When A Child Dies

by admin on February 27, 2013

Reprinted with permission.

 

Some of you know my 12 yo daughter Rachael died 3 years ago this month. It is fascinating to me what types of things I have learned through losing her. A friends 11 yo son is- dying of cancer and is struggling so I thought it might help to share a few things that you should never say to a mom who has a child dying or one who died.

1. Never tell us that we are doing *it* wrong. *It* is unbearable and we are doing the best there is to do. Honest. If you would do things differently that is fine. But don’t tell us. This is not your job or burden to bear and we DO have to do it and you don’t.

2. Don’t tell us that they are in a better place. We know heaven is nicer than here, but we like them here just fine and really…it feels like you are saying we are not good enough for our child to stay.

3. Please don’t tell us ways to save them. We already want to and can’t or couldn’t.

4. Don’t tell us that God *must* heal our child if we just have enough faith. Perfect healing is in heaven for us all and I have yet to meet a Christian who never died. If faith was all it takes to heal everyone NO one would ever die.

5. It hurts us to be told that losing a child to death by sickness or accident is the same a when your 94 year old grandmother died in her sleep 2 years ago. It isn’t the same thing at all. We know you are in pain, but it is not the same thing. At all.

6. Please don’t expect us to be back to normal in a month and it is a fallacy to say grieving takes a year. We will never be the same and it will take a long time to find our way again. We will never be *over it*.

7. Please help us. Life is so overwhelming that after the death it is hard to even think of HOW to cook a meal, let alone do it. And if our child has not died yet, please offer to help in any and every way possible. If you are far away, money helps us to buy help.

8. Let us cry. We are so sorry that it makes you uncomfortable, but it is a fact of our life now. Tears will come and it doesn’t mean that it is bad to talk about our children, only that we are deeply grieving them.

9. It means a lot to us when you remember our child. Expecially later when it feels like everyone has forgotten.

10. Having another baby is not the answer to losing the one that died.

11. It is NOT easier, or harder, that we have other children. No one can replace the one that died.

12. Please don’t watch us as though we are about to throw ourselves into the open grave. None of us likes to be thought of as a freak show. And please think of us as something other than the-lady-whose-kid-died. That is a hard definition to live with. But also please be gentle with us for quite a while. We can’t handle rough treatment.

13. We may gain weight, or lose weight, or sleep more, or not sleep at all. We may be sad for a long time. It does not mean something wrong with us. It just means we are profoundly changed.

14. We will never be the same as you once knew us. Please don’t expect us to be.

15. Remember that our families are hurting too.

16. We can’t help you through our child’s death. We recognize that it is hard for many people but please don’t lean on us as we go through this. We can’t hold you up. We have other people that we have to help already. Come and help hold us up instead please.

Pretty please?

Corinne Mutch Kligmann

{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

Page February 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm

When my grandfather died, a visitor to our church (same religion, but didn’t usually come to our church and had never met my grandfather) gave me a big smile and said in a cheery voice “Oh, he’s just gone to a different address!”

It was only a week after my grandfather had died, I almost decked him.

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The Elf February 27, 2013 at 4:09 pm

I need to print this list out and hope I never need it. Thank you for sharing your lessons learned.

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Anonymouse February 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Thank you for this. My fiancee had a good friend pass away in a car accident a few years ago. He was still in his twenties. I met this friend only once, and when we went to go visit his grave shortly after our engagement I really wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say. I mostly just let my fiance talk… On another note, my fiancee was at work when he got the call and was ridiculed by coworkers for crying… Some people really can be jerks!

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Erin February 27, 2013 at 4:57 pm

This is very well put and I’m glad I read it, as I have a dear sweet less than 4 year old niece that is dying with nothing more that can be done but make her comfortable and happy. We all must grieve in our own way and be allowed to grieve.

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Gee February 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Oh yes, the, “God never gives you more than you can handle” comment makes me want to hurt the people who say it. It feels like a backhanded way of blaming the victim for their grief: if their faith were stronger, they’d be fine. Sometimes, life does give us more than we can handle. That’s why people need support, not platitudes. Even if you believe that your loved ones are in heaven, that doesn’t stop you from missing them right now. Life is not fair, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. That last thing anyone needs is someone implying that their suffering is their own fault.

