Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Note About Grief

I'd like to talk about grief. The process for those close to you. Maybe, somehow it can help both you the reader, and me the griever. I truly have so much going on in my world that isn't positive, I think that when I help others, I actually help myself. I want so much for this half of a year hold on rotten-ness to be over... turn it around.. I just cant find a way to do it? I sometimes feel that I am spinning my wheels doing things to make things positive, only to be slammed again. There have been so many life changes around here that its a wonder I'm not running down the street Naked right about now.... its just unimaginable... all of it. I refuse to have a pity party about it.. but whats the dang answer people? So here goes... I am in hopes that it helps someone, including me...

Ways to help a grieving Mother

* Be there. I can't tell you how many people were just there for us. From day one, moment one, even now. Our close friends came by to sit with us. Notice, I say friends. I did not really want to be around people that I was not close to. I did not want to have to work at putting on the brave face. There wasn't one there.

* Don't try to fix things. Nothing you or anyone else can do will fix the situation. You can't "make it better." Trying to fix it is just patronizing and upsetting. After all, I couldn't fix it myself, and I consider myself to be a pretty good fixer upper.

*Sharing Skin... TOUCH. It is amazing how much a hug, an arm....a hand, can HELP heal. Friends could reduce me to tears with a hug and yet, at the same time, make me feel so much better. It was like they were taking part of my burden upon themselves; trying to lighten my load.

* Let them cry. I really don't like to cry in front of people. (well, maybe a friend or 2...) But when you have lost your child, just get used to it. God gave us the ability to cry for a reason. There is something healing about it. So, let them cry when they feel like it. Don't feel like you did something wrong when they cry. The smallest things can set them off. (and still do)

* Listen. ....I think part of what is helping me deal with my grief is to just be able to talk through it out loud to someone else. When I started thinking to myself, I would always stop myself before I got too far down a thought process. Change the channel Gina quick! But, when talking out loud, it is like I am figuring things out. Don't feel like you have to respond when they start talking about it. Give them time to think through what they want to say and get it all out before you respond.

* Help them change the channel by whisking them away for a coffee, a lunch, a walk, or a manicure. Its brief, and a little uncomfortable, but it works for a little while. I now call it my brain resting place.

* Be willing to sit in silence. When you don't know what to say, it is ok just to sit there. Again, your presence is a comfort even more than words can be some times. It lets them know you care. Again, sharing skin: "touch", is an amazing, healing tool.

* Send food. (& other things) I know this sounds gooberish and truthfully, I always thought it to be lame at best, but when you have just gone through a tragedy...and are still going through it...( I am STILL going through it) the last thing you think about is feeding yourself or anyone else who appears in your home, yet I feel compelled to, and cannot. Remember, WE are the natural nurturers, and normal, is no longer normal. When there are family members coming in and out, the last thing you want to think about is how you are going to feed them. God bless the neighbors who just leave fresh vegetables hanging on my front door knob.

* Understand that they may have irrational thoughts- and that's o.k. I never would have thought I would say, feel, or do some of the things I did after losing Jamie, until I was there. Grief will cause a person to feel things that are abnormal for them. I equate it to misfiring in the brain. Things just wouldn't "connect". Don't criticize them for those feelings or thoughts. If you do, they may not share them with anyone any more. Holding those things in is not healthy. Talking through those feelings is healthy.

*Try to avoid saying those "stupid things" that come out of people's mouths without thinking. For example, we heard things like..."Well, its a shame a seat belt could have saved his life."Helpful? NO! Don't start down the paths of the "what if" game. People can "what if" themselves to death, but it won't change anything. We also heard, "It was all in God's plan." While it sounds like it should be comforting, it really is not. I do not understand why God's plan would let Jamie die, and another son live...why would he allow so much pain?Now.... I don't think God wanted us to suffer like this, but for some reason, he chose not to interfere. Which brings me to another one, "You will understand it one day." That may be so, (though I doubt it) but that does not make it any easier at the time. Don't say you know how they feel unless you have been through the same thing before.

* Talk about the baby. The child. The Teen. The man. One of my fears is that people will forget. For the first few weeks after the funeral, no one mentioned going by the cemetery. This made me feel like they had all just moved on and he was no longer important. In reality, they had been going frequently, but had not said anything because they were afraid to upset me. Once they started talking about him freely, I would cry, yes, but I felt so much better about it. No one can ever forget their child, brother, uncle, grandson, friend. I ache incredibly so, for the last 26 years of memories of my son. Share a familiar funny tale or two..... laughter through tears, my favorite medicine.

* It is MORE than o.k. to leave pictures of them up. Taking the pictures down seems as if they are out of sight, out of mind. Leaving them up says that you still love them and they are still important. Don't tell them to box him up and put him away, that's just cruel.

* Don't be afraid of the work ahead of you. Being around someone who is grieving is not an easy thing. They can tell when you are just going through the motions and that does not help anyone. Sharing in someones suffering means that when you ask how they are doing, or offer to let them talk, you are prepared to be there as long as it takes. Don't judge them. Don't tell them they should not feel the way they do. Be ready to take anything they may throw out without correcting. As much as you want to, you need to just let them vent. Put yourself into them, or get out of their way.

