Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"I Think We Should Mix it up a Bit"

~ to quote the Evil Scientist of Phineas and Feb fame, Dr. Doofenschmirtz.

I usually try to keep it light and amusing around here, but today will not be light. We will be back to regularly scheduled blogging with the next post.

Claire Elaine Weasel
June 18, 2002 - July 2, 2002

A blogging friend has had the son of a close friend pass away. There is nothing amusing about that. But that has prompted me to post something I have been thinking should be mass distributed for a long time now. "A what not to do or say to grief stricken parents guide for dummies".

Some of you may know and some of you may not That Mr. Weasel and I are the parents of 6. Our daughter Claire passed away 6 1/2 years ago. Being the parent of a child who has died and working closely with SIDS of Illinois (feel free to make an online donation) ever since. At first receiving support that we needed to survive and now to help other parents to survive this tragedy, I have come across some stories of things people have said and done while trying to offer comfort that in actuality only caused more pain. So here are some helpful guidelines for you to keep in mind for future contacts with the grieving.

The only thing to say is "I'm sorry". After that you risk putting your foot in your mouth. People often feel the need to say something. Or the pressure to say anything. They wish to comfort, not harm, but often harm is the product. There is no bright side or silver lining to this situation. Parents that fresh in grief can see no positives and no future, do not try to make some up.
Examples of this include(and these are actual quotes said either us or other parents we've known):

  • "They are in a better place."~ Platitudes don't help. To a parent who has just lost a child there is no better place for that child than with the parents.
  • "You are so strong" ~ No I'm not. I am not doing this because I want to. I have no options. If I had an option, I would be taking it. I have no control over this. I am not breathing by choice. I am breathing because it keeps happening.
  • "God must have needed another Angel"~ Ummmm, no. If God needed an angel he would create one, not take mine.
  • " God won't give you a more than you can bare" ~ Yeah, then why are mental wards full of people drooling all over themselves in rubber rooms. I feel like at any moment my mind could say enough, without my control or consent any more than breathing, and I would be in the next padded room in the ward. God didn't do this to me, but it happened and it may be more than my sanity can hold onto. Eventually he will carry me through this, but that is an eternity away from me right now. Once again, platitudes don't help.
  • " At least you can have more children." ~ This was not a goldfish or a hamster. This child is not replaceable. Even if they have 10 more children, they will never stop missing and mourning this one.
  • "At least you have other children" ~ I may, and I love them and need them close. That does not alleviate my grief for this one. It does not make me miss this one any less. And I have the added worry of trying to console them in their grief and explain things to them that I am not able to understand while I am unable to care for even myself.
  • "It's all part of God's plan for you." ~ Even if this is true , to a parent that freshly soaked in pain and grief, no reason that God has could be a good enough to cause this much pain. From my experience with people it takes a few years minimum, if ever for parents to be able to think in those terms.
  • "I know how you feel." ~ No you don't. You can't. Unless you have been through exactly this, and then you can only know in part because people are so individual and so are the circumstances that surround the death.
  • "I know how you feel, my dog just died" ~ Oh no you didn't just compare your dog to my child. It does not matter how close you were to your dog. It was a DOG! Unless you have given birth to that dog, then I can just call you a ...........
  • "At least she died young, before you got to love her." ~ If this needs explanation, just click away from this site right now.
  • "Well, I'm sorry anyway." ~ (commenting about the death of a mentally disabled child) ~ Anyway? I can't even comment further on this.
Now that we have established some what to and not to say, here are some to do and what not to do.
  • Do not force me to try and eat. ~ I have no energy and no appetite. I don't want to eat. I want to die. Making me a sandwich will only make me angry or make me feel guilty when I don't eat it after you made it.
  • Do go out and buy or make a fruit tray. ~ Just put it on the table and open it. As I sit or walk past I will pick at it without even knowing and I will appreciate it.
  • Do not offer to take my other children out for the day. ~ I do not feel safe with them out of my sight.
  • Do hang around and care for the children and take them into the yard to play. ~ I need them near and to hold them, but have no energy to care for them.
  • Do not ask me what you can do. ~ I simply do not know and have no answer.
  • Do clean my house for guests .~ Do not ask me. I will say no. Just quietly do it. Only stop if I ask you to. I will appreciate it, but probably won't even know how it got done.
  • Do not hug a nursing Mom. ~ With no baby to nurse I am engorged and in physical pain. Hugs hurt.
  • Do rub my back or hug me carefully from behind. ~ I need to be held.
  • Do not be afraid of my tears. ~ For weeks and months and more after the fact I will cry. This is not a bad thing. Do not change the subject. Just let me cry and be there to listen if I want to talk.
  • Do not avoid me when you see me in public. ~ Our first instinct as parents is to run. We do not know what to say or do. This only causes extreme pain to the grieving parents. We know we are your worst nightmare. We feel guilty for our child's death. Even when we could not have done anything differently or to change things. You avoiding us just convicts us. Trust me, we see when you turned in the other direction.
  • Do not expect me to forget about this and get on with my life. ~ This is something that will never leave me and it will be a long and slow process to get back into the swing of things.
  • Do have patience. ~ I will need your love and support to get through these next couple of years. Most support ends after a month or two. I need it for much longer. The pain does not dissipate as quickly as the support does.
  • Do not ask "When are they going to get over this" ~ They will never get over this. They will eventually learn to how to live life again, but it will be a new normal that they find. It will take a long journey to get there. The pain never goes away, you just learn how to live with it and continue on. The first few years are extremely hard.
  • Do remember birthdays and death anniversaries(and commemorate them). ~ The parents do. Send a card or make a phone call. Even if I don't answer, it's nice to know that someone else remembered and that you are not so alone. To know that your child meant something to someone other than yourselves and is remembered means the world.
  • Do not be afraid to say my child's name. ~ Many fear that I am doing okay today and do not want to ruin that. But the truth is that I am always remembering no matter what else is going on and it's nice to have others acknowledge my child by name. It helps to honor them.
  • Do make a charitable donation in my child's name. ~ The charity sends the parents a letter and let's them know. It means the world to know that someone else cared about my child also and cares enough to give something in hopes that other parents will not have to suffer this nightmare through the hope of research, and to support through bereavement services people like I who have been through this trauma.
  • Do Pray for me ~ This is probably the kindest and most helpful thing you can do for me, whether I know it or not at the time.
I hope that you all bookmark this and save it for future reference. I do not expect a lot of comments. I am well aware of how this situation creeps people out and they avoid the topic like the plague, mostly because it is something they want to crawl away from as quickly as possible.
But sooner or later this won't be something that happens 'over there' to other people and will hit closer to home. At least now you will have some tools to use.

