I’ve been trying to find the words to properly express myself on this topic. I’m constantly reading the words of other mothers who have experienced this kind of loss, and they really help to draw the words out of me. To read something by someone else, yet you’re nodding your head so much in agreement that it feels as if you wrote it. I appreciate those who compliment my passion of writing, but most of the time I feel like it’s just my personal word vomit. For some reason when I read these other articles, it’s like: “Wow she just articulated that feeling perfectly, so much so that I can now visualize it!” This recently came to me when reading an article from the online resource Still Mothers, from a mother named Amy who wrote a fantastic piece called, Dear Grief Bully. Go ahead … read it, then come back here 🙂 As you can see, she does not mince words. I envy her unapologetic realness, yes Amy! I appreciated how blunt and honest she was about how others have really “bullied” her grieving process.
So I wanted to share my perspective of how I’ve encountered similar situations in my grieving process. We are approaching the 9 month mark soon of our son’s passing, which to most seems like a pretty long time. I understand if you are not the one directly being affected by the loss, the quicker life seems to move on or go back to normal for you. Yet for us, 9 months is barley scratching the surface, and life will never really be “normal” again. At the same time, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that compassion can be held for infinity either.
One of the biggest things I struggle with is burden. With Jonathan, family and friends … I feel as if my grief has become a burden. Before our loss, I was pleasant to a fault most times. Masking any of my discomfort to ensure others felt comforted. It’s hard to seek or ask for comfort when you’re the one usually providing it. In grief, I simply cannot slap on a happy face with the snap of a finger anymore. So innately I feel like a “Debbie Downer” … constantly questioning, “will people grow tired of my sadness?” Although, I can pleasantly say that Jonathan, my true friends and most family have reassured me that this the furthest from the truth. Because they have done the work to understand the level of pain that comes with the death of the child. They never expect me to act a certain way or do things that once may have been easy but are now impossible. These are the ones who really took the time to crack open the book on my grief, have listened to me and have learned from my words and overall took the time to understand it all. They speak my son’s name, they honor him … they just get it. There is not enough gratitude in the world for these people ❤
So it’s hard when some people, some whom you thought were the closest to you, don’t give you this grace. It seems their patience for my grief has a shelf life or expiration date. It can be exhibited by, in the beginning they reached out and now they no longer. Or they continue to find ways to “fix” your grief, by giving advice of what you need to do to “move on” or “be distracted”. Or they talk about you among others as if you’re a problem that they can solve. They may use the excuse that they are busy or just trying to help. Yet we all know a text can take less than 30 seconds to send. Also, I think I’ve expressed enough on my blog and through what I share, there is no “fixing” this. Just let me grieve. Unless I’ve picked up a new hard drug habit, then you can lend some advice. But until then, what I’m doing to get by is just fine, and it is more than enough.
Like Amy pointed out though, “I’m tired of making excuses for you.” This resonates oh so much with me. Why? Because I have been insanely vulnerable through my loss. I created a blog to express all this vulnerability. I constantly share articles just like this one. We attended a grief support group, who I currently volunteer for. I see a therapist weekly who specializes in child loss. I continue to read and educate myself on other types of grief. I’m doing everything in my power to feel EVERYTHING that this loss brings up. I’m not stuffing it down, or hiding in a closest to revisit this all at a later date. I am out and open with the good, the bad and the ugly. Also constantly sharing what I need, or what to do for others who may be going through something similar. So the excuse of “Oh, I just don’t know what to say” or “I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing” … I call big fat bullshit. So you could take the time to read my personal words, that I so openly share. Also there are sites like Still Mothers and Still Standing Magazine who have a plethora of resources. And when in doubt, Google. Sorry, you have no excuses left.
To the ones who have ignored, judged, or hurt me in my grieving process … as easy as it would be to just write these ones off, it’s not that simple. Because if that was the case, these people wouldn’t matter and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. They do matter, they are some of my closest people, not my mailman. So why does this happen? It goes back to what Amy said: “You just may never understand my grief” … but unfortunately this conclusion does not heal the hurt they’ve caused. Because now they’ve made it about themselves. It’s the people who cannot get out of their own way, their own discomfort, their own shortcomings to just try and be there for the person who is grieving. There’s not a scoreboard when it comes to grief, we just need people to SHOW UP and SHOW LOVE.
So why is this conclusion so hard for me to swallow? Because when you lay out all the tools for someone to learn and help you with your grief, and yet they still come back with an excuse, hurtful words, or even worse, just nothing at all … it’s the biggest slap in the face. How is it that you are now responsible for holding their hand through your loss? You’ve laid the groundwork, now it’s their time to step up. But they don’t, and that’s where the added hurt comes in. You are already hurting immensely from your loss, but now this is a whole other loss you are forced to process. The loss of this relationship you value and were counting on in your time of need. It’s own their way of saying, “I don’t care to take the time to understand your grief.” Also what it reads to us mothers of losses like this (especially stillbirth), when you are more than desperate to ensure the memory of your child lives on because their time here was infinitely short … what it says to us is, “your child isn’t deserving for me to understand this grief either.” Of course no human with a bleeding heart would ever utter those words aloud, but I’m telling you that’s the message it sends. When we do everything in our power to explain our grief and articulate the pain we feel without our children, and you shut the door on that … you are shutting the door on us both. And that my friends, is something very hard (if not impossible) to repair.
So I will leave you with a snippet from a similar article called: When Your Grief is Attacked, RaeAnne writes:
“Always remember this: It’s never okay to criticize a grieving parent. Ever. You have no idea how hard it is to live without your child, and your inability to understand doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong. It means you need to put that much more effort into loving and supporting me.
Until you can do that, I have no room for you in my life. My heart is too full of love for my baby, and my energy too tied up in supporting myself as I do the work I need to recover from this trauma.”