We are coming up on the three year anniversary of loosing our son and it still to this day amazes me how fast the years are flying by. It seems just like yesterday he was in my arms and my heart was so hopeful of who he would become, even though I will never get that chance, I do have peace on the time we did get to watch him grow.
Loosing a child is every parents worst nightmare. It is just not supposed to happen that way. When you have a child, they grow up, and you go before them. That is the way life’s cycle is supposed to work, but it’s very unfortunate, as one to many parent’s know, that is not how it actually works. The days after loosing Nico the out pouring of love and support was probably the only reason I got through those tough times. The constant messages, the constant prayers, the meals, people I had never even met were showing up at my door with their condolences.
There is no “how to” guide in grieving. No one grieves the same, and no one reacts the same. It doesn’t matter if it was your child, a child in general who you loved, a spouse, a family member, a parent, loosing someone close to you and who you care for is probably one of the hardest thing God puts us through. So I have put together kind of a list and my own thoughts on what not to say when someone you know is going through a hard time with loss.
- Tell them that you know what they are going through:
I know it is hard to find the words when you are trying to comfort someone. It is very easy to go into default mode and just say or do what you feel comfortable with. I can not tell you how many times during Nico’s visitation as people were coming through the line to give their respects said these lines. “I lost my grandpa a year or so ago, I understand what you are going through” or just simply “I know how you feel”. I kept my polite smile on and said “Thank you” but inside of me, I wanted to punch that person in the face.
Just because you have experienced loss in your own personal life, does not mean that you fully understand what that particular person is going through. Everyone is different, and everyone grieves differently, especially when it comes to a child. Comparing you loosing your grandparent who lived a long and full life, to a innocent child, just does not go over well. I will tell you that from experience.
Some simple lines to say to an individual instead: “I cant imagine the hurt you are having right now, please reach out when you are ready if you ever need to talk” If you do not have a close relationship with the person just simply say: “I’m sorry, I couldn’t imagine“.
2. IT WILL GET EASIER WITH TIME:
This is another one that really makes my skin crawl. Grief is a complex feeling. It is something that when you think you are actually doing okay a song comes on or something crosses your path and all of a sudden that emotion just hits you like a rock, and you are definitely not okay. There is no time table on grief. I can tell you from my own personal loss that it does not get easier with time, you just learn to live with it easier as the days go by. I know from talking with other families who have experience similar loss they all feel the same way. There is not a day that goes by we do not grieve for your child, we just learn how to get through those days a little better.
Putting a time stamp on it, or telling someone it will get easier, only makes them feel guilt when it doesn’t. I remember I was finally getting back to work a few weeks after we lost our son. I switched careers in this time because I figured if I have to do something when I really just want to stay in bed all day and cry, I want to do something I was passionate about. So I went back to teaching. I had the toddler class, and it took me a few months in to realize every child in that class was the exact same age as what Nico would of been. Seeing everything we were missing just hit me, hit me hard, and I actually had to ask my boss if I could go home for the day because I could not grasp my emotions. I will never forget the words she said to me as I was leaving for the day:
“It never gets easier, you just get stronger“
So some other things you can say to replace this line: “Take your time, let me know what you need” “It may not seem like it today, tomorrow, or weeks from now, but through it all, I am here for what you need”
3. THEY ARE IN A BETTER PLACE:
This one can be argued differently. As a Christian, I understand the sentiment people are trying to say with this line. I also have the understanding that not everyone is a Christian, and not everyone believes the same thing. So, when using this line, tread lightly. For a few different reasons.
When you are in the beginning stages of grief, it is very easy to question everything. I know when we lost Nico, my relationship with God was not on good terms. I was still a Christian, I was just a mad one. So when people would come up and tell me “He is in a better place” I would get angry. Why? Because I didn’t want him in a better place, I wanted him to be here with me. I knew he was in heaven, and I knew he was with God and protected by all the other loved ones we have lost in the past. That didn’t matter, I wanted my son with me. So when people were trying to tell me what I already knew, I didn’t care.
There are also people who are not religious, so when you are saying things like “They are in a better place” in their minds, that usually means the ground and that it is. So, be careful who you are using this line with.
Some things to say instead of this line, if they are a Christian you can say “They will always be with you, even if they aren’t physically here” “I know it is hard to understand why now, but just know life goes fast, and you will be together again soon”. If they were not a Christian, I would just avoid this area of conversation all together.
I think my favorite line I heard through all the banter those first few weeks was something simple, and complex. It put my heart at ease a little bit, and it was from one of the most influential woman in my life. She gave me a big hug, told me she loved me and said:
“I remember when I was younger and a close family friend lost their child. I didn’t know what to do, or what to say. I was angry, angry at God for taking something so innocent. Angry that my dearest friends were hurting. I was trying to get the courage to pick up the phone and call my friend but none of the words sounded right. I turned to my grandma in complete despair and said. Why, why does God have to take children, it is just so unfair. My grandma without missing a beat says to me:
Heaven is described as the greatest place. A paradise. The promise land. How could heaven be the most amazing thing, if it did not also contain the innocence and laughter of children? God takes children because they make heaven what it is. Pure, and full of love, and laughter.
That statement really stuck with me. It made me smile actually. I have said this message a few times to others who are struggling with the Why?, and they always find comfort in that scenario.
In the end:
It can be hard going through loss. It can be even more hard watching someone go through loss. The thing that you can do, as a bystander during this time is just simply be there for them. Let them cry, let them yell, let them laugh, and let them be who they are. Just simply, be there. Not for the first week, not sporadically, just be there for them through all of it. That will mean more to them then simple phrases or words.
If you know someone who is going through a loss, or has experienced the loss of a child and you feel like they need to talk to someone. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me, I am always here to help. Even if that person is you. I hope this post helped you approach a hard situation a little easier.