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Tom said...

It is late to say... but I am so very sorry.

Your post will certainly help others who must go through this. Thank you for posting it here.

Momo Fali said...

I am so very sorry for your loss.

Thank you for sharing this. I lost an infant niece a few years ago and a friend of my son passed away a year ago. He was five. There was also an accident in our preschool parking lot, where a child was run over and killed. My heart breaks for you and these parents. I am going to take your last suggestion and make donations for these families. I think about all of them all the time and am constantly wondering what I can do...constantly thinking there is nothing. This list is some very valuable information. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Barb. God bless you and yours.

Mike said...

Thanks for sharing your memories and your grief. My wife lost her brother as a toddler and being new to her family I wasn't sure how to approach the subject if and when it came up. She said a lot of what you did. Just remember them and know that they did exist for a time with us.

Tara R. said...

I'm so sorry. My SIL lost her son Christopher at birth and I've never really known how to talk with her about it. Thank you for sharing this. It will help me to be a better sister-in-law and aunt.

terri said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss. And thank you for sharing your words of wisdom. I am always at a loss as to what to say or do.

Unknown said...

I'm so sorry Mamma.

We lost our daughter at full term only mere days before she was due. We experienced SO many of those awful comments from people, and they all felt as if our hearts were being crushed every time we heard them. THANK YOU so much for this post!!

Michelle said...

I had no idea. I'm so sorry for your loss.

One of my best friends had to have a baby taken from her at nine weeks a couple months ago now, and she was devastated. I had no idea what to say to her, but it looks like I managed to not step into too yucky a mess. But it looks like there's so much more I could have done for her. I'll be giving her a call when I get home tomorrow! Thank you.

The Microblogologist said...

Claire is beautiful, as is her mother. Thank you for sharing her.

WeaselMomma said...

Thank you all for your comments and kind words. I hope that is truly helpful and useful information. I hope that it is validating information for those of you who have been through this. Please feel free to share this with anyone who may find it helpful.

Cheffie-Mom said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this.

Laura said...

My dear friend,
I'm sorry if I have been absent in recent years, but my family does continue to pray for you & yours, every night, specifically by name. I've had only a glimpse of your grief in a miscarriage, but I would never suggest that I understand. I'm honored to realize that my youngest shares a birthday with Claire, and I do remember you each year during that season--I plan to put it on calendar now so I'll remember to call or write. Thank you for sharing this valuable information--I may have put my foot in my mouth before, though I try not to--I've worked with many grieving parents in my job, this is a good reminder.
I miss you. Much love to you all.

Aimee said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

Thank you for sharing this. I have a friend who lost her daughter and I know I wasn't the friend I should have been. Thank you for showing us how we can be there in the best ways for grieving parents.

Anonymous said...

Oh, well said my dear. Right on the nose in all ways. We have thought felt and been through each and every one of your points. I would like nothing better than to post this on my Myspace sites.

t2sister said...

I commented this, but since I have had some problems getting my comments to come through I signed into my blogspot to do it again. I realize that your comments are moderated so please forgive if this is twice.

I want to tell you this was so right on target it was uncanny. Perhaps not so uncanny really because what you have described is truly universal.

Since Chris died we have dealt with each of those things listed over and over and of course still do. Namely haven't you gotten over that yet? It's 6 years and three months and as I think you know it could be sixty years and three months and I would feel the same way.

