I have seen a ton of posts and articles about what not to do or say and how to approach a person who lost their child… I was on a plane Friday night reflecting on the events in Newton, CT… and I sat down and hand wrote this list. These are the things that I KNOW from my experience don’t help, aren’t supportive and are not the things to say to someone:
- Do not tell this person or family who lost their child you know how it feels (unless you have lost a child and then follow your rules and help them)… thankfully most people have no idea how it feels or what the world looks like for them now.
- Do not be the person who works to be associated with the person who died or the tragedy that happened… does it matter if you are so-and-so’s cousin’s best friend? Unless you are working to help the family and the association is needed or of course you are grieving (but that can be quieter and less Facebook official)… just pray for the families and support their efforts to change the world or keep their special person in memories.
- Do not expect anything from the mourner… and don’t make them feel guilty if you aren’t the person they chose to share or hug or be around… don’t bug them with texts, calls, messages… don’t act surprised if they hug and console you and don’t cry… don’t expect it to get better or easier in a year (or any amount of time)… just don’t expect anything of them- just let it roll the way they need it to and be there when they ask.
- Do not forget their lovely- put their name in the cards you send and remember their birthday… find a way to include them in what you do… my biggest fear is that the world will forget my Madeline (the Christmas cards that didn’t have her name felt like a blow).
- Do not tell them how hard it has been on you, or that your child has been taking it badly and is very sad… they can not carry your grief on top of their own.
- DO NOT EVER EVER say “Everything happens for a reason”… “Now they aren’t suffering”… (or anything that kind of fits into those). There is no reason it was my lovely and not yours- no reason.
- Do not tell everyone in the world how tightly you will hug your little ones and how much you love your own perfect little family tonight … because it freaking stings. It FREAKING hurts… it rubs salt into a huge and gaping wound already there. Please refrain from saying that and posting it on Facebook…
- Do not say “time will heal your wound” or “time heals all things”… something’s don’t ‘heal’… eventually I believe that my ‘wound’ and pain will become a part of my normal-not even gone. How could 1/3 of the best and most perfect set of sisters be in Heaven and not here for me to see grow, touch, snuggle… and that can ‘heal’???
- Please don’t (now and as time goes on) talk or tell this person about your child or children that are reaching all the milestones that theirs should… even pay attention when you are in a group talking to a bunch of others… find another subject. We are already aware that yours are losing teeth and writing notes and reading books and graduating from kindergarten… and though we never wish our journey on you it kills us to know what our lovelies aren’t doing… growing, laughing, smiling or learning…
So, I am sure I could keep going on and on, but this is a good list. I guess it is a list in hopes that you will never have to be the one to compose a list, that you will never know what a parent who has lost their child feels about situations and words… and also that you are more aware (in my experience) of the things that trigger or cause pain…