A story of premature birth and the NICU roller coaster

The truth about what grieving parents think, at least I agree….

on October 14, 2012

This pretty much sums it up….I found this on a chat forum….while its nobody else’s fault that my son died and their life goes on after the funeral, I am still figuring things out and knee deep in grief and confusion.

My child has died – what can you do to help?

Please don’t ask “how are you?” unless you really want to know the answer…
How are you?” has become a meaningless greeting to which the expected answer is “fine”. But I am not fine. At best I’m a bit fragile and a lot of the time I’m far worse – I feel upset, hurt, bewildered, angry, guilty. But these and other normal feelings which follow the death of someone you love are not the things of polite conversation. So if you are not prepared to hear about them, choose another way to greet me.

Don’t expect to much of me too soon….
If I’d broken my leg I’d have a plaster cast on and you wouldn’t expect me to get back to normal for months. you can’t put broken feelings in plaster and you can’t see the scars. But they need time to heal and I need time to come to terms with the realization that “normal” from now on is life without my child.

Don’t ignore the death or the child that died…
You wouldn’t have any trouble talking about good news. If I’d just won Lotto it would be the first thing you would mention. Bad news is different – you probably don’t know what to say or how to say it. But the death of my child is the most important thing in my life and it helps to acknowledge that.

Be honest, and try to avoid platitudes…
“This is awful, I don’t know what to say” is far more help than cliched phrases that aren’t true anyway. Time alone doesn’t heal, the fact we’ve got each other is irrelevant because two drowning people can’t save each other and there is no comfort in the thought of this misery being God’s will.

Don’t think that having, or being able to have, other children will lessen the pain of my child’s death…
A child who loses a favorite toy will not be placated by a substitute. And so it is with people. I loved my child for who he was as an individual, not as an interchangeable piece in a set and mourning for him, at least at first will strain rather than strengthen bonds with other children.

If you want to help, make specific offers not empty promises…Saying “if there’s anything I can do” might make you feel good, but I’m unlikely to take you up because I probably don’t know what I need and I’m unsure what your “anything” means. However if you turn up with food, an offer to babysit, or just a listening ear, your kindness will be gratefully accepted.

Practice, don’t preach…
However weak or strong my faith, and whatever your beliefs, this is no time for sermons.

Be sensitive…
I find it hard to believe life in the outside world is still going on when my private world has collapsed. I hope my child’s death won’t leave me bitter. But it will take me time, months, years, before the weight of my own feelings lightens enough to allow me to share your joys or sorrows.

Don’t expect me to follow a prescribed pattern of grieving…
Denial, anger, guilt, depression and acceptance are all stages in the grief process but no two people will go through them in the same way. I’ll have good days and bad days, sometimes I’ll cope with a lot, at other times I’ll be phased by little things. It may seem illogical to you, but then feelings often are.

Don’t confuse control with coping…
A stiff upper lip probably means I’ve got a tight rein on my feelings, not that I have come to terms with them. You may not be comfortable with crying or screaming but they are far healthier than numbness, which is a sign of denial.

Keep in touch…
I’ll always be grateful for the practical and moral support you gave immediately after the death and I know you have to get on with your life.
But grief doesn’t end with the funeral and occasional phone call, note or visit will let me know you haven’t forgotten.

The death of my child has left me emotionally and spiritually shattered. It will take time to put the pieces together again, to rebuild relationships. But when things get really bad, knowing there is a friend who cares may be all I need to tip the balance in favour of recovery.

Written by Elspeth Ludemann. First published in “North and South” (New Zealand) in March 1991.


4 responses to “The truth about what grieving parents think, at least I agree….

  1. All so very, very true. Thanks for sharing.

  2. saifsmom2012 says:

    I’m glad I found it so I’m elated to share it.

  3. I am the one who wrote that more than 20 years ago. I find it very helpful to read about other people’s experiences and am touched that my words are still helping other people.

    Four years after I wrote this column, Dan, our second son died of the same condition which afflicted his brother, Tom. Some of what we’d learned from Tom’s death and the aftermath helped us deal with Dan’s but one death doesn’t immunise you from the impact of another and we still had to wend our way through the grief maze.

    Two decades later, the lives and deaths of our sons still affect us – but usually in a good way. Among the gifts they left us was an appreciation of life and a determination not to throw that back in their faces by wasting the opportunities we have in mourning for those they didn’t.

    I hope that love, laughter and time help heal your grief wounds heal too.

  4. homepaddock says:

    I wrote this piece more than 20 years ago. I found, and still find, it helpful to read other people’s experiences and am touched that my words are helping other members of the bereaved parents’ club which none of us choose to join.

    Four years after writing that piece our second son, Dan, died of the same condition that had killed Tom. What we’d learned from Tom’s death and the aftermath did help with Dan’s but one death doesn’t immunise from another and we still had to wend our way through the grief maze.

    More than 20 decades later the lives and deaths of our sons still affect us, but almost always in a good way. One of the gifts they gave us was an appreciation of life and we are determined not to waste opportunities by mourning for those they didn’t have.

    I hope you have the love, laughter and time to help heal your grief wound.

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