How to talk to someone after the loss of a child
How to talk to someone who has lost a child
On Mother’s Day, we like to wish all Mom’s Happy Mother’s Day. Except for that friend who lost a child, or still has one child but lost another; how do we handle that?
As a mother who lost her youngest son, of two boys, I can tell you there is nothing you can say except I’m thinking of you (with warm thoughts, prayers, or something to that sort) because unless you have lost a son or daughter, you will not understand what it feels like to have a Mother’s Day without one of your children.
You can call and ask them how they are doing… then listen. Sometimes, they want so badly to talk about that son or daughter who died, but no one wants to hear it. If that same son or daughter were alive, we would listen (or endure) every little story she told us about that crazy kid of theirs; because they were our friend, our sibling, our daughter, mother, or co-worker. In that same vein, we still want and need to talk about our lost children. They are very much a part of our lives, just not currently in our lives. They live on in our thoughts, and our dreams. When others tell stories of their kids graduating, getting married, having children, some of those life happenings that will never occur for us; it’s a constant, sad reminder or trigger if you will, of that same bitter loss. We don’t plan this, or mean for it to happen mind you. I can go to a grocery store and see a sign saying Mother’s Day flowers for sale and instantly have tears in my eyes for those flowers or card that will never arrive or realistically never come again. Sometimes we can shake off these feelings, and sometimes they hover around us, just under the skin so that any moment we feel we might burst into tears again. It’s an awful burden and also a difficult emotional thing to overcome.
Some would say, you are just hormonal right now. Really, I lost those female parts 20 years ago. Words like you’ll get past this don’t work, we WILL NEVER get past losing a child. Would you? God has a plan, all things work together for good, and God forbid, maybe that child had sin and God called them home. At least you have another child say others… and I’m worried as hell I’ll lose him too now.
Platitudes work great on Facebook but not for the grieving soul who is trying to come to terms with a loss so painful, it feels like a chunk of your heart has been ripped out. Some of us got physically sick, some of us could no longer eat, some of us lost all feelings of pleasure and our marriage suffered for it. Some of us can’t stop dwelling on it, feelings of guilt, what ifs, and anger at why this happened. We are not approachable people with platitudes and simple sayings to excuse life’s aches and pains away. We are desperate, heart wrenched, suffering souls who are trying to find our way through a fog of grief with no map to guide us. Our friends and family want to help but find they have no real way to console us oddly. After a year, they wonder why we are still brought to tears sometimes talking about that same loss.
My first close experience with grief was a close friend who received the call that her Father had died while I was visiting her. I knew I needed to stay somehow, but knew little else. I saw that she needed company, to not feel alone in her time of grief, even if I said nothing while she called other family members and shared the sad news. I needed only be there for her. When her husband arrived home, and “he” was there for her, she said, “You should go, thank you so much for staying with me, it helped so much”, yet I had done nothing, only stayed and was there to listen and comfort her. Hugs helped, but mostly just listening. We all have stories we think we can share that will help, but unless you personally have shared the same loss, they are mere stories that are not accepted and rejected by the grieving mind.
So many things become trivial after a loss of a child. We hear people complaining about things and think, how trivial that they are stuck on something so meaningless and have no real understanding of what’s really important in life. We try not to judge but suddenly some friends seem so immature, and some friends seem very understanding that we never quite got. It opens a deeper wisdom of life that we didn’t want, but got anyway. We become more empathetic, more huggers, more nodding of understanding in stories told by others. We cry more in church, and just listening to songs on the radio. We see extra meanings in rainbows, and hearts, and small symbols personal only to us. We talk of dreaming about them, seeing them in a vision, or “visit” if you will in the house. We hear their voices speak to us. We feel like we are going crazy if we share this with anyone other than our support group who nod their heads in understanding. We are Mom’s and Dad’s lost in grief. We will never be the same people again, and our lives have changed eternally until we see those children in Heaven as we console ourselves with. If someone does not believe in God or a savior, I can’t possibly begin to understand how they can get through a loss of a child without extreme bitterness or anger.
I told a Dad whose 2 ½ year old son was dying of cancer that it was his time to die. Just like a sweet bird who flies in front of our car suddenly and dies there on our bumper, it was their time. It didn’t want to die or even mean to die, it just died. Things happen, whoah, here we go with those stupid sayings again, and out the window my best intentions went. In his grief and anger he blamed God for taking his sweet little son. God was actually probably standing there crying with him, holding his son’s hand, telling him not to be afraid. Death is so final, so unstoppable sometimes. When we have time to prepare we think it will be easier, in truth, it’s no easier than we are called and told suddenly they are gone. Death is never easy to hear about anyone we love or care about.
So for Mother’s Day, call that friend instead. Tell them you are thinking about them, then ask how they are doing. Let them tell you. That’s how you handle a friend or family member on Mother’s Day. And please be sincere, don’t cut them off if you can’t bear it. Don’t call if you aren’t sincere in your wishes, they will find you out, and you will drop off their list of trusted friends. Be honest, and tell them if you need to go and can’t listen to more. Cry with them if you have to, pray with or for them. Anything you can do to show them you really care will be noticed and appreciated. Show them love because one day it might be your turn to lean on them for the same understanding.