Care & Feeding of Your Grieving Person: “You Don’t Need to be Perfect, You Just Need to be Present”

I just love this.  

It’s simple, humorous, shareable and oh, so true.  

“You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be present.”

care and feeding of your grieving person

Help! My Family Won’t Talk About My Missing Child.

 

At first everyone talked about him.

It’s what people do just after a person leaves this world and leaves behind only memories.

It comes natural before the unnatural fact of child loss settles in and begins to make everyone uncomfortable.

But at some point after the funeral and way before the tears dried up, people stopped feeling easy mentioning his name.

And when I mentioned him, they weren’t sure whether they should just let those words fall with a “thud!” between us or pick up the conversational ball and run with it.

It’s a bit easier to understand when friends do it.

But so, so many bereaved parents lament the fact that even family members stop saying their missing child’s name aloud.

They stop sharing memories and stop acknowledging the place he or she holds in a parent’s heart regardless of their permanent address.

It hurts.  A LOT. 

I realized after the first six months or so that most people (including my family) didn’t know HOW to talk about my missing son.

So I began modeling it for them: I spoke of memories in past tense as I would for anyone, I spoke of character traits in present tense– because he is still all that plus some in Heaven-and I refused to ignore the elephant in the room.

grief is often the elephant in the room

I told them it was impossible to make me sadder by mentioning Dominic but it was very possible to make my burden heavier by NOT mentioning him.  They were not reminding me that he was gone, I breathe his absence in and out like oxygen all day long.  

miss-you-every-day

 

I know it seems unfair that we must simultaneously learn by (awful and heartbreaking!) experience and also educate those around us, but it is what it is.

If I’m honest, though, before Dominic ran ahead to heaven I didn’t really know how to talk about a young person who died.  It’s natural to reminisce about Grandmama’s favorite recipe or the old-fashioned way she did her hair.  It’s positively Unnatural to speak in past tense about a young, vibrant human being that you never expected to outlive.

There are always going to be some folks-even family-who cannot or will not speak about my child in Heaven.  

I can’t force them to do it.  

But I can encourage the ones who do by telling them what a beautiful gift it is to hear his name on their lips.  

 

mention them teddy bear

Stick Around: Help Another Heart Hold Onto Hope

When grief was fresh, the pain was raw and my heart was oh, so tender, I desperately needed a safe space to talk about the nitty-gritty of child loss.

And I found it in online bereaved parents’ groups.  

I’m so thankful that they exist, that they are maintained by people who give time and energy to keeping them safe and that-for the most part-participants are kind, compassionate and encouraging.

There is something I’ve noticed now that I’ve been here awhile.  Many parents tend to drop out of active participation when they get a little further along in their journey. 

I understand completely that time, plus the work grief requires, often means a heart has less need for these groups.  It’s not that grief dissipates, it’s simply that we get stronger and learn to carry it a little better.

I also know that grief groups can become  Echo Chambers and wear on a heart after a time.

We all need a break.

But can I take a moment to encourage those among us who have learned a little, lived a little and walked longer in the path of child loss to stick around?

Newly bereaved parents need to know that they CAN survive.

Your presence-even if you don’t have wonderful words of wisdom-speaks volumes. 

When someone comments and shares that her loss was 5, 7, 10 years ago, it helps my heart hold onto hope. 

Because if YOU can make it, maybe I can too.  

buckets to put out flames

I Need A Little Help From My Friends

I’ve been asked to speak to a group of healthcare professionals and social workers employed by the hospice industry.

I plan to share a talk entitled “Lifting the Veil on Grief: the Ongoing Impact of Loss on Individuals, Families and Society”

But I need your help.  

Because Dominic left for heaven suddenly, in a motorcycle accident, I did not have any interaction with the healthcare system specific to his death.  And while I can speak about the grief that comes AFTER, I’d like to also speak a bit on what parents, siblings and other close family members need from these folks when a child goes to heaven in a hospital or hospice care facility.

So I have a few questions: 

  • What did a nurse, hospice worker, social worker or other professional do that blessed you around the time of your child’s death?
  • What did they do that was unhelpful or even detrimental?
  • Did any professional present offer grief counseling or recommend a grief support group?  If they did, did you take advantage of that resource?  Why or why not?
  • What do you want these folks to know about your family’s experience?
  • What would you say if you could speak to them today, in light of your experience?

Please note that comments left on the blog site are PUBLIC.   But you are welcome to comment in the closed Facebook groups where I post the blog everyday and those comments are PRIVATE.  

You can also use the “Contact” link to email me comments that will only be seen by me.

I will not use any identifying information when compiling your comments so please share freely and in complete confidence.  

I want to represent the bereaved parent community honestly, bravely and gracefully. 

Your participation will help me do that.  

Thanks in advance. 

I knew I could count on you!

Helping Hearts Hold Onto Hope

I’ve always been a bit of a cheerleader.

cheerleadere

Not THAT kind of cheerleader!

But the kind that stands alongside the road handing cups of water to the struggling stragglers in the far back of a marathon.

handing water

Because I believe in doing your best and finishing the race, even if it’s hard and even if it’s not pretty.

hobbling-runner

I also think that often the difference between giving up and giving in or going on and getting done is courage.