I would add one thing. I told everyone please do not start any sentence with "who, what,why, where, do you think, what do you think, or any other question or comment that required any sort of thought. When I would hear that my mind just went blank my ears snapped shut and I distanced myself from the whole conversation.
I would love to post this whole list to my Myspace sites as it is the most comprehensive outline of what we go through that I have ever found.

WeaselMomma said...

Please feel free to re-post this in your myspace or stumble it or wherever you feel it might do any good. I ask that you consider also linking it back to here.

Melisa Wells said...

I'm sorry for your loss!

I think your post is extremely informative and straight-forward, and I am definitely going to bookmark it as you suggested.

I have learned only in the past few years that saying more than "I'm sorry" doesn't help, no matter how much I wish it would.

Thanks for posting this. xoxo

Terri@SteelMagnolia said...

That is all so true ...

what a powerful and moving post.....

I made a donation to Ronald McDonald House last night in memory of a young man that I used to babysit when I was a kid. He passed away last month.

I could not imagine losing a child.
What a horrible pain that must be.
I can't even bear to think of it.

Terri@SteelMagnolia said...

I also meant to say,
I love the sketch of Claire...
she is beautiful.

Mrs4444 said...

This is wonderful post. Ryan's funeral was today. His dad is out by the firepit in our backyard tonight with Mr.4444 and some other friends. He talked about a few stupid comments, and I concur with your points. This helped me. I think I'm going to write a post now... Thanks.

Bad Momma said...

Excellent post! Thank you for sharing. I hope I will never have to refer to this post but will bookmark it anyway.

I have a neighbor who lost a child to SIDS. (before they moved near us). This is a pain that never goes away and it is important that the child is not forgotten. There isn't much that I can say but I am here to listen.

Claire is beautiful and I will always remember that you have 6 children.

OhCaptain said...

Thank you. Consider it book marked.

Mrs4444 said...

How strange/RUDE; I commented on the post itself, but never on your loss. I cannot imagine the depths of your sorrow over this (yours, and your entire family). So sorry...

In today's paper, I read the obit for a 3-year-old little girl named Josie, who died on Christmas morning of an asthma attack. She leaves behind a twin sister and parents who must be losing their minds right now. Please keep the Willequettes in your prayers...

Anonymous said...

Just came over from mrs4444's.

First, I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot even imagine.

Also, I loved your advice because it is so very right on in so many ways. I also think it's so true that a person's grief is as unique as the person, so it can be a minefield trying to say and do the right thing, but these are some great guidelines. Most important for me in my losses that have been pretty different from yours has just been knowing people cared and having them be there without assuming they knew how I felt.

Really great list that is sure to help many. Hugs to you for where you have been and for sharing something useful like this out of something so horrible.

Adlibby said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

I don't think that it compares to your loss, but after 4 miscarriages, I had people saying to me "At least you can get pregnant." This could go on the "Don't say this" list.

Sadly I have friends who have had to deal with the loss of a child as well. It's horrific, and they will never be the same, and I think your advice is excellent. Have you thought of submitting this to any magazines? If not, you should.

McMommy said...

You are right...this was not a "light" was an excellent, honest, and caring, important post. If you had never written it, I would have never known about your little weasel Claire. Thank you for sharing her beautiful picture with us and for all the advice you shared as well.

Mommy, Esq. said...

Thank you for sharing this. I'm so sorry for your loss and know it must hurt every day.

Sherry Gay said...

God Bless Your entire Family!! P.S. Just for me, I want to list the names of 2 Sons taken too soon for this Mom---After all these years, I still can't really sleep-either---I miss my sons Bradley and Jermery, but it's 3:29A.M. EST, so for the sake of the rest of my family, I will try to go to sleep, now, but not before I remember to pray for you to be sleeping now. Good Night!

Dad Run Amok said...

Thank you for this post. I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a child.

It is very difficult to know what to say to somebody who has lost a close relative, and it's good to know that there are things you can do or say that will be appreciated.

Oscar said...

Having spen the weekend at a wake and funeral of a loves aunt. I agree with everything you said. It can apply to almost anyone you love. You hit the nail right on the head with all of these. I read this twice.

A hug is coming your way.

Wineplz said...

I was wondering about the little Angel Weasel in your header... I'm so sorry.

In good emotional moments I suffer from verbal diarrhea (think weddings, baptisms); I am worse when it's death. Now I know better--thank you so much for taking the time to post these guidelines.

Mr. Man said...

I am so very sorry.

This post is welcomed, needed, and useful. Mourning the loss of someone (such as Claire)is excruciatingly painful (those last two words are not nearly adequate)and socially awkward for the people who are trying to help.

Good "How-To" guide on how people can be most beneficial during the bereavement someone else may be experiencing.

Much Luv!

Mr. Man

Kim Moldofsky said...

Great tips for a situation that leaves many of us feeling helpless. My thoughts are with you at this time.

Stimey said...

Thank you for this. It is important.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. God bless you.

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