September 26, 2010
Sometimes, people just don't know what to say or do. I remember in that first week I had people calling or writing and asking what they could do and I had no idea what to say to them. I didn't know what I needed or what I even wanted (except for my baby back). I also had people writing me, asking me when a good time for them to come over was and trying to pinpoint specific times and stuff. The fact of the matter was I was a) in shock and had no idea what day of the week it was and b) so medicated that I had no impression of time. Those who were most helpful were the people that just showed up and started doing stuff.
My friend Ashley sent me some things from Hospice about bereaved parents and grief and one of the best things was a little booklet outlining the "do's and don’t's" when it comes to helping those in grief. Sometimes, you really don't know what to say. I know I didn't before now.
Most of the time, people have good intentions but sometimes things come out strange. Like the girl who told me not to worry about what happened because this "sort of thing" happened in her family "all the time" and that it was something that I would just "need to overlook." We also find that a lot of people with different religious beliefs use their beliefs to try to help make us feel better but sometimes it backfires. The Hospice book was very good at explaining this. For example, when someone says "God needed another rose for his garden" the Hospice book said, "This is almost insulting to God. He can make anything he wants."
A week after Toby died I had someone suggest that if I was still crying everyday that something might be wrong. You think? Even Pete's dad told him 10 days after the death that he (Pete) was "messed up" for "some reason." (Well, we are pretty sure we can pinpoint exactly what that reason is.)
I found this website helpful and it has a few "do's and don'ts" on it that might be helpful in the future if you are dealing with someone who is grieving.
• Do ask, "How are you REALLY doing?"
• Do remember that you can't take away their pain, but you can share it and help them feel less alone.
• Do let your genuine concern and care show.
• Do call the child by name.
• Do treat the couple equally. Fathers need as much support as mothers.
• Do be available...to listen, to run errands, to drive, help with the other children, or whatever else seems needed at the time.
• Do say you are sorry about what happened to their child and about their pain.
• Do accept their moods whatever they may be, you are not there to judge. Be sensitive to shifting moods.
• Do allow them to talk about the child that has died as much and as often as they want.
• Do talk about the special, endearing qualities of the child.
• Do give special attention to the child's brother and sister--at the funeral and in the months to come (they too are hurt and confused and in need of attention which their parents may not be able to give).
• Do reassure the parents that they did everything they could, that the care the child received was the best possible.
• Do put on your calendar the birth and death date of the child and remember the family the following year(s). That you remember the child is very supportive.
• Do extend invitations to them. But understand if they decline or change their minds at the last minute. Above all continue to call and visit.
• Do send a personal note or letter or make a contribution to a charity that is meaningful to the family.
• Do get literature about the disease and grief process to help you understand.
• Don't be afraid to ask about the deceased child and to share memories.
• Don't think that the age of the child determines its value and impact.
• Don't be afraid to touch, it can often be more comforting than words.
• Don't avoid them because you feel helpless or uncomfortable, or don't know what to say.
• Don't change the subject when they mention their child.
• Don't push the parents through the grieving process, it takes a long time to heal and they never forget.
• Don't ask them how they feel if you aren't willing to listen.
• Don't say you know how they feel.
• Don't tell them what they should feel or do.
• Don't try to find something positive in the child's death.
• Don't point out that at least they have their other other children.
• Don't say that they can always have another child.
• Don't suggest that they should be grateful fo their other children.
• Don't think that death puts a ban on laughter. There is much enjoyment in the memory of the time they had together.
• Avoid the following cliches:
• "Be brave,don't cry."
• "It was God's will" or "it was a blessing."
• "Get on with your life. This isn't the end of the world."
• "God needed another flower in his garden."
• "At least it wasn't older."
• "You must be strong for the other children."
• "You're doing so well."
• "You're young, you'll get over it."
• "Time will heal."