Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Supporting a bereaved parent.... Or How to avoid sticking your foot in your mouth....


And on her facebook the question was posed of "well, how do I support you?" so I wrote this;

  1. No time limits, don't assume we should be done in a certain period of time
  2. Dont bring God into it. Just don't. Even if the person is known to be religious. For some God is a huge comfort, for others God is not, and at different points in healing even the most devout believer could be on either end of the spectrum. Don't talk about them being in "a better place." Just leave the spirituality about it alone, if the parent brings it up, listen WITHOUT JUDGEMENT or CORRECTION. 
  3. Be present, use your poker face, simply tell the bereaved "Im here" if you are capable. If you're not capable of simply being there, be honest and don't waste our time. Speaking for myself I'd rather have an honest aquaintance and know I can't talk to about my son then the anxiety of you ignoring me when I reach out to you.
  4. Hold no expectations of us, speaking for myself I'm flaky because triggers will knock me down and continuing with plans can be physically impossible. Today I broke down sobbing while we ate lunch downtown. We rarely meet our own too high expectations, how dare you shove your expectations of us down our throat. You're the only person you can control, so work on that.
  5. Ask about our special person but don't press for stories/information/details. Respect that when and if we are ready to talk about anything about our special person, that you previously asking has allowed us the opening to talk (or not) about them. Knowing you're willing to listen to the good and the gruesome is a comfort. Like taking off a restrictive bra that has under-wire poking you and knowing no one around is going to care and they may even be as relieved as you are! 
  6. Don't tell us what we "need," do offer to help fulfill the needs we articulate to you if possible. We lost a child, we did not become a child. We know what we need, but better than that we know what we DON'T need, and we don't need people telling us what we think. 
  7.  Don't tell us we'll be happy again(see previous blog on the subject). It's like nails on a chalk board when I hear "It's good to see you smile" or whatever, I know your intention is good but there is unintended implication there. So think it but don't say it. Do be happy to see or talk to us, because that feels good. 
  8. Don't tell us were doing it wrong, because there isn't a wrong way. Do remind us if we're struggling of just that, there is no wrong way to continue on this path of grieving
  9. Don't whine about your kids doing normal kid things to the bereaved. I'd give my own heart to have that back.
  10. Practice unconditional love. Treasure your children and don't be afraid to express your love for your children in front of the bereaved parent. Speaking for myself seeing a mama love her littles fearlessly because of my special person fills my heart with love.

    That's about where I ended on my friend's facebook, but I've since though of few more
  11. Do not tell a bereaved parent they can just have more children. It doesn't work that way. People are not replaceable.
  12. If you have supported your bereaved parent friend, or find yourself in a position to support a bereaved parent, do not bring up later how you supported them. It sounds like you're stroking your ego, and without knowing you've treated that parent like a pet project. 
  13. Don't be offended if we do not immediately accept your offer for help. I know for myself, I figure I've done something so wrong to have deserved the ultimate punishment then I certainly don't deserve support. So keep offering. It's appreciated even if we never take you up on it.
I hope other loss mamas, warriors, will chime in on how to support the bereaved parent. <3

5 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I have to admit, I was one of the ones that wrote to you speaking about God. Although I do believe in a glorious afterlife, I realize now the things I said to you were a bit selfish. They made me feel better. Bram's death was scary to all of us. It was a reminder that at any time something could happen to our children or grand children by no fault of our own. It's a terrifying reality. The difference between you and the rest of us is you're living that reality. I can try to imagine your pain but I know I can't even begin to scratch the surface. My attempt at comforting you was, although kindly meant, probably not helpful at all...I see that now. Forgive me if I caused you any more anguish or sadness with my e-mail. You are an amazing person, I know you won't believe that but you are! Your blog continues to teach us all. Bram continues to touch us all. Big hugs to you Mama! Adel

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    1. Oh sweet friend <3 I can say there was only message about God that has upset ms. And yours isn't on that list.

      It's only been recently that I've begun my struggle with being mad enough at God that I've pulled away. Will that ever change? I don't know. But some of the messages I've got have been from religious friends that's its ok to be mad at God because HE can handle it.

      When the message was presented with "here's what my religion believes" it truly softened that message.

      I know sharing of God comes from a place of love, so when want to support go to that most basic fundamental level and love as God loves, and wrap us in it. You can't go wring with love!

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  2. I can't agree with you more, specially about #2. Leave the "spiritual" out of it. I love how unamommer could admit that her talking of God was about comforting herself and I get that I really do. As someone hurting from a loss though, the topic is like salt in a wound. I can't even picture how it must be like for you but thank you for trying so hard to share your tragic loss and what living afterwards is like. I can't help but think that your protecting others children and helping others with loss too. In the end, just wanted you to know, we are listening and your loss matters.

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  3. Don't EVER EVER EVER ask "how did they die"? It's not relevant and it's invasive. I had someone say this to me at a child's birthday party a few weeks ago.

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  4. Such a good list. Especially the one about God. Everyone's beliefs are not the same--even if you happen to be the same religion. And I agree that our feelings on the subject can vary by the day, or even the hour. Having lost a child twice now, I also know that my views on God are much different this time around than the first. I know I offend others with my views this time, but we all need the time to process without that type of input from others because, even if unintended, it places undue pressure on us to grieve or believe in a certain way. Wonderfully thought out list.

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Thanks for reading and loving Bram!