I’m not typically a ranter, but I had a rant this week and it was necessary. This was a Facebook post written out of anger, frustration and helplessness for what others think and say about how grievers may choose to grieve and learn to live again. We need some child loss literacy training in our culture. This isn’t just about me, but more about what I’ve heard from this community of Mom’s. From the messages and responses I’ve received, it has hit a chord. Please share! It won’t help anyone sitting in your in-box.
” This needed to be said.”- MGL
Our western culture is so incredibly grief illiterate. Why, oh why do people feel the need to judge your grief walk?
Do they think a parent who has outlived their child needs to feel judged by “on-lookers” on top of everything else they are going through?
Do they think they have ANY idea what living with “this” is like or that they have a right to judge how any of us choose to grieve and continue to live?
Do they think that after 8, 12, 18 or 1000 months that we miss our child any less, get “over it” or “move on” ? Do they think the pain just stops?
WE DON’T, WE’RE NOT AND IT DOESN’T
We will never be over it, but by the Grace and Strength of God, we will learn to carry it, we will learn to tolerate it and some of us will even figure out how to thrive in spite of it. What strength, what blessing, what accomplishment to be able to do such a thing! Don’t take that away from us.
Grief becomes a part of our very being, our companion, just as the child we are grieving WILL ALWAYS BE a part of who we are. They are inseparable. You can’t take it away any more than you can take the LOVE for our child away! Don’t be ridiculous!
“I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures. …We tell the story to get them back, to capture the traces of footfalls through the snow.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship
“Grief is love turned into an eternal missing”
― Rosamund Lupton, Sister
We have learned to VALUE WHAT REALLY MATTERS LIKE OTHERS MAY NEVER BE ABLE TO DO. We don’t need anyone to teach us the ephemeral nature of materialism and the things of this world. We’ve had a crash course. It is a unique and exclusive perspective we have. It’s freeing in a way to have this knowledge. A small freedom we get to experience in this new and awful place.
We love SO MUCH MORE DEEPLY and our hearts break so much more easily but that is who we are now! Stop thinking it’s WRONG or WEAK! Fragile and weak are not the same thing! We are NOT weak, we are the strongest and most enduring people you will know.
We also see beauty in the mundane and hear music in the silence. It can make us smile in reflection and yet a single note or the simplest task can bring us to our knees. Stop trying to take that awful, yet beautiful sensitivity away from us by thinking you can fix what CANNOT BE FIXED.
Some parents will achieve and do amazing things despite what’s happened and some won’t. Both parents are super-human, achievements aside, because they have simply chosen to go on in any form!
“It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on, coughing and searching, and finding.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
PLEASE DON’T ASSUME TO KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR A GRIEVER. Chances are they are doing the best they can, and that’s enough. We will all do it differently so there is no right or wrong.
“But when I do feel all the strength go out of me, and I fall to my knees beside the table and I think I cry, then, or at least I want to, and everything inside me screams for just one more kiss, one more word, one more glance, one more.”
― Veronica Roth, Allegiant
Their old self and life will never be the same again and likely will never look the same to them or to you. But that is OK because…
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT “THIS” IS AND YOUR PERSONAL STANDARDS FOR OUR LIVES DON’T MATTER.
Want to know what you CAN do?
Sit with them and BE. TELL THEM THEY ARE DOING GREAT because if they are breathing, if they have begun to find a new normal, they are doing better than many.
If you tell them you will be there for them, then BE THERE AND DONT LEAVE THEM! And I don’t mean just physically. There are many ways to “be there” for a long time with very little effort on your part. If you can’t stay by their side, than DON’T TELL THEM YOU WILL! They will suffer many additional losses. Don’t YOU be another one.
Pray for them and WITH them because they won’t be able to find the words themselves for a long time. They may not even be able to find their God for a long time.
“He is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen and it’s not about his face, but the life force I can see in him. It’s the smile and the pure promise of everything he has to offer. Like he’s saying, ‘Here I am world, are you ready for so much passion and beauty and goodness and love and every other word that should be in the dictionary under the word life?’ Except this boy is dead, and the unnaturalness of it makes me want to pull my hair out … It makes me want to yell at the God that I wish I didn’t believe in. For hogging him all to himself. I want to say, ‘You greedy God. Give him back. I needed him here.”
― Melina Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road
Don’t say “I don’t know what to say or do” . That’s an excuse, and not even a good one. There are amazing informational and thoughtful blogs and books out there to help you know what to say and do.
LOVE THEM ENOUGH TO LEARN ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THEM! This is huge. Don’t just say “I wish there was something I could do”, actually do it by learning about this. It could save their life one day. Seriously.
Stand with those devastated by tragedy. Remind them that they are not alone with your presence. This saves lives. – Tim Lawrence
HAVE THE COURAGE TO ASK how they are doing and sit long enough to hear the answer. I am so incredibly blessed to have people in my life who still do this for me. (Anchor Friends, Soul Sisters, Sister-in-laws)
LET THEM CRY. WAIT FOR THEM TO SPEAK. HEAR THEM. Putting words to this is so hard and can take some time. They need to know someone hears them. Be gentle please. SAY NOTHING IF YOU AREN’T SURE. It’s ok. Being there in silence can be more powerful than any words you may find.
Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.-David Augsburger
Imagine an hour feeling like a week and a month feeling like a year and NEVER, ever even imply a time line on a parent who has buried their child.
SAY THE CHILDS NAME. REMEMBER THEM, SHARE YOUR STORIES OF THEM. Trust me, you are not ‘reminding’ us of our child. We don’t need reminding. We DO need to have them remembered, though.
There was nothing more devastating to me than our first Thanksgiving after we lost Aiden, and nobody spoke his name. Not once. It felt like I had lost him all over again.
But do not judge.
Below are some eye opening facts about the impact of child loss on the health and well being of the parent. Support, rather than unrealistic expectations or judgement, can lengthen and enhance a life that has been forever altered. Excerpts from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
Research on the impact of bereavement as a trauma has emphasized significant negative psychological and health outcomes.
Li, Laursen, Precht, Olsen, and Mortensen (2005) found that bereaved parents, especially mothers, were at increased risk for a first psychiatric hospitalization as compared with nonbereaved parents. In fact, maternal risk of hospitalization remained significantly elevated 5 years or more after the death.
Using Danish national registries, these investigators also found that mortality rates were higher among bereaved than nonbereaved parents, particularly for deaths due to unnatural causes (e.g., accidents and suicide) within the first 3 years after the child’s death (Li, Precht, Mortensen, & Olson, 2003).
Bereavement was associated with long-term mortality due to illness (e.g., cancer) for the mothers, presumably because of stress, a weakened immune system, or poor health behaviors (e.g., smoking, alcohol consumption).
One study indicated that the divorce rates among bereaved parents are as much as eight times the norm (Lehman, Wortman, & Williams, 1987).
Grief has been described as the loss of an “assumptive world,” in that the generalized sense of predictability and stability of the world has been challenged (Emmons, Colby, & Kaiser, 1998; Gilbert, 1997). Accordingly, clinical approaches have emphasized the need to help the survivor find meaning and a sense of purpose for both the deceased’s life and his or her own life in order to regain a sense of well-being (Klass, 1999).