Saturday, February 25, 2012

Feeling Disappointed

I know I’ve complained about people a lot and how they seemed to abandon us fairly early on but now I am seeing a pattern and thinking it might not be us, but rather some of the people I know.

We went to the funeral of the little girls that died in the fire. It was hard. Sam and Iris went with us. As soon as the funeral started, though, and the preacher began talking Iris started shouting so Mom had to take her out. Sam and I stayed for the rest of it. The little girls were buried together, in princess outfits. They were holding hands in the coffin. It was an adult sized coffin which was oddly better. I didn’t know how I could handle sitting there looking at a child sized coffin again.

At any rate, I have been trying to come up with ideas about how to help the family. Obviously, they don’t have a place to live right now. They’re mostly hanging out in the hospital. So furniture and things like that aren’t helpful at this point, although they might be on down the line. A bank and  grocery store in their hometown have started donation centers so they’re getting a lot of things like clothes. That’s  little awkward, though, since they don’t have anywhere to store them.

We took them some toiletries to the hospital. Sam and I filled a bag with lotions, shampoos, body wash, nail polish, scrub, etc. They put it in a cubby hole in the hospital. So last night I asked one of them specifically what they needed or wanted. She said that hair care supplies would be nice. (Remember, these are teenage girls.) I have a few flat irons and such but I thought I would ask my friends if they had anything to donate to the cause.

Nobody offered.

What I did get was someone offering to give me some formal dresses. She thought that the girls might like to dress up in formal gowns and go out with their friends. Aside from the fact that they have nowhere to store such dresses at present time, this is a great example of having unreasonable expectations placed on you in grief.

I asked Pete what he thought about that, if he thought it would be a good idea, and he said, “They might want to, they might not, but why put them in that position?” I don’t know that they have the money to go out, have the friends to go out with, or are even in any kind of mindset to do that. I know that I couldn’t have imagined getting dressed up and going out with friends right after Toby died. Then again, I wasn’t a teenage girl at the time. Still, I would really rather not put those expectations on them. You don’t know how people feel. They might not want to do something like that and then feel pressured. Or, it might come across as an insult.

I don’t know why people can’t just accept that when you ask for something specific, that is what you want.

When we had to move and I asked people if they had any extra newspapers or boxes, I instead got a lot of advice on how to pack and how to wrap my breakable stuff in old clothes. People didn’t want to know how they could really help, they just wanted to tell me how I wasn’t doing things the way they would have done them.

I have had very little comments on this family’s story, too. Even Mom commented on how people just don’t seem to care. Someone told me that they didn’t read the stories in the news about them because it was “too sad.” (Not someone who was going through grief, just someone who didn’t want to hear it.)

I really feel like this is the general attitude that we have been met with since Toby died. A lot of people just don’t care. It didn’t happen to them, they think it can’t happen to them, they’re uncomfortable with the fact that it happened to someone they know, or they’re so sure that they would have handled it differently that they turn their nose up at us.

This family, by the way, once worked with an organization that I was employed at. The organization supposedly helps families in crises. That’s like, their MO. I wrote my former supervisor and told him about what happened to the family. He knew them. He had been inside their home. He did not respond to my email. So much for helping families in crisis.

I shouldn’t be that surprised. When Toby died I heard from the people that I was still friendly with but nobody else. I spent years with that organization. I roomed with some of those women during workshops. I ate lunch with them. They attended Sam’s birthday parties. They had been to my house. And not even one single condolence card.

I think I am back in the anger stage again.

The father of this family is still in the burn unit. We’re going to try to take some dinner or lunch up to them this weekend. I’ll go out and buy some damned curling irons myself. If that’s what those girls want then I am not going to question it. I like to curl my hair, too. 


Maxie's Mommy said...

I hear you. I have actually worked in non profits for years- you know, doing good stuff for other people. It always shocks me how little anyone really does. There are a handful of people who can always be counted on. A few other people that can be guilted into helping others. A few more who help because they want other people to see them helping (ego). And the vast majority who sit back and hope that the problem just goes away. Sad.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I'm a person you're talking about here. I'm a stay at home mom to a toddler and a baby. My toddler has special needs and requires therapy 3x a week. I also work 20hrs a week from home, have a volunteer job fundraising for my son's birth to three center, and try to keep up relationships with family and friends on top of that. If I read sad or horrible news stories, I tend to obsess, I want to help, I really do! But I also need to take care of myself so that I am able to take care of my kids and my husband, because they really need me too. It's not that I don't care or that I don't want to help. It's that I'm already stretched so thin I'm afraid I might break. I dont talk about it a ton in real life - I act happy and carefree and tend to play down my son's issues. I don't talk about the strain it's taken on my marriage, my anxiety about the future, etc. People might ask me to do more and I might say no, and maybe they think I'm a crappy person or I don't care, but I do. I do. I wish I had more to give.

Anonymous said...

Now I feel like my comment was so stupid and self serving. My only real point was I do care! I care about stories like yours, even though we are total strangers. I care about all the awful things in the world. I do what I can. Could I do more? Probably. It's something to strive for. But I like to think the majority of people are the same way - they do care and they do try. We all just have different levels of what we can give.

Rebecca said...

This is true. I felt so pushed after Toby died. People telling me that if I just got out a little bit and had some fun, I'd feel a lot better. I thought a lot about Abby (Maxie's Mommy) when I was writing this, too, because she's faced a lot of that.

Sometimes, when you're sick and cooped up in the house, getting out for air makes you feel great. Brushing your hair, taking a shower, changing clothes...just a change of scenery is awesome. But this is a very different thing. Some people go through total meltdowns after a huge tragedy like this. I don't know what point these people are at. I don't know that they want to get out, are able to, or even have the financial means. Instead of pushing or encouraging, I'd rather just figure out what they want and go from there.

So many people thought they knew what was best for me. Nobody really wanted to know what I thought was best for me. I don't want to make that mistake with someone else.