People react differently to someone who is grieving. Some people stay in touch regularly, others keep their distance. As I told a close friend recently, I wouldn’t know what to say to me either. Every day of my life now is like groping around in the dark, trying to get my bearings. This makes even the smallest tasks difficult and exhausting.
The Compassionate Friends, a nonprofit that supports parents and siblings of a child who has passed over, gives good outlines here, here and here on how to help. I would like to offer the following things to know when dealing with me, specifically:
- Don’t assume I don’t want to talk about my son. Ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room does not help. It hurts. I never want my son to be forgotten. Thus, I am eager to talk about him. Memories are all I have and conversations about him are what keeps Noah alive for me. I may not always want to talk about his accident, but I will jump at the chance to talk about his life, his personality, his quirks. And if I remember something I may have forgotten, you have given me a great gift. And if you say his name or even share a story or experience of Noah that you share with me – again – you have given me a priceless gift.
- Tears are NOT BAD. If I cry, I cry. It’s part of the process. You didn’t cause it, it’s not your fault and you should not feel bad. I am going through what I have to go through to come to terms with this and it has nothing to do with what a well-meaning friend says. If it’s you, I’ll tell you it’s you. But I will always assume good intent.
- I am volatile. The smallest things set me off and, again, it’s not you. Just this week I have cried about a toaster, a shower head and a blanket. Sometimes a mere thought can do it. I am still shocked sometimes when I break concentration on a project, TV show or book to realize, for the millionth time, that I will never see my son again.
- Hugs are always ok. I need them. The support of those around me is what sees me through the days so if I look like I need it – or even if I don’t – I’ll always take a free hug. Anytime. Anywhere.
- I have changed…but I am still me. No doubt this has changed – is changing – who I am and who I seem to be. But rest assured, I am just as bewildered and at a loss for words as you are. No one ever signs up for this. I’m groping around in the dark just like you are.
- There are some topics I don’t want to discuss. Please don’t talk to me about water sports, swimming, pool safety / cleaning, boating, etc. I could run away. Possibly screaming.
- Two words: Mood. Swings. I may be irritable, apathetic, playful or depressed for no reason apparent to you. Hang in there with me. Be gentle. Show me that you accept me as I am and you’ll likely help me snap out of it. Which I will no doubt be grateful for.
- Don’t avoid me or act like nothing happened. These are the worst things you can do because it adds to the feeling of abandonment that I’m already struggling with. If you don’t know what to say, tell me so! Don’t be afraid to share your feelings and thoughts with me. Be genuine and be gentle.
- Realize that I’m scatter-brained. Sometimes it’s difficult to concentrate and I may forget or overlook things. I find it extremely difficult to make decisions and details can be difficult / overwhelming. Again, be gentle. See #4.
There it is, for whatever its worth. Thank you for reading, sharing, loving and learning with me through this.