FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
To the family and friends of Bereaved Parents...
From my own personal experience I must say that it means the world to me when I recieve cards, letters and emails out of no where, for no reason at all except that I am being thought of. To know my children are not forgotten is a big one too. And I hardly write these individuals back, but they still love me and they continue to send me pick me ups. And you all know who you are. I love you soooo very much and appreciate everything. I appreciate your patience, your caring and love. Some of these people I have never met and others I have known all my life. These acts of kindness keep me afloat, they really do...so thanks. Love you all very much.
So if you are the family or friend of a bereaved mother or father...please do this for them. Help keep them afloat. It will really mean a lot to them. A simple "I am thinking of you today" is perfect.
This is a definent emotional topic, well at least for me. The family and friends of a bereaved parent must wonder "what should I say". And although there is no exact right thing to say there are some areas to stay away from.
-Anything with your opinion on how this bereaved parent should move on is inappropriate. For example, was once told by a family member, "I think you should just start to appreciate life". That comment was like adding salt to my wounded heart. I of everyone appreciate life. I have held ALL three of my children as they have taken their lasts breaths. And NO ONE has any right to tell me how to live unless they too have done that. I still love this person with all my heart and am not mad at him, however comments like that make it difficult to converse with them.
-Do not tell them that it was "meant to be". Obviously, life has taken its course, but what was meant to be is for me hold my children forever. What was meant to be was that I should have died first.
-Do not tell them "it will eventually happen". As a couple struggling with infertility it might not happen. I know that. Sugar coating bad news doesn't make it better.
What to say:
I am so sorry. This sucks. How are you holding up? Do you need anything? Comments and statements like this show you care and show you are there to support them. Even, "I don't know what to say", will suffice. Just the fact that you are saying something means the world to us.
Be patient with bereaved parents...Although it has been some time since I lost my babies my grief seems to be getting worse. Just because time has passed does not mean that our grief is passing with it. If anything it tends to increase.
FOR BEREAVED PARENTS
What is " Normal"?
Normal is having tears waiting behind every smile when you realize someone important is missing from all the important events in your family's life.
Normal for me is trying to decide what to take to the cemetery for Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, Valentine's Day, July 4th and Easter.
Normal is feeling like you know how to act and are more comfortable with a funeral than a wedding or birthday party...yet feeling a stab of pain in your heart when you smell the flowers and see the casket.
Normal is feeling like you can't sit another minute without getting up and screaming, because you just don't like to sit through anything.
Normal is not sleeping very well because a thousand what if's & why didn't I's go through your head constantly.
Normal is reliving that day continuously through your eyes and mind, holding your head to make it go away.
Normal is having the TV on the minute I walk into the house to have noise, because the silence is deafening.
Normal is staring at every baby who looks like he is my baby's age. And then thinking of the age she would be now and not being able to imagine it. Then wondering why it is even important to imagine it, because it will never happen.
Normal is every happy event in my life always being backed up with sadness lurking close behind, because of the hole in my heart.
Normal is telling the story of your child's death as if it were an everyday, commonplace activity, and then seeing the horror in someone's eyes at how awful it sounds. And yet realizing it has become a part of my "normal".
Normal is each year coming up with the difficult task of how to honor your child's memory and her birthday and survive these days. And trying to find the balloon or flag that fit's the occasion. Happy Birthday? Not really.
Normal is my heart warming and yet sinking at the sight of something special my baby loved. Thinking how she would love it, but how she is not here to enjoy it.
Normal is having some people afraid to mention my baby.
Normal is making sure that others remember her.
Normal is after the funeral is over everyone else goes on with their lives, but we continue to grieve our loss forever.
Normal is weeks, months, and years after the initial shock, the grieving gets worse sometimes, not better.
Normal is not listening to people compare anything in their life to this loss, unless they too have lost a child. NOTHING. Even if your child is in the remotest part of the earth away from you - it doesn't compare. Losing a parent is horrible, but having to bury your own child is unnatural.
Normal is taking pills, and trying not to cry all day, because I know my mental health depends on it.
Normal is realizing I do cry everyday.
Normal is disliking jokes about death or funerals, bodies being referred to as cadavers, when you know they were once someone's loved one.