* Try not to avoid them, as it feels like desertion, when in reality, people are just afraid of how to act, what to say or do. Theres something Unholy about the loss of your child, and everybody knows that. Feels that. Its normal, I'm told, for people to do this.... but I'm telling you the perception isn't comforting at all. If you love them, try harder.

*Lastly, Pray. Pray with them, pray for them. Call every prayer warrior that you know, pray for them on your own. When I first lost Jamie, I could not pray on my own. I felt like I had prayed for God to save him, bring him back, or make it a mis identity case with everything that was in me, and when he did not, I didn't have anything left to pray about. Nothing. I had feelings of betrayal... broken promises. Promises that I have kept close to me through all of these years. A promise that if I taught my children the way they should go, they would never stray. A promise that through my prayer covers alone, they would remain safe. It worked brilliantly, until now. That is when the prayers of others carried me. I knew that I needed it, I just couldn't do it for myself, yet. To be honest, I still struggle. I found myself one day praying together with my children around Jamie's grave site, still angry. Shameful, but true. Again I say... My mind knows better, but my heart wont listen.

Thanks for listening to a grieving Mother. Again. Still. Grunt.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for telling me what I need to know to help my friends when something like this happens. I always want to help but didn't always know what to do or say to be helpful instead of a pain. You have given me things I can do or say and let me know that I DON'T have to say anything. Just being there is a big help. Now I know cause you've told me.
I think of you often & pray for you daily. You will get through this. You ARE getting through this.
Linda (noocha on MQR)

Yvonne said...

Dear are in my thoughts and prayers. I don't know your loss but I watched my Mom deal with your loss....I know the pain. Sending hugs....(((((()))))))

The Sarah Bear said...

Gina - I love you always - I admire you daily.

I am so glad Jamie is on my website! I have somtimes wondered if it was right for you, but I know it was right for me, because I don't want any of us to forget that life is different, that even in his absence he MUST be present.

I love you sis.
(insert squeeze)
(insert silent hand hold)

JudyL said...

Gina, I think about you often and I do pray for you.

Freda said...

You are in my prayers Gina. Thanks for the advise as I have a friend with terminal pancreatic cancer and I will use this advise when the time comes for his family.

Diana Wilson said...

You are an amazing woman. You share yourself so openly and honestly. Even the most unbearable heart wrenching grief. I have cried so many tears for you and your Jamie. It may be crazy but I feel as if I know you. That is because of your writing the way you do. I love the way you talk of your very much loved grandchildren. I'm happy to hear you have a great network of friends to buffer your sadness. It has only been a few months. OF COURSE you are still grieving. Be gentle to yourself friend. Know you are loved.

TeresaL said...

Dear, dear Gina...thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and heart about this. I know there are many, me included, who struggle with how to word what we are feeling, to word our thoughts so they help and not make the wounds deeper.

I just wish I could ease the pain for all the parents who have lost a child...

My best to you,

Anonymous said...

Well said my friend, all of these things and then some, nothing will make it better, nothing will bring our sons back, You have helped me in huge ways, I hope I have helped you, you can bring on a calm nobody else can, we are walking in the same footprints, lost inside a body that we should know, empty in a soul that was at one time so full and now trying desperately to fill the void but knowing deep inside that will never happen..... It hurts beyond belief, yes we do think things unimaginable and i am glad we can share these thoughts, these feelings, the emptiness... Thank you my friend, we need the biggest boats, the biggest cars, the biggest wagons, planes, trains and friends with the biggest most loving, understanding hearts and souls to get us through this... I love you MORE! From Ronda who only has her Memories of her Son and can no longer hold his hand, or hug the pain away.....

Brenda said...

Gina, I hope that this has helped you, as I know it has helped others. My brother lost his son 6 weeks ago, and it is a horrible club to be in for sure. I appreciate your writing these, and will try to use these wise words to help them get through this one step at a time. You and Ronda are still in my prayers, and while I've been told the grieving never stops, I've also been told that our minds eventually get better at filling in happy moments and memories, and I certainly wish that for you.


BitnByAQuiltingBug said...

This is one of the most moving things I've ever read. I have never felt this kind of pain and pray I won't, but your openness is an amazing thing. I will pray for you and your family. Your strength and love shines through your words.....

Anita - aka Granny Patches said...

(((Gina))) There are those who sit silently with you even when you don't know we are. We are listening with our eyes but we do share your pain. As you said, talking helps the healing. I have a suggestion for something you might consider doing.

I started writing a book about my sons to give to each of their children. Putting my sons lives down on paper has helped me and will help their children someday to know who their fathers really were.

I have started putting a picture from different times in their lives into each book and telling the story behind the picture. The pictures were to be given to the kids when I leave this world. Now there will be something from me as well as captured moments in time of their fathers.

I do shed quite a lot of tears with each picture and chapter but it helps. For me, it's better than a shrink. I drink my cuppa and let the tears flow.... dang anyone who tries to stop me.

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