Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When someone close to you loses a loved one

While our family was on vacation, my stepmother lost her father. So, my number one concern when we got home was reaching out to let her know I cared. She knows if she needs anything I am here. I call or text her to let her know I am thinking of her and I even attended tonight's memorial at the funeral home. Leaving there I was talking with my daughter and decided I wanted to just write about loss tonight.

I know death is an uncomfortable subject for many people. You know, every single person that is born will die. It's a given. Do I like that?? No. I hate knowing that one day I will have to say goodbye to those that I hold dear. Thinking of ever going a day without my husband is enough to make me cry. I don't want to imagine it. I don't want to lose my parents. I don't want to lose any siblings. I sure as hell don't want to ever bury another child and don't care how old they are! When an older person dies, there seems to be more peace surrounding it as it is an expected part of life. When it's an adult in the prime of their lives, it's not normally expected and hard. When it's a child or a baby, it's never expected and always leaving people trying to grasp the whys and hows.

When you are the grieving person, you need people to keep reaching out to you. You never want to forget the person you loved and you don't want everyone around you to forget either. You want to be reminded of them and you want to remember all the good things. Even in the loss of a baby, you get to remember them in your arms, how they felt, how they smelled, little fingers, little toes, hair, etc.

So, here is Bambi's list to those who are supporting a grieving person-

1. No matter how you feel about death, please go to services if you are able. We remember those who took the time to come. My brother in laws mother came and I didn't know her at all, but it stayed with me and has meant so very much to me. If you don't want to see a body, ignore it or stay at the other end of the room. My brother telling me he didn't want to see or look at my daughter is something that stayed with me (and it hit me hard tonight to be honest). That was my baby and she was beautiful.

2. Reach out. If you cannot attend services, please do something, anything, to let the person know you care. Call them, even if you have to leave a voicemail. They will get it and appreciate it, even if they aren't up for talking. My cousin and friends did this all the time and it meant a lot. Send them a message just to say "Hey, I'm thinking of you". They will remember. My cousin and I are close, but that really added another layer to our bond. Send a card. Send a plant (dying flowers can be a trigger). My stepdad couldn't be here because he was gone on business, so he called me all the time until he got home and that meant a ton to me. My Dad and Stepmom bought us a pink peony that would bloom every year around her birthday.

3. Don't make their grief about you. This was how I lost my "best friend". She was angry that I didn't call her immediately. This is how I also learned about my midwife's true colors. She was waiting on my porch after Mary's funeral all kinds of angry that other midwives' were talking about her and the possibility of her arrest. When someone is grieving, you are there for them, NOT the other way around.  They can barely manage their own feelings, let alone yours. Several family members also did the "We couldn't handle it" thing that hurt initially and you aren't thinking clearly initially. So, what you do and how you react in the initial period sets the tone for the rest of the journey.

4. If you are going to bring food, please make it non -perishables that the family can just grab here and there or giftcards. Dinners are appreciated, but they usually go to waste because you have no appetite. Now, my mother and husbands family would bring food and make me eat. Probably not a good idea if there isn't a close relationship. Had they just been friends trying to boss me around, it would not of gone over at all!

5. Remember. It seems so simple, yet seems to be the hardest thing to do. Talk about that loved one. Mention their name. Remember their birthday. Remember when they died. Reach out on holidays or special days.

6. Do not just ask, "How are you doing?" if you really don't want to listen to the truth. Your demeanor and tone tells us if you really want to know or if you are asking because you think you are obligated to ask.

7. If we are having a hard time, please don't use some cliche to try to pacify us. My biggest pet peeve is the term, "I'll pray for you". Yeah, that didn't help at all! Take the time to sit down and actually listen to us. Don't tell us it will get easier. I tell other parents that I wish I could tell them it gets easier, but I don't know if it does. This also means not using the term "God needed an angel" or "it was for the best" or "you can have another". Nobody is replaceable! I will never get back those I have lost, no matter who I have in my life. Having a rainbow baby doesn't make losing my daughter any better.

8. See if we need anything. Even if we don't want to take you up on it, it still shows you actually care! If you are heading to the store, call the person and say "Can I grab a gallon of milk or trash bags or bring some fruit/veggies over". Me, Offer to bring me gummy worms on a bad day and I will love you forever!!

9. Don't expect for us to get over it. Yeah, you never get over losing a loved one. You will always miss them. This esp goes for a baby because people ASSume if you didn't have a long period of time with the baby, you couldn't actually love it or be bonded to it. These people are idiots and need slapped back to reality! And probably not to be a part of your life.

10. Do not expect grieving people to "get back to normal". Normal is gone and in it's place is a new normal that we are trying to figure out.

11. Grief causes many strange emotions. Please bear with us while we navigate them. The feelings will cycle and that's normal.

12. Even if you have a strained relationship with the person, make an effort. Brother mentioned above also made it known he had no desire to come to his nieces funeral but only came because people guilt tripped him. Course, he also later blamed me and felt he had a right because he didn't agree with my choices. That relationship is irreparable!

13. Send condolences in a personal way. This really means- DO NOT TEXT your condolences. Text is fine as a way to see how someone is doing or let them know you are thinking about them. Getting a "sorry for your loss" text is a surefire way to make sure the grieving has nothing else to do with your uncaring ass. Yes, this did happen and only solidified my resolve to never let him call my kids his grandchildren! Luckily her real Grandfathers showed they cared!

14. In the case of baby loss, please do not act like we have some contagious disease. We promise your baby will not die because ours did. Sharing air won't cause it. Hugging us won't cause it. Thinking of us won't cause it. Talking to us won't cause it. We attended a small church when our daughter died and I swear only two people there ever spoke to us after she died. I could be in the nursery with my kids and other people and not a word would be uttered. We lasted just a few months there after that before we were done!

I think this is about it from me, but if you want to add anything, please do so in the comments!

And for my grieving family members- I love you all and do genuinely care!! I wish I could make this all better, but I know I can't. My heart does break for every single one of you. ((Debi, Staci, Danny, Daniel, Chris, and David))
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