Good Answers to Hard (Insensitive,Inappropriate) Questions

I was utterly amazed at the questions people plied me with not long after Dominic’s accident.

They ranged from digging for details about what happened (when we ourselves were still unsure) to ridiculous requests for when I’d be returning to my previous responsibilities in a local ministry.

Since then, many of my bereaved parent friends have shared even more questions that have been lobbed at them across tables, across rooms and in the grocery store.

Recently there was a post in our group that generated so many excellent answers to these kinds of questions, I asked permission to reprint them here (without names, of course!).

So here they are, good answers to hard (or inappropriate or just plain ridiculous) questions:

When asked to do something the week or month or even year after your child left:

  • No.  (It’s a complete sentence.  You do not have to give an explanation.)
  • Thank you for asking me.  I won’t be able to participate this time.
  • I’m so sorry.  This is a hard time of year for me and I just can’t do it.
  • Since my son’s accident, I don’t do well at holidays (or summer, or birthday month).  I can’t take on any extra responsibilities right now.
  • I’m sorry, we will be out of town. (If you really WILL be out of town.)

When asked about the details of your child’s death:

  • Why do you ask? (Stops them nearly every time.)
  • That’s an uncomfortable question that I’d rather not answer.
  • Does it matter?
  • We choose not to talk about his/her death and prefer to talk about his/her life.  Would you like to know something about him/her?
  • I prefer not to relive that trauma, thank you.

When asked, “How are you?”:

  • About as you would imagine given the circumstances.
  • Managing to do what must be done but very sad my son (or daughter) is no longer here with me.
  • Trying hard to put the pieces back together.  It’s a struggle every day.
  • Our family is loving one another through the hardest thing we’ve ever experienced.
  • How are YOU?  (Most won’t even notice you didn’t answer and will launch into their own discourse.)

When asked if you think you’re “back to normal” or “over it”:

  • No.  (It’s a complete sentence, see above.)
  • I’ll never be over my child. I’m not over any of my children.  How could I be?
  • My life has been shattered.  I can’t even find all the pieces much less assemble them into whatever normal used to be.
  • I don’t remember what “normal” is.
  • It’s a daily adjustment that I will be making for the rest of my life.

When asked anything at all that seems insensitive, inappropriate or just downright nosey:

  • I’m so sorry, I need to go.  Bye!
  • I can’t talk about that now.
  • Say nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Until they change the subject for you.
  • How are you?  Your children?  (Or any other question back at them-ignoring theirs)

I am obligated (by my profession of faith) to be as kind and polite as I can be but I am not obligated to answer every question someone asks.  

I’ve found that having some of these pat answers in my pocket helps.  Many of them are good for just about any question that may come my way.  

I try to deflect, demur or redirect.  

But when that fails I’m just as likely to tell the truth, which is often not at all what the person really wants to hear.  

And then they are left scrambling for a way out of a conversation I never wanted to have in the first place. 

Which is fine with me.  

silent with heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

All The Glory on the Ground

Fall doesn’t last long here in Alabama.  

We have summer right through September most years and even into October on occasion.

This year was even shorter-hot, hot, hot, hot, cold!

But no matter how long or short the temperate days I have two or three trees I look for when the cold nights work their magic and the leaves turn bright.

I know I have to drink in their beauty as much as possible because it won’t last for more than a week.  And that makes it all the more precious to me.

So I don’t rush by as I’m wont to other times of year.  I slow down as I round the curve and gasp again at translucent gold lit bright against a pale blue sky. 

yellow ginkgo tree

One, two, three passes and then one day they’re gone. 

A windy rain knocked every one to the earth.  

All the glory on the ground.  

And my heart notes once again that nothing in this life is forever.

Even the most beautiful and highly treasured things will fade and fall.

People too. 

So don’t rush by. 

Slow down and drink in the glory of family around the table, coffee with a friend, walks in your neighborhood, cuddles with the kids, hot chocolate around a campfire or the kitchen stove.  

Nothing in this life is forever.  

time with those you love

Birthday Musings

Today I turn fifty-five. 

Not old (not yet!) but hardly young.  

My body sometimes tells me I’m older than dirt while my mind plays tricks and lures me into all kinds of childish pursuits.  

Mornings I creak down the stairs, holding tightly to the handrail lest I step wrong and end up in a tumble at the bottom

Midday I’m out in the woods picking up interesting bits of nature that I bring inside and set on a shelf-I still ooh and aah over empty cicada shells and help stranded earthworms back into moist soil.

Mostly I kind of plod through time taking it moment by moment except when forced to look ahead and plan for the big things like (yay!) a wedding (my daughter!) and a grandchild (my son!).

brandon and fiona engagement

 

But some days I stop and take stock of the years gone by, the things I’ve done or not done and the things I wish were different.  

Birthdays tend to make me do that.  And since my birthday always falls near Thanksgiving, I usually add a list of things for which I’m grateful.  

