved mothers. We have buried our babies. There is no timeline, there is no explanation that we owe to anyone for our silence. We are carrying our children in our hearts, we are making peace each and every day with the loss of dreams, potential and promise. We work each and every day to put one foot in front of the other.
I’m sorry if we do that quietly, instead of having a unfiltered stream of consciousness and flight of ideas. We are quiet, and thoughtful. We are forever broken.
If we really want to Make America Great Again, we need to be able to sit together in that silence, in that pain. It is in that space that we can learn from our losses, and love each other instead of tearing each other down.
Sending an abundance of love to all the bereaved mothers out there,