Saturday, September 28, 2013

Question 2: What NOT to do for Someone who is Grieving.

I went with my sister-in-law Dar to the cemetery to take some photos for my post and loved this one. It feels like little Ivory is laying right beside her.

I have to say that one thing I can't stop thinking about is this woman who was nearby sitting by a headstone. The headstone belonged to a little three-year-old boy. I know this because the last time I was visiting Ivory's grave- there were spiderman balloons and tiny cars and action heros along the headstone. Curious- I went over the grave and saw the little action figures and toys belonged to a little three-year-old boy.  Oh how my heart ached for that mother. 

I think of that experience and that mother often. 

Oh how I never want to take my little ones for granted. It makes me want to enjoy them every second I get with them.

This brings me to Question 2: 

2) What acts of actions, comments, or gifts stand out to you as being the least helpful to you?

“Ahh… the least helpful, is all of the people who needed to make it better for me or simply disappeared. The cards that espoused their religious beliefs, and not mine. “He’s in a better place”. Even if it’s true, he wasn’t with me. This statement robs someone of their right to grieve. The comparisons friends made to their own grief experiences. One of the worst comparisons made at the time (I have better perspective now) was the good friend who compared the loss of my son, to the loss of her dog.”

“The least helpful were obviously the ones who didn't do anything. I got "we just want to give you your space" or "call me if you need anything" a lot, and I'm guilty of doing that to people. After going through a trial though, I've realized they are meaningless comments. There is a "space" that needs to be respected, but never coming over or sending your love actually kind of hurts. It made me question friendships.. I feel that "giving space" translates to: we don't know how to help you, so we'll let you deal with it on your own and be there when you're over it.  When people said to call them if I needed anything, I knew they meant it, but I was never going to call them. It's kind of an "out" for people who just don't know what to do. Along with the "call me if you need anything" is "let me know if there's anything I can do." Pretty much the same thing.. mostly meaningless and the person is not going to call or let you know if you can do something.

Don't go over to a grievers home, without notification, and stay for a long time. Plan on stopping by for just a minute or two, unless it's clear that they want you to stay.

If a griever isn't answering your phone calls, texts or emails.. don't take it personally. They need time. Continuing to call, text, and email doesn't necessarily help either. They'll get to you when they're ready.”

“least helpful hmm. anything was kind and accepted but the least Helpful was probably someone saying "call if you need anything" hah. its something that I will probably never do. Even if I did need something.”

The thing I really did not like after my boys died is the thing that people automatically do.  Everyone does it.  I still find myself doing it sometimes and inwardly cringe.  I HATED when people would try and compare their trials to my situation.  It's a completely natural thing for people to do because they don't know what to say, so they start by letting you know they understand. After both of my boys died, I had a lot of people tell me they knew exactly how I felt because they had a miscarriage at 8 weeks.  I don't want to downplay the emotions and grief that comes with having a miscarriage because I know those are very real feelings as well, so I hope no one would take offense at me saying that.  But, having a miscarriage is completely different from watching your 15 month old go through emergency brain surgery in the middle of Mexico and not make it.  Last summer, my friend's father passed away and she said the same thing.  She did not like it when people would downplay her grief by saying, "My dad died too, so I understand.  It's okay.  He's better off now."  I know people are just trying to be helpful, but it comes back to my earlier statement that everyone grieves differently and trying to compare situations felt like people were downplaying my grief at the moment.  Instead of trying to sympathize, just offer sympathy, if that makes sense.  Instead of saying, "I understand because I went though A, B, or C as well", just say, "I'm very sorry you have to go through this.  You are in my thoughts and prayers."
Another random thought on this one is the books on grief and children dying that we got when both boys died.  To this day, I haven't read a single one of them and probably won't.  My life was consumed with grief at the moment and I didn't want to go read about it as well.  Wait, I did read one picture book that was very helpful called Tear Soup.  I liked it because it was a picture book and easy to read.  It also talks about how everyone grieves differently and you are not doing it wrong.  Other than that, I didn't read any of the dozen or so books we received.  However, once again, that is a completely personal thing.  There might be a lot of people who would consume every book they got on such a topic and it would be very helpful and therapeutic to them.”

“The thing that was the hardest for me was having people tell me that they were sorry that it happened and that they knew what I was going through. Nobody will ever truly understand what you are dealing with until they are put on that position.”
"When people shared their similar trails for too long, it would seem it was turning the comfort away from me and what I needed at the time....didn't really happen to me...there was one great conversation that I appreciated that I could have taken that way, but didn't.  But that was a thought I had to push away at the time.  That is the only thing I can think of.  Always better to keep the focus on the person with the trial I think unless you feel it is ok to share a similar experience, but keep it short and sweet and about the other person."



  1. This is great to hear Cristi. I completely agree with the "call me if you need anything" offer, and it also really frustrated me when I was going through a hard time. It makes me feel better that I'm not just being difficult and hard to please:) All of these are just great to remember and be reminded of, so I don't do the same to others.

  2. I don't know exactly what you've been through and don't want to compare stories. I just wanted to let you know that I agree with a lot of your post. When people found out I had cancer, all I heard were stories of cancer. Some with happy endings, but lots with sad. And more than not people wanted me to call them if I needed anything. I'd love for my house to be cleaned, but I'm not calling my friends to do that. Now if they would've showed up with cleaning supplies, go for it! I'd be slightly embarrassed, but it would really have helped me. I suppose I've learned how to help others now that I've been the one needing help for so long. Thanks for sharing your feelings. I hope I didn't say anything "wrong". Take care!