The Ring Theory 

When tragedy hits, people often don’t know what to say or do. Some grief-stricken individuals will reassure others that saying something is better than saying nothing. I don’t agree with this, although I can understand the good intentions behind it. I think what people mean when they say “It’s better to say something, even the wrong thing, than nothing at all” is that they wish for others to acknowledge their loss, they wish for their loved one to be remembered and they don’t want that awkward “elephant in the room” feeling. However, saying the wrong thing can be devastating, even going so far as to destroy relationships. One of the best resources on this topic that I have found is this one. To summarize the ring theory “in a nutshell”: comfort in, dump out. When I apply this theory to my own situation, I place myself in the middle. Directly around me is my husband and living daughter. Surrounding them, our parents, then close friends and family, and so-on. The most important part of the theory is this:

“The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring. Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.”

I had a few people “dump in” on me, but only once did it affect me enough to destroy a relationship.

A pregnant friend (and my hired home birth midwife) disclosed to me that she had been having panic attacks since my delivery. She told me that her partner, the father of her baby, was asking her to cease communicating with me as he was concerned that the stress of my situation was affecting their baby. She was having panic attacks? My daughter died. She died. In my body. My “friend” also told me that she was grieving for my baby. She was grieving for my baby? Yes, it was valid for her to feel this way (I realize this now). BUT it was absolutely NOT ok for her to “dump in” on me.

I felt guilty. If something happened to her baby, it would be my fault. I had ruined her life by delivering a stillborn baby. I had caused her undue stress. Her stress was going to harm her baby and it would be my fault.  These are the irrational thoughts that consume someone who is grieving.

And I felt (still feel) angry. Extremely angry. Like, irrationally angry.

Crazy angry.

Our communication ended, along with our friendship.

Before our friendship ended, this is what she told me: “So much love to you, my friend. I’m holding you all in my heart every moment and I will walk with you as you put one foot in front of the other. {{{hug}}}”

That was a lie. A promise she could not keep.

Comfort IN, dump OUT.

Did you ever experience someone “dumping in” on you during your grief? How did you handle it? Did it affect your relationship?


13 thoughts on “The Ring Theory ”

  1. Omg your midwife – that was all so uncalled for… I’m sorry for all that you’ve been through with her and her inappropriate comments. I love the ring theory. Anyone who dumped in on me is gone from my life. Or if they’re still here they’ve made up for it in a big way, so I’ve been able to forgive these rare few… I wish I could remember more specifics of the dumper inners… After two years it’s kind of a blur now…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commiserating. One of the many things I’ve learned thus far is that I am way too valuable to waste my energy on people like the one I referenced. You have the right idea, dump those dumper-inners. It’s also hopeful to hear that the details have faded after a couple years. 💕


  2. That is awful for her to say to you. I know our losses scare those who are pregnant because if it happened to us, it can happen to anyone. But you are not the person she should be expressing her stress or worries about. You at the last person who needs to know she feels that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is really awful. Unfortunately, both our parents have “dumped in” big time and we are not communicating. Even after we shared the Ring Theory article with them. Our daughter, their granddaughter, Sawyer, was 22. They just felt that they shouldn’t have to change anything about how they relate to us. Someone who I thought was one of my bestie’s felt like I was the right person to listen as she described her shatter family over her daughter marrying someone who they felt was not their right choice for her. There “whole future” had changed….Barf! I did manage to get in a “you realize she is not dead?” I’m not sure where our relationship stands right now.
    Thank you for your writings. I find refuge there. I offer you refuge as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am so sorry for your loss and that you have had people “dump in.” It’s exhausting to grieve and when others behave this way it just rubs salt into the wound. Thank you for reading and commenting. I am so glad you can find something relatable here. 💕


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