Friday, August 8, 2008

More Helpful Hints

Remember when I wrote this? My bullet point tutorial on what to say/not to say to a grieving parent. Well gwendomama has written the extended version with such wisdom and grace that I had to share.

On the flip side, I need a tutorial on how to respond to the oft uttered "I'm sorry." Thank you doesn't seem to cut it as evidenced by the awkward silence that typically follows. Someday I'll figure that one out.


Sara August 8, 2008 at 11:32 AM  

Not to sound like a therapist or anything (can't help it), but do you want to alleviate the awkward silence post "I'm sorry" and "thank you," for your own comfort or the other person's? Because if it's to make the other person feel comfortable, I don't think you have to do that (just my opinion). There is nothing "comfortable" about the loss of a child and you shouldn't have to make everyone else feel okay about your loss.

That said, if it's for your own comfort (and I know making the other person feel less awkward can also provide comfort for you), I would venture to guess that whatever would make you feel less awkward in that moment will change from day to day, moment to moment. (So, that's a typical therapist answer: a non-answer.)

I wish I had some better answers...or non-answers for you :)

Robb August 8, 2008 at 6:19 PM  

Thanks for sharing Lori.

Becci August 8, 2008 at 6:42 PM  

i don't really think there is a real way to avoid the awkward silence. death makes people feel awkward... period. even people who have experienced great loss do not really know what to say to someone else who is going through something similar. so, it's especially true for those who have no personal experience to draw from. but, in my opinion, "i'm sorry" is one of the best things i think a person can say. and it's not really your job to make anyone feel more comfortable about anything. it's OUR job to make YOU more comfortable... even if awkward silences abound! xoxoxoxoxo

gwendomama August 9, 2008 at 12:07 AM  

This is what I call: An Awkward Moment. But these Awkward Moments happen all the time. Nearly everyone has the same reaction upon hearing about a child's death: shock, sadness, disbelief. But after a year or so, it becomes difficult to hear every time. Not so difficult that we will ignore that s/he existed when you ask us how many children we have, but difficult in the tedious and somewhat depressing sense. And then we thank you for your sympathy, which is appropriate, but then the sadness and head-shaking in disbelief go on for another moment and we feel almost as if we need to comfort you and tell you it's okay.

When I tell people my son died, the usual (and completely appropriate) response is extreme apology, offered within hushed tones.
"Oh I am so sorry. How AWFUL for you and your family."
This is kind, this is meaningful. But guess what? My little girl is right next to me listening to HOW AWFUL IT IS FOR US. And I gesture to her and smile.
Then I address the person who is offering the condolences.
"Yes, it is every parent's worst nightmare come true. But it is also just our family history. It happened. Her brother's name was Elijah, and she remembers him."
Almost always, this evokes some happy memory or delivery of information about Elijah-the-living, that my daughter (now age 7) feels compelled to share.

If my daughter is not around, I pretty much say thank you and remind people that we like to remember him. It makes us feel better.

For us, I guess part of it is the de-sensitization process; the Coping With The Reality, tragic or not.

If the words 'my dead son' continue to evoke ONLY tragedy, then my daughter has far too much to lose.

Beth August 9, 2008 at 12:07 PM  

Thanks for the extended version. It is nice for those of us that have not been in your shoes to hear what is/is not appropriate. I often stick my foot in my mouth (whole ADHD thing), but with grief often the whole anxiety thing is far worse, so I say nothing. I am learning through your posts and friends posts what is acceptable. I to hate the dreaded silence. I often share Lillian's story as a way of healing or just talking with families I work with and often get the silence after telling them. BTW seriously niece Sara (or should I say Dr) I don't think she was looking for an answer ;-)

Jennifer August 10, 2008 at 2:35 PM  

Thank you so much for sharing this insight. From someone who is so used to talking non-stop that silence is VERY awkward, it's nice to hear that it can be okay sometimes. And, I'm so sorry if I've ever said anything that made things worse. I think sometimes in our desire to make it all better, we talk just so we don't have to hear the deafening silence.

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