Normal is being impatient with everything and everyone, but someone stricken with grief over the loss of your child.
Normal is sitting at the computer crying, sharing how you feel with chat buddies who have also lost a child.
Normal is feeling a common bond with friends on the computer in England, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and all over the USA, but yet never having met any of them face to face.
Normal is a new friendship with another grieving mother, talking and crying together over our children and our new lives.
Normal is not listening to people make excuses for God. "God may have done this because..." I love God, I know that my baby is in Heaven, but hearing people trying to think up excuses as to why healthy babies were taken from this earth is not appreciated and makes absolutely no sense to this grieving mother.
Normal is being too tired to care if you paid the bills, cleaned the house, did laundry or if there is any food.
Normal is wondering this time whether you are going to say you have three children or two, because you will never see this person again and it is not worth explaining that my baby is in heaven. And yet when you say you have two children to avoid that problem, you feel horrible as if you have betrayed your baby.
Normal is avoiding McDonald's and Burger King playgrounds because of small, happy children that break your heart when you see them.
Normal is asking God why he took your child's life instead of yours and asking if there even is a God.
Normal is knowing I will never get over this loss, in a day or a million years.
And last of all, Normal is hiding all the things that have become "normal" for you to feel, so that everyone around you will think that you are "normal".
The younger the baby/child, the less your pain will be...
Truth: It may be true that society grants us less of a right to grieve for infants and stillborn babies, however, the truth is that the love of a parent is not contingent upon the amount of time we had with our child. Love simply cannot be measured in time. Some may try to "pro-rate" our grief. That is, if a ten-year-old dies, it is worth "x" amount of pain... if a one year old dies, it is worth "y" amount of pain... if a one day old dies, that is worth only "z" amount of pain. It seems ridiculous to bereaved parents. Consider this... Would it be easier to bury your child when you did or would it be easier to bury them one year later? It is an impossible question to answer. There is no easier time, no lesser pain. It is horrible whenever it happens.
It has been six months you should be over this...
Truth: The truth is, you will never "be over" this pain. The pain never completely leaves. We will grieve our entire lifetime for the child we should have with us. When others think we should have gotten over it by now, they are confusing the significance of the death of a child with an event of much lesser significance. You get over the loss of a job, a broken bone or a friendship gone awry. The death of a child, at any age and from any circumstance, is a life changing and tragic event that will never be forgotten. You will however, eventually learn the skills necessary to assist you in dealing with the pain. Day to day life will never be "normal" and may never feel the way it used to, but time does help to ease the pain.
Another baby is the answer to your grief...
Truth: Your deceased child's life is worthy of all the pain you feel. While another child will fill your empty, aching arms, it will never replace your other child. Allow yourself time to grieve your child. Do not rush yourself. Another baby may add more pressure on you, your surviving children, your spouse and your new child. Be cautious not to venture into an unprepared pregnancy, too soon after the death of your beloved child.
You need to forget your baby / child and move on with life...
Truth: Many people will ridicule you if; photographs of your deceased child are placed in your home, if you still attend support group meetings or if you memorialize your child years after his or her death. Your faithfulness to your child's memory is to be commended! Do not let others discourage your gift of dedication. The truth is, twenty years after the death of Elvis Presley, the whole country stops to recognize him with candlelight vigils in Grace land . The event is televised worldwide on CNN and every other news station and television station in the country. This is a completely acceptable practice which millions of Americans, young and old, partake in. Yet, the same communities would have grieving parents questioning their own sanity when they chose to participate in an event, quietly memorializing someone far more important in their life- their own child. Remember your child. Do not let others determine what is right for you. Remember and do not be ashamed!
Support Groups are for weak People...
Truth: The truth is, that the death of a child is the most isolating and lonely event in a human's life. Many grieving parents say that friends become strangers and strangers become friends. The reason for this is clear. How can any one else possibly understand the depth of this pain if they had never experienced it before? An analogy I like to use is related to weight loss. Let's say I struggled with obesity all my life and finally made a decision to do whatever I needed to lose weight and become healthy again. Courageously, I check myself into a weight loss clinic. However, the mentor and counselor assigned to help me through my struggle with weight is 110 lbs and a size three, and she has never been overweight a day in her life. How in the world is she going to understand your pain, your struggles and your fears? She never can. It is unlikely that you will even feel comfortable relating to that person. Support groups are a safe haven for parents to go and share the deepest of their pain with others who have experienced the same feelings. Many support groups are full of strong and compassionate people who are dedicated to helping newly bereaved parents find hope and peace in their life.