Not the “in your face I’m gonna fight you” courage of action movies but the quiet, everyday courage of simply carrying on when you’re tired, worn down and empty of hope.

And the thing about courage is this:  I can lend you some of mine.

That’s really what cheer leading is all about-calling courage to another heart, lending courage from the sidelines.

So many wounded hearts are walking around, barely holding onto hope, and all it takes is a few minutes, a few words, an outstretched hand, a smile, an open door or a pat on the back to strengthen their grip.

So when you see that downcast face, that defeated stooping shoulder, that exasperated mama toting three kids into the grocery store-don’t turn away.

Reach out. 

Hand a cup of kind words in the name of Jesus.

Help a heart hold onto hope.

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope

Repost: Help! I Need Somebody!

So, almost twenty years on a farm and I can NOT back a trailer.  Nope.  Can’t do it.

One day I spent hours trying to teach myself how to do it.  Never was able to do anything other than manage to jackknife the trailer, go unhook it and start over.

So when I go somewhere with a trailer I do one of two things:  (1) I find a space where I can drive in and be able to just make a loop or (2) I find the nearest person who CAN back a trailer, hand them my keys and ask them to do it.

I feel NO shame.

But that’s not the case with other things I can’t do.

Read the rest here:  Help! I Need Somebody!

What Can I DO? Start by Showing Up.

This weekend another family joined the ranks of the bereaved. 

A beloved son left for heaven in a car accident.

The mama’s best friend messaged to ask what she could do to help this newly broken heart.

It made me dig deep in my memories for who did what in those first hours, first days and how it made a difference in our family’s ability to hold onto hope and to stumble forward in the heavy fog of grief, pain and sorrow that enveloped our hearts.

My friend was already committed to showing up and sitting silently and  lovingly with this child’s mother. I didn’t have to remind her of the power of compassionate companionship.

She was going. 

She was staying as long as it was helpful and necessary.

She was coming back as many times as needed.

And that is a gift!

love is courage

I remember the morning I got the news and as the sun was coming up, a truck pulled down our lane.  It was Robbie-our “adopted” son.  As soon as my oldest son (who was in WV at the time) got the call, he called Robbie.  Because he knew I would be able to bear Robbie’s presence and accept Robbie’s help.  I cannot describe the relief I felt when he came to the door-another shoulder to help carry this burden until we could gather all our family together to lift it in unison.

And after him came a couple we had known since the kids were little. 

Both rushed to our doorstep to offer companionship, practical aid, listening ears and simple reassurance that though this was NOT a dream-oh, how I wanted it to be a dream!I was not going to walk this Valley alone.  They stayed until my husband, son and parents had made it here.  I will never, ever, ever forget that gift of unconditional love and time offered just when I needed it most.

Others came.  Some did practical things, brought necessary items, helped me begin to think through next steps.  But many just sat with me and my children as we waited for my husband to fly in and my parents to drive up.

I cannot overstate how important SIMPLY BEING THERE was!

Thinking back on that time, I dug up some other very practical “first few days” things friends and family can do:

  • Bring disposable plates, cutlery and plenty of paper goods (toilet paper, kleenex, napkins) along with extra trash bags.
  • Place a notebook and pens near the spot folks might drop off meals or other things and ask that they write their names and what they brought inside.  My daughter did this for me and while I was often unable to acknowledge it at the time (or unaware of the blessing) I had a record that is dear to me still.
  • Set up an online meal planning/scheduling group. Make sure to note allergies or special food needs because while it’s wonderful to have food provided, it’s not helpful if the family can’t eat it because of dietary restrictions.
  • If there are unwashed clothes belonging to the childDO NOTwash them in an attempt to help out.  It may sound awful to anyone who has not buried a child, but nearly every mom I know wanted something with her child’s scent still on it.  I have a few things of Dom’s that are in a sealed plastic bag.  Every so often I open it and inhale what’s left of his fragrance.  Smell is such a powerful memory stimulant.
  • Begin to collect photographs from online sources, friends and family so that there will be many to choose from if the family wants to make a video for services.
  • Bring disposable Lysol wipes or something similar for quick clean ups in bathrooms and the kitchen.  Discreetly tidy up whenever possible or necessary.
  • Do NOT move papers, piles of mail, etc. without the family’s permission.  It may seem like a good idea at the time to make things neat for visitors, but it will be a nightmare later!  My brain is nearly empty of details for most of the first month after Dominic left us.  I depended on routine and familiar spots to remember where important items might be for the first year.  If something had been moved, I could not locate it, no matter how hard I tried.  If somethingHAS to be moved, place it in a box-clearly labeled-and attach a prominent note on the refrigerator or someplace like that indicating where it is.
  • Just sit and listen.  Or just sit in silence.  Whatever is most helpful to the bereaved parents and their family. Loving presence kept me anchored to this world when all I wanted to do was float away somewhere the pain couldn’t find me.

Compassionate companionship makes the difference between a heart holding onto hope or letting go and falling into the abyss.

Trust me.

I know.

love is not what you say it is what you do pooh