Hopefully, you’ll never need them. More after the cut.
- Child Loss Help Be sure to check the article on what not to say. I think it is helpful for those of us who are trying the help and for parents, so that parents have an idea what to expect.
- Teaching Others About Our Grief by Sandy Fox, author of “I Have No Intention of Saying Good-Bye”
- Loss of a Child @ Peoples Health
- Ways to Comfort a Grieving Parent
- The Unthinkable Grief – – Death of a Child and the Impact of Grief on a Marriage Eina was (is?) terrified that she lose Jack to this tragedy, too. I had read somewhere that couples do stay together after the loss of a child, but now I have a reference.
- Grief Support: The Don’ts
I don’t necessarily agree with all of these.
- Don’t try to make the grieving person feel better. YOU CANNOT. For many grievers it only serves to make them feel guilty or worse. Grievers MUST experience the pain of grief for healing to ultimately occur.
True, but … Well, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do things that will help a grieving person feel better for a bit; distract them. Right after Diego died, I bought a bunch of magazines and brought them to Eina. I would have done the same for Jack, but I didn’t know what to buy for him. And he was functioning enough to buy scifi books for himself. Anyway, I just left the magazines on the coffee table. Eina like them and asked for more. I also printed out some information on losing a child, probably from the SUDC site and left it in the bathroom. I didn’t say a word about doing either things when I did them. I figured if they wanted to tear the literature or the magazines to shreds instead of reading them, great, or if they just weren’t up to reading anything, well, then the stuff was there when they were. Several days after I left the literature, both Jack and Eina said that it was helpful.
Not all of my efforts were successful. Eina wasn’t eating or sleeping or bathing or doing much of anything, so I dragged her, Jack, and Vivian to a Starbucks. Big mistake. It was too soon, and Diego loved cafés. I think if I had waited longer, it would have worked. We would have been able to go to the café and remember Diego, talk about him, and feel his presence. When I tried, all we felt was his absence. 😦 However, Jack and Eina, later, appreciated the effort, and it did help us remember Diego.
- Don’t tell the griever to give it time. Time has stopped for the griever. Life proceeds in slow motion. Life is too surreal to be identified with time.
This is especially true if the person has lost a child. Well, that’s what I’ve read, and as an aunt who lost a child, I don’t see how time will heal this wound. A child’s absence is a gaping, sucking, streaming, painful wound. If you have ever been in an enormous amount of pain, physical or emotional, that is the only thing that is real at that moment. The rest of the world is blotted out.
- Don’t try to divert the griever’s attention away from their pain by talking about something else. If you do, when you exit their presence, the reality will generally hit all the harder. Also, it may seem to the grieving that you are uncomfortable with them talking to you about their grief. If they sense this, they will alienate themselves from you.
I don’t know that I agree with this. Well, I do agree with it in for the first weeks, but after that, I disagree. I mean, if they are talking about the pain and grief, let them talk, and this applies forever. And tell them that they can say anything to you, like you are a cup to pour their grief, anger, fear, pain, rage, sadness into, a cup that will never fill up. It also helps if you share your terrible thoughts. For example, I’m angry with my loser, drug addict, high school dropout, can’t keep a job, stupid nephew, who has a darling 10 year old son. He’s a terrible father. I’m angry that his son is healthy and alive and that Diego is dead. I don’t think I can stand to be in the same room with loser-nephew. When I told Eina this, (I think) she truly believed that she could say anything to me. I don’t want Anthony dead, and I know life is unfair, but fuck that. I don’t have to be reasonable, and parents who have lost a child, most certainly, don’t have to be reasonable.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died by name. If it makes you uncomfortable, it may want to assess your preparedness for helping. To recover from grief, the griever must have a realistic picture of the dead.
I agree with the first part. In addition, a child who has died is a complete person. That doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about your expectations for what might have been or how much the child would have liked this or that. It’s also okay to talk about things that make you cry and to cry with the parent.
I don’t know if I agree with To recover from grief, the griever must have a realistic picture of the dead. First off, that “to recover” bit doesn’t make sense to a parent who has just lost a child. I suppose I might be too rigid with my definition of recover, but especially in the early days, it’s not a good expectation to even think that the parent can grasp how she or he will go on living much less recover. Secondly, “realistic picture of the dead” bothers me, too. Maybe that is one of the differences in losing a child. I reject this idea. I don’t want to remember Diego as dead or as he was when the sheriff’s deputies took him away or how he looked in the coffin. I want to remember him pounding down the hallway in the morning, eager to greet the day. I know he isn’t going to ever do that again. I don’t care. That’s what I want. Is that the realistic picture: the knowing that he won’t do it ever again? Well, that sucks.
- Don’t be frightened by tears…the griever’s or your own. Tears are apertures of release and help the griever express their sorrow in healthy ways with your presence as a cushion of warmth and empathy.
It is a good thing if you cry with a grieving parent.
- Don’t be concerned about saying the right things. Let the grieving person talk. Just listen and encourage their talking. Your presence is more meaningful than anything you can say.
In addition, let them know that you are a safe person. They can say anything to you w/o fear of judgment. And tell them that they can say it over and over.