I will always be glad that I chose to pour my life into my family.  All grown, we still weave our lives together across the miles and in spite of crazy schedules. I have never regretted for a single moment that the one great achievement that will outlive me is my children.

desimones uab family

Except for the one I have outlived.  And that is my heart’s greatest burden.  

dominic at olive garden

I am so thankful for a husband who has graciously provided for our family.  I never wrangled a moment over grocery money or necessary homeschooling supplies.  That is a gift! (And for his unending support for my crazy livestock lifestyle-here’s this year’s birthday present.)

golf cart and roses

I have the great privilege of the ongoing companionship of my own parents.  We talk every. single. day.  even though we are miles apart.  These last months of health struggles and Hurricane Michael destruction have forged new links in the chain of love and compassion that bind us to one another.

I have a close circle of “I’ll come over in the middle of the night if you need me” friends.  I remember being on the outside looking in for most of my high school years wondering if I would ever have a really, truly best friend.  In these years since Dominic ran ahead, God has given me one of the desires of my heart and blessed me with just that kind of friendship.

friends pick us up

I have a broader circle of parents that understand what it’s like to send a child ahead to Heaven.  They are a safe place to offload comments and questions that the rest of the world would neither appreciate nor comprehend.  So many have touched my heart with the right word at the right time.  I am overwhelmed by the compassion, grace and kindness of this community.

I write.  It helps my heart.  And the truly amazing and surprising thing is it seems to help a few other hearts too.  I am so thankful that three years ago I followed a prompting to compose that first timid and intimidating post.  Now I can’t imagine a morning where I don’t get up in the wee hours to peck away at the keyboard.

Five years ago I celebrated my fiftieth birthday with all my children, my husband, parents and a crowd of friends.

Tonight the celebration will be a little quieter but very precious.  

My fiftieth year was to be a jubilee of sorts-a culmination of so many dreams in our family and in my own life.  

Instead it was the year we buried Dominic, in addition to the beautiful things we looked forward to.

I’ve stopped making predictions about what a year will bring.  But I haven’t stopped looking forward to the good things I know are on the horizon.  

ultrasound 1 jm lillie

This year our family will grow again and that is a great blessing.  

So I wake and watch and wait.  

Happy Birthday to Me!

 

 

Holidays and Grief: Having Hard Conversations

You don’t have to bury a child to know that changing long-standing family traditions around holidays is a hard, hard thing.

Just ask a parent trying to work out Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time after an adult child marries.  Suddenly the way things have “always been” are no longer the way things are.

If you’ve decided to try to do things differently this year, you know that means telling other folks who might not like it.

And that’s really hard.  

But the sooner you have those conversations, the better. 

Because the only thing that makes it worse is procrastinating until it feels like an ambush to your extended family and friends.  

Read the rest here:  Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

 

 

 

Grief and Holidays: Some Practical Ideas After Loss

I wish I had found some of these ideas before we headed into our first set of holidays after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  

It would have helped so very much.  

So I’m sending these out early enough so that someone else may be both validated and liberated in planning how to approach one of the most difficult times of year for bereaved parents.  

I pray they reach the heart that needs them.  ❤

It cannot be overstated:  holidays are extremely hard after loss.  Every family gathering highlights the hole where my son SHOULD be, but ISN’T.

There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to handle the holidays after losing a child.

For many, there is only survival-especially the very first year.

These days also stir great internal conflict:  I want to enjoy and celebrate my living children and my family still here while missing my son that isn’t. Emotions run high and are, oh so difficult to manage.

Read the rest here:  Practical Ideas for Dealing with the Holidays after Child Loss

What the Bereaved Need from Friends and Family (But Might Not Tell You)

I know it is hard.  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

Read the rest here:  Grief and Holidays:What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

Grief and Holidays: How Can I Make It Through?

The calendar is tricky for grieving hearts.

It’s not just a way to plan events or remember doctor appointments.

It’s full of milestone dates and commitments that loom large and awful like an oncoming train in a dark tunnel.

Sometimes I just want to fall asleep sometime around the end of October and wake up in January after all the hoopla is over.  

But I can’t.

It’s not because I’m a Scrooge-I actually love making and giving gifts, I like baking cookies and breads, I enjoy cozy evenings with family in front of the fireplace.

What I don’t like is the busyness, the crowds, the push to be hap-hap-happy all the time and the crazy consumerism that crowds out the quiet peace of the promise of Light in the darkness.

I also struggle with meeting expectations-my own and those of others’-as well as enduring loud and slightly chaotic gatherings.

This will be the fifth set of holidays since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven and we have yet to settle on a pattern for how to approach them.  Each year has been different and each year has presented new challenges.

I think the two things I’ve learned so far are this:  (1) It’s OK to do things differently or to skip some things altogether; and (2) It’s important to communicate my needs and limitations to those around me.  

Timing matters too.

I need to prepare family and friends NOW for the changes coming to holiday plans.  

So for the next few days I’m going to repost some of the articles I’ve written about how to survive the holidays with a grieving heart.

They are not a “how-to” manual-just some observations and suggestions.

Take what is helpful and leave the rest.  

In the end, each heart needs to find its own path.  

I pray you find yours.  ❤