Tag Archives: grief

8 Ways to Help a Grieving Parent (and 3 Don’ts)

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The 15th is Pregnancy/Infant Loss Awareness Day.

I thought about not writing anything since I’ve already written a couple of posts on my losses (HERE & HERE), but since its something I’ll never likely ever forget, I don’t see a problem with posting something again.  My losses- my kids that went to Heaven- they’re a part of me and they always will be.  Regardless of if everyone else has forgotten about them and figured I should have already moved on, I haven’t and I won’t ever “move on”.  That’s like telling an amputee,”Oh, come on- aren’t you over it yet?  Suck it up.”  People would look at you like you were insane or, at the very least, insensitive beyond belief, but for whatever reason, when you lose a child, you’re expected to learn to “deal with it” even sooner than someone who’s lost a limb.  Why do we accept the difficulties that come with learning to cope with the loss of a body part, but we give a time limit on how long it takes to get over losing a part of your heart and soul?

Every single day I wish I wasn’t a part of this club.  I think about my boys all the time ( I knew the gender of one, and -considering I have all boys now- I’m just going to guess that the other was a boy, too), and, years later, it can still feel as fresh as when I heard the doctor say,”I’m sorry, but I can’t find a heartbeat.”

Yeah, I know that there’s some that will point out that if I had the ones I lost, I wouldn’t have the ones I have now, but can I tell you something?  Telling me that doesn’t help- if anything, it can make me feel even more guilty. (Mom guilt is a real thing and it sucks.)  Besides, I’m a mom- I can multitask.  I can be thankful for what I have and grieve the ones I lost- AT THE SAME TIME.

I know.  Mind.  Blown.

The funny thing about the comments well-meaning individuals will say after you’ve lost a child (or anyone, for that matter) is that, most of the time, they aren’t very helpful.  So, in honor of this month, I’m going to give you a list of things you can say (and do) when someone has lost the most important thing to them in this world:

  1. “I’m so sorry.”  Simple.  Straight forward.  No frills.  No BS.  Timeless.  Its like the Little Black Dress of consoling phrases.
  2. “I’m here for you.”  And then ACTUALLY be there for them.  They need you.  Whether its a shoulder to cry on, someone to vent to, or to just sit in silence to not feel alone, they need you.
  3. “I love you.”  I’m not talking about professing your undying love and devotion during their time of grief- I’m talking about letting them know that they’re loved, even when they might be unlovable and pushing you away because they just want to hide away from the world.
  4.  “Is there anything I can do to help you out?”  And then, like #2, follow through.
  5.  “I’m bringing you dinner- what do you want?” They might say they aren’t hungry.  That’s ok.  Bring them a freezer meal (in a container they don’t need to worry about getting back to you).  They will be at some point.  Studies have shown that humans need food to survive.
  6.  “Do you want company?” Be ready to visit them if they say yes.  Don’t just say it.  If you aren’t able to, don’t offer.
  7.  If their child was out of the womb when he/she died, share memories of things you loved about him/her.  Don’t shy away from mentioning the loss.  Their child was real and alive and breathing and a part of their world.  Their child was there, and then one day, they just weren’t.  They’re feeling that loss.  Don’t ignore it.
  8.  Buy them a gift card for dinner for them to go out once they’re ready to leave the house.  A freezer full of meals is nice, but the ability to leave the place where all the memories are- words can’t express how much that meant to my hubby and I.  The loss of a kiddo- no matter how old- is hard on a marriage.  I dare say, it could be the hardest thing your marriage can go through.  A date night away to be a couple again where you aren’t surrounded by ghosts, well, its more important than you could ever realize, unless you’ve been there.

I need to point out that these suggestions can be combined in any number of ways.  Do some, all- the possibilities are endless.

Ok, mathematically, maybe not, but you get the point.  Also, grief isn’t a timeline with a point A and a point B.  A lot of people will stop checking in on them after a while (because those people feel the parents might have “gotten over it” by now), but, the thing is, that’s when things tend to get a little lonely and when you should make an effort to check in.  See how they’re doing.  Let them know you’re thinking about them.