You will soon be yourself again...
Truth: The truth is, you probably died with your child. You may have remnant pieces of the former self remaining; however, you are unlikely to become exactly who you were before. Get to know who you are once again. Your child's death has changed many things about you and you will need time and patience to reacquaint yourself with the new person you have become!
Am I going Crazy???
Truth: Every parent who has gone through the death of a child feels as if they are crazy. The vast array of emotions can overwhelm us. Many of us feel emotions we never knew we could feel. It is frightening and shocking. The usual routine of day to day life suddenly annoys us. We feel out of place even amongst the closest of family and friends.. We cannot attend baby showers or birthday parties. We may feel too weak and drained to get out of bed in the morning. Once enjoyed activities become dreaded tasks for us. Some parents are unable to perform at work, while others may become completely absorbed in their jobs as an attempt to escape the pain. Some parents express that the grief has become so unbearable, that they prayed God would take them while they sleep. It is a roller coaster ride. Some days we are able to laugh and feel joy again. While other days there seems a black cloud hanging over us the entire day. Who wouldn't feel crazy while undergoing all of these many emotions? You aren't crazy. You are a grieving parent, simply missing what should have been in your life. Be patient and kind to yourself. While the longing for your child will never disappear, time grants us moments of peace in between the tidal waves of pain. Allow those peaceful moments to bring you closer to your child's love and the gifts they have left for you to discover.
-(c) 1998, 2003, 2007 by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore an excerpt from the book Dear Cheyenne
How to talk to grieving parents...
TALKING WITH FRIENDS WHO HAVE LOST A CHILD
-By Linda Waxler
Copyright 1999 The Providence Journal CompanyThe Providence Journal
-BulletinSeptember 19, 1999, Sunday, All EDITIONS
Do not worry that mentioning the name of the child will "remind" bereaved parents of their child. We remember our child every minute of every day. We want to talk about our child. Mention his name. One of our biggest fears is that he will be forgotten and one of our biggest joys is to hear his name.
Understand that we are parents without the right number of children. Because of this we experience over and over again fear, anger, guilt, sorrow, loss of future, isolation, abandonment. These are not steps that we work through but feelings that will continue to return forever with various intensity and in different forms.
Keep in mind that there really is no "closure" to the grief for the loss of a child. How can there be? Such loss is against nature and against all that we understand in the passage from one generation to the next.
What you say to bereaved parents is less important than that you say something. Ignoring bereaved parents is only adding to the burden of grief. Simply asking "How are you doing?" can be very helpful. But do it often.
When bereaved parents return to the workplace, make sure that you stop by, even if it's just to say "hello." After the loss of a child, parents often feel as if they are starting all over. This "new life" is just in the infancy stage and a friendly word makes a difference.
Call bereaved parents just to let them know you are thinking about them. Don't be insulted if they do not call you. Grieving saps energy for a long time.
Never think that grieving parents are somehow "holding onto their grief. "There is no such thing. The loss of a child causes endless grief that becomes part of the bereaved parent's inner self forever.
Remember that grief is not a process that one goes through a step at a time. Grieving is a roller coaster ride, and it is circular. The first couple of years, we are numb. When the numbness goes away, we are shocked to see that the world has gone on without our child. When we come out of this numbness, we are different people with a new sense of what it is to be "normal."
When parents lose their child, their hearts are broken. A huge hole is left. This hole will never heal - only the jagged edges around the hole may heal with time. Our grief, not always in the same form and maybe not as intense, will be with us the rest of our lives.
It does not matter how a child died or whether he was one week old or sixty years old. Nor does it matter whether there are surviving children. There is something absolute about the loss of each and every individual child.
Certain times of year will trigger intense sadness. Birthdays, anniversaries of the death, holidays, Mother's and Father's Day, weddings and funerals are just some. We can never properly prepare ourselves for these days. A simple "I am thinking of you and I know this day must be hard" goes a long way with bereaved parents.