I am part of the Bereaved Parents Club. It’s a club that no one chooses to be a part of. One that, unfortunately, has too many members and continues to grow. My membership tells the world that I somehow survived every parent’s worst nightmare, the death of my child.
What I have learned is that bereaved parents have an instant bond. Regardless of when you became a member of the club, you immediately understand each other. Feel the same things. Understand the journey that is grief. Here is a list of what we wish the rest of the world knew.
7 Things Bereaved Parents Want You To Know
1. Talk About Him – I will not crumble and cry at the mere mention of his name. It’s quite the opposite. I love to hear someone say his name. It means they are thinking about him too. They remember him. I spend a good majority of my day thinking about him. When someone takes the time to ask me about him (or what happened), talk about him, or mention him it brings great joy to my heart! My greatest fear exists when everyone stops talking about him.
2. It Never Gets Easier – Grief has no end. People say time heals. Eventually it will get easier. It is just not the case. There are constant reminders that he is not here. It doesn’t matter how much time passes, I will never feel at peace with it. I will never get over it. I will never move on. This is a lifelong journey that I bear because I loved him and miss him so deeply. Please don’t judge my timetable or disinterest in moving on.
3. I Have Changed – I am a very different person than I was before he died. People don’t believe me when I tell them that, but it is true. My priorities have changed. My views on life, afterlife, faith have all changed. I am on a new journey. Finding out who I am now. The things I used to want are meaningless. The things I was willing to put up with in my life are no longer tolerated. Life is short.
4. Don’t Censor Yourself – I know I make you nervous. It is obvious in the way you think about what you are going to say (or not say) around me. The terrified look on your face when you accidentally say something like, “I could have died”. You’re not quite sure what to say because you don’t want to hurt me, remind me of my pain, or make me cry. I get it. However, I promise you that it’s OK. I have not forgotten my son died so nothing you say will make that wound worse. I will not immediately start crying because you made a joke that included the word death. Believe it or not, I still say those things. Please don’t feel nervous around me and worry about saying something stupid. I know you mean no harm.
5. Grief Is Hidden – Most people will never know how I’m really doing. While I blog about it or post something on Facebook, I’m only sharing part of it. When you see me, I will smile and laugh. My life will appear normal. Like I am living. In reality, I’m exhausted. Emotionally and physically drained from just trying to hold it all together. Sometimes I’m really struggling, broken even. It is rare that we show that reality. Until you’ve been through it, you just don’t understand it. That is not meant to be offensive. It’s just the truth. When most people ask how I am doing, I give one of my planned responses. Believe me, we spend time thinking about how to answer common questions we get.
6. Please Just Listen – When we do talk about how I’m doing, just listen and be supportive. I’m not looking for anyone to try and fix me or make suggestions about what I should do. I usually just want someone to listen and say, “Yeah, that sucks!” Unless I begin to completely withdraw from society and no longer take care of my other kids, please let me grieve as I want. The things I’m going through are normal. Not everything warrants a shrink or medication. If it does, I will know when it is time and it will be on my own terms.
7. Please Take The Lead – Chances are, I will not call you if I need anything. Even if you extend the invitation, it’s just not something I will do. Initiating plans, making phone calls, sending texts. These are things that may not happen as we’d like. The best of intentions exist on my end. However, I may need your help in this area. I do appreciate hearing from you. Even if I’m not the one initiating, know that it isn’t due to lack of interest.
My intention with these posts is to help normalize grief and discussion around child loss. It impacts so many people. If nothing else, I hope to help people navigate uncomfortable situations and know how to better support others dealing with child loss (regardless of how long ago it was).