Things NOT to say and do:

  1.  Don’t say,”He/she is in a better place now.”  Sure they are, but I wanted him here.  Are you telling me that being with me WASN’T a good place?
  2.  Don’t say,”Everything happens for a reason.”  No.  Just, no.  Now is not the time to wax philosophical.  If you say this, be ready to be slapped and watch them say,”Do you know the reason I did that?”
  3.  And, finally, do not- under any circumstance- contact them or attempt to go over there if you can’t keep yourself together.  Their loss is not about you.  This situation is not yours.  I don’t care if you’re the grandparent- it wasn’t your child so you don’t have a CLUE what they’re feeling.  They don’t need to be trying to console you and keep you together when they’re feeling lost and confused and falling apart themselves.   If you love them, get a straw, suck it up, and keep it under control.  They need you to be the calm in the middle of their hurricane.  To do anything else is selfish on your part.  Its ok to shed tears with them, but when it reaches a point where they’re telling YOU that its going to be ok, there’s something wrong there.

These are just my thoughts on it all, but considering I’m speaking from experience, I think I’m a pretty reliable source.

In closing, if you’re readng this and you’ve lost a child, my heart goes out to you.  As a nation, we only recogize the heartache bereaved parents go through for 1 month out of the year, but I know that you don’t just feel that empty feeling during October.  I wish there was more I could do than just offer up kind words, but I also know that unless I could give you back that piece of your heart you lost, there really isn’t much more I could do.

But, boy, do I wish I could give that to you.

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Its been 6 years…

Grief

Grief: n. noun; 1.  keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.  2.  a cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow.

Loss: n. noun; 1.  The fact or process of losing something or someone. 2. The state or feeling of grief when deprived of something or someone of value.  3. A person or thing that is badly missed when lost.

My own definition: Grief: 1.  something that can sneak up on you anywhere, at anytime from anything and has the power to hit you like a Mac Truck going 1000 miles an hour.

Grief is a strange thing, and the things we can do to ride the waves can be even stranger to anyone not experiencing our particular grief.  The two definitions I gave don’t say a single thing about time limits or how people should react to each, but it astounds me sometimes how people who’ve never been through it will interpret each one.  It also blows me away how people will unintentionally give values to that which was lost, even though those same definitions don’t state that the person or thing of value that was lost must have any particular value to anyone else.

6 years ago, at 12:10 a.m., I said “Goodbye for now” to my son, Christopher Scott.  He was 15 weeks along when he passed, though I didn’t find out until I went to an appointment at 19 weeks.  Initially, everyone gave their condolences and was there for my husband and I, but -like most people who’ve never encountered this situation themselves- they gave our grief a timeline and a value.  I was told things like,”He’s happy and whole in Heaven now” and “At least it happened before you got a chance to get to know him” and-

Actually, no.  Let’s stop at that one for a moment, shall we?

Have you ever been pregnant?  Even if it was a surprise pregnancy, tell me that you didn’t envision his or her future.  Tell me you didn’t talk to him or her.  Tell me- if you have other kids- that you didn’t wonder what features they would all share and picture them all playing together.

You KNEW them.  You knew that at a certain time every single day you’d get sick, and you’d joke that your little bean was already putting you through the ringer and promise them that you’d pay them back.  You knew every poke and prod and eventually could pinpoint what part of their body was working to break your rib.  You knew when their witching hour was and wondered if it would be the same once they were born.

You KNEW them.

I knew my son.  I knew he’d probably look just like his 2 older brothers and that they’d probably all be wrestling before he was even walking.  I had plans for him.  I pictured his future.  So, tell me again- how was I lucky?

See, here’s where I take issue with everyone’s opinions.  Those that haven’t been in my place- or your place, or anyone’s place that has lost someone.  They think I should conform to those opinions and they make comments that either make me feel foolish or bad about my own feelings.

Its been 6 years.  Ya know what?  It still hurts and causes my heart to break all over again sometimes.  I think about our family dynamic and how he would’ve changed it; how they all would’ve gotten along.  Ya know what else?  In neither of those definitions did they give a time frame.  If you look up the 5 stages of grief, you’ll see: Denial/Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.  Do you know what it DOESN’T say?  How long someone will experience each stage.  Or what order.  Or if one of the stages will be skipped.  Or the fact that even once someone has finally reached the “Acceptance” stage, that a song might come on or a certain date will come ’round that sends them right back into the isolation or anger stage.  Or that, years later, they’re still bargaining even though their loved one is long gone- “If I could just have one more minute with him again- just one- I promise…”

Its been 6 years.  I still can’t listen to ‘London’ by Brandon Heath without remembering that I had been singing that song to him the day before I found out he’d actually passed 4 weeks prior.

Its been 6 years, but some days it feels like yesterday.

Its been 6 years, but please don’t tell me -even now- that everything happens for a reason, because I still don’t see it and I likely won’t until the day that him and I are reunited in Heaven.

Its been 6 years.  I’ve been through every single stage of grief multiple times over.  I’m sorry my grief doesn’t fit YOUR specifications.