I want to address a topic which has been weighing heavily on my mind for quite some time now. Unfortunately, I have also heard so many other grieving parents deal with this too and are left not knowing what to do or say in these situations. So I want to state this clearly, plainly and honestly. This is going to be blunt and honest. This post is for myself, and for anyone else whose lost a child and has personally struggled with this.
Days after Turner died, days…not months, not years…just DAYS after my SON DIED and we buried him, I had people tell me to “just focus on your other children”, “be grateful you have 4 children who are here”, “you have to be strong for your other children”, “your kids don’t need to see you crying as it will only make it harder on them”, “I know women who aren’t able to have any children at all so be grateful you have 4”, “at least you have children here with you”.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Take one moment to think about how damaging these comments were and still are today. I was struggling keeping my head above water. I was literally surviving from second to second. I had no idea how to be present in my own life let alone be present in the life of my children who were still here. I had no idea how to even take care of my own self let alone meet the demands of my 4 living children while grieving heavily for my child I could no longer hold. I seriously contemplated just being done with life and how much easier it would be to just end it all so I wouldn’t have to feel the horrific pain I felt everyday. Yes, you read that right…I had very serious suicidal thoughts on several occasions as the pain I felt was so unbearable. In those moments I thought ending my own life would relieve the unbearable pain and then I’d be able to hold my son again and be with him. On the day our son died and also on the day we buried him I literally buried a part of my heart and soul and wished they had buried me right along with him.
So tell me, how are comments like these suppose to help me or another grieving parent?
How do comments like these ever pop into someones mind where they actually think “this will help this grieving parent feel better”.
Would you ever tell someone who lost their mother or father “Be grateful that you still have your surviving parent”? Or would you tell someone who lost their leg or arm “at least you have your other appendages?” Or “just focus on the fact you still have the other arms or legs”
How could anyone with any common sense or decency think ANY of these comments or ones remotely similar to them are necessary to make?
Not even in the slightest are they ok to say.
Even now, 2 years later, where my grief may not be as fresh and raw as it was in the days following Turner’s death, I can guarantee you the grief and heartache are just as much, if not more, as it was in the early days. These comments still hurt to hear even to this day. The only difference is I have had 2 years to figure out what to say when I’m confronted with people who chose to use these hurtful words. I’ve had 2 years worth of hurt and pain built up in me that when they are said I’m not left blindsided wondering how on earth someone could possibly say such hurtful things. I’ve had 2 years to learn that I need to speak the truth and let others know their words and actions matter when supporting a grieving parent, or anyone for that matter in heavy grief.
If you have never buried a child, been told your child has died, held your dead child in your arms while pleading for them to just wake up, then you have no right to tell another parent how to take care of their living children (if they have any) or what they should or shouldn’t be grateful for.
You have no idea what it is like to live when you feel dead. You have no idea what it is like to wake up every single day hoping and praying that it was all just some sick horrible nightmare, only to realize every time you wake up that this nightmare is your living reality.
You have no idea the amount of energy and strength it takes to be able to not only take care of yourself when your child has died, but to also have to take care of other children at the same time. You have no idea what it’s like to console your living children, who are grieving the loss of a sibling, and know their are no words or actions which will mend your children’s broken hearts. They too lost a piece of themself when your child and their sibling died.
You have no idea what it’s like to have people constantly tell you how and when you should grieve. To be told that you’re basically doing it all wrong as if there was some magical secret “How to Grieve” manual they posses even though they haven’t ever walked in your shoes.
You have no idea what it’s like to have to deal with stupidity from so many people. Then when you call them out on their asinine comments it’s somehow becomes your fault for speaking the truth. You are told that you’re just too “sensitive” and need to “move on” or “get over” your child dying. Or better yet be told hundreds of times that “they only mean well” when you tell them their words hurt and have weight.
Griveing parents aren’t the problem. We aren’t defective or doing anything wrong. How we grieve the loss of our child and how we chose to remember or honor them is completely up to us. How we grieve around our living children and what we do in order to just survive with our living children isn’t wrong either.
What we are living through emotionally, mentally and physically after the death of our children is normal. Grief is normal. Grief is the price we pay for loving our children and having that love extend beyond death. We aren’t doing anything wrong. People who don’t know how to handle seeing a parent in grief are the ones who are the problem. They are the ones who need to change their ways, thoughts, words and emotions surrounding grief and what’s normal. They are the ones who desperately need to LISTEN to those of us who share openly our grief and heed our words.
Please understand that people who have living children and also a child who has passed away are doing everything they can to be present in their children’s lives. Living and being present in two separate worlds, the world our living children are in and also the world our deceased child is in, is an incredibly hard life to live. The life we now live takes an incredibly long time to figure out how to navigate and manage. If you don’t know what this feels like than be grateful and offer nothing but empathy to those of us who do.
Parenting your living children while also parenting your deceased child is the hardest parenting one can ever do. Please be mindful of yours words. It takes everything in our power to let our living children know how much they are loved and how grateful we are for them being here in our arms AND that we love their decreased sibling just as much and wish we could hold their brother or sister as well. It’s incredibly difficult to being present in moments with them while also knowing you’ll never get those moments with your child who died.
We are more grateful than anyone else could even understand that we can raise and watch our living children grow up. And yet we so wish we could continue to do that with our child who died.
That will NEVER change.
There won’t ever come a day when we won’t wish our lives were different and we no longer grieve the loss our our child who died too soon. Please be respectful of us as we navigate not only our lives but the lives of our living children who are here in our arms