- Don’t argue with grieving individuals. Instead, reassure. You may hear statements such as, “I wish I had done this or had been more considerate” and so forth. Reassure them that they did what they could have done at the time not knowing _______ (name of deceased) would die when he/she did.
I dunno about this one. Eina went on and on about how she was a terrible parent. At first, I did reassure her that she had done everything she could have and that she is a good parent, but at a certain point, I told her to just stop it. I did this because at this point, she was hurting herself, like someone who cuts. I don’t know that she was avoiding her grief or trying to feel anything besides the grief, but that’s what it seemed like to me. Did she stop doing it? No. Does this seem like a contradiction to my saying that the parent can say anything to me and say it over and over? It does to me. Was I right to do it? I hope so; I sure would have stopped her if she was slicing her arm with a razor or gouging her face with a pair of tweezers.
- Don’t use euphemisms and flowery language. Generally, it only makes the situation seem more artificial and unreal. For example, don’t say “passed away” or “expired” when you mean “died.” The griever need to hear “dead.”
- Don’t be afraid of silence. Silence on the helpers part show that you do not have all the answers and do not feel the need to pretend that you do. Furthermore, it gives grievers time to process thought and express feelings.
- Don’t make general statements of help such as “If you need me, give me a call.” Chances that they will call are almost nil. Instead, be specific. For example, tell them about a group support group being conducted in their area; or tell them you will stop by next week to see if there is some housework you can help them with; or ask if you can bring dinner by tomorrow.
I disagree. I mean, do both. Tell them that they can call, any time, and that you will be there. But you better be there! Also, call them. If they don’t answer, leave a message and call again. They may not be there, but they may just not be able to answer the phone. Tell them you are thinking of them and that you love them and that you will call again.
As for the stop by to see “if” they need help or “if” you can bring dinner, I recommend being more forceful. Say, “I’ll bring a dinner. How’s Thursday?” Or “I’ll be by on Friday.” When you get there on Friday, you can do housework or sit with your friend or whatever seems right.
- Don’t isolate grievers. Don’t cut your conversation or visit short because you are uncomfortable or because you are too busy. (Never look at your watch or the clock in their presence). Be ready with gentle words and a listening ear. Your sincerity and concern is the best proof to the griever that he/she still has resources to draw from.
- Don’t become impatient. Many grievers ramble on and on and repeat themselves in their shock and confusion. Supporting with patience, empathy and compassion reveals your care.
- Don’t be judgmental or rejecting. Grievers are hurting badly. They do not need your judgments and abandonment at this difficult time in their lives.
I think I covered those things, and I agree with them.
- Don’t tell grieving people you know how they feel. YOU DON’T. Even though many helpers have also experienced loss due to death, each experience is different and felt differently. Your pain is never someone else’s pain.
- Don’t let your own needs determine the experience for the griever.
Hopefully, you can separate them. I hope I did, but … well … I tried.
- Don’t push the bereaved into new relationships before they are ready. They will let you know when they are open to new experiences.
Did I mention that I did this? They forgave me. You will know if you do this, and you will feel terrible, but let it go and keep being there for them.
- Don’t impose your value system on the bereaved. Your beliefs or ways of doing things may not be theirs.
Yeah, if you say, “He’s with God now.” be prepared to be told to fuck off.
Eina did ask me what I thought happened after death, and I told her what I would like to believe because that is more hopeful than what I actually believe. I think when we die that we are over, just like a blade of grass when it is pulled from a crack in the concrete. But I’d like to believe that we return to the Goddess where we rest until we are ready to return in our next life. Maybe the blade of grass does, too. I told Eina that because Diego has such a good life that I thought he would be ready to return soon. I think if I were to do it over, I’d leave that part out. It would be hard for me to think of one of my children returning to live with someone else. Live and learn.
I asked her what she thought, and she wasn’t sure.
I should have told her about the night DH’s father died. I didn’t know he had died. I dreamed that a man came into the bedroom with me and Chunguita. He wanted to see Chunguita (4 months old). I didn’t know him, so I was frantic to get between him and Chunguita. He left or I woke; I dunno which. Months later, I saw an old movie of DH’s father when he was in his 30s. That was the man who had come into our bedroom. It was so freaky, and I felt bad that I didn’t let him see Chunguita. But I would do anything to protect my children from danger or pain. I decided it was like he had come to say good-bye, and while I still think we stop, I’m not so sure since that happened.
- Don’t elaborate on your personal experiences of loss to the bereaved.
Again, I dunno. The most helpful thing (I think) was that we called my brother’s friend who had lost a child. I don’t know what they said to each other, the friend and the friend’s wife to Jack & Eina. It wasn’t my place to intrude on that.
- Don’t let the griever forget their children’s grief and special needs during this time.
I don’t know how you do this in the beginning when the dead person is a child. Yes, siblings need help, and it would be great if it came from their parents, but it may not be possible at first. You can help by remembering the other children yourself and doing what you can there.
- Don’t be afraid to touch, hold, hug (etc.) the griever. The feelings generated is worth more than a thousand words.
Yes. I’m never going to forget how I felt when Beth held me. She gave freely and let me choose when to break it off. Thank you Beth.