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Drawberry February 27, 2013 at 6:04 pm

It makes deeply concerned that people address the loss of someone’s child as if they’re a replaceable commodity. As if having another baby will fix things like buying a lamp when one is broken. A child is not a cat or dog that can be acquired at the shelter. The existence of more children or a new one does not fix that the child has passed, they’re not like pets you buy in mass quantity to fill the sadness.

I feel like responses like that reflect on a deep seeded social belief that children are not ‘full’ people in some way. As if because they’re only 12 years old they’re not fully qualified human beings, they haven’t gotten their human being certificate that everyone else get’s at 20 years old. Responding, or even just believing it quietly to yourself, to the death of another’s child with implications of just ‘replacing’ them with more or new children displays not only a lack of empathy and tact but a belief that children are expendable objects like fancy TV’s or a nice new sports car. It feels like those responses strip the humanity away from the deceased child in a deeply disturbing way.

Orderofthegooddeath on youtube has an excellent video called Grief Talk (link as my website, should be able to access it by clicking on my name) which discusses the process of grieving in different cultures and ends with direct quotes the host (who is a mortician and has worked in the funeral industry at various jobs) has heard from people attending funerals, some of which directly related to deceased chilren, all of which are crass and horrible examples of people that needed to keep their opinions to themselves.

Some of the quotes, all of which she’s directly heard and are horribly horribly real, may be hurtful to those who have lost children.

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Ergala February 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I’ve lost a few children during pregnancy and probably the worst things I had heard was “It is nature’s way of telling you something was wrong with it” and on Mother’s Day shortly after my due date that came and went “Why are you sad? It’s not like you were a real mom anyways.”. Absolutely hurtful and mean. My FIL said something after we found out we lost our first shortly after the 2nd trimester started. He and his wife and my mother met us at the hospital on a weekend when I was having some issues with the pregnancy. We had found out via ultrasound that we had lost our little guy and I was an absolute wreck and my skin was crawling. My FIL as well meaning and I know he wasn’t being mean but he said “Think of it this way….now you guys can have fun trying for another one!”…..I know he wasn’t being mean and my step-MIL whacked him up alongside the head for the comment and you could see he was horrified when I started crying even harder.

Some people just do not know how to handle bereavement. One place of employment told me that since the baby wasn’t “real” I didn’t qualify for bereavement leave….I only wanted a few days to get myself together. With our first loss family went through our home before we even got home and completely cleaned out anything baby. Nursery was emptied, pregnancy books packed away, ultrasound pictures packed away…you name it. I think that was one of the hardest things to come home to….it felt like he had never existed.

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--Lia February 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm

So much of the list is of what NOT to do. I read it carefully to see what is recommended TO do. After all, one could avoid making a mistake by not doing anything, and I don’t think the OP had that in mind. So here’s what’s on the suggested list.

#7 Help. Offer to help possibly by cooking a meal. Send money so the grieving family can hire help.
#8 Let the grieving family cry.
#9 Remember the child.
#15 Remember the entire grieving family.

I’ll keep this in mind. My condolences. I’m very sorry for your loss.

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KitKat February 27, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I’m so sorry for your loss Ms. Kligmann.

I lost my grandpap to a massive stroke roughly 2 and 1/2 years ago and actually did receive an insensitive comment. I started grad school two weeks after he died and spent nearly every night for 4 months bursting into tears for no reason. At 22, I was learning how to grieve and my roommate (and best friend) did everything in her power to help. I did however have a couple of professors basically indicate I should “get over it.” His death was the first major loss I could actually remember so there really was no “[getting] over it.” Now, any mentions of my Pap are filled with joy and laughter and very seldom tears (unless we laugh so hard we cry).

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Kimberly February 27, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Do not offer religious words unless you are flat out sure they are wanted. When I was a teen my best friend’s older brother died. He was mentally disabled. When I found out I called my friend and asked her if she wanted company. She said yes. When I got to the house, her aunt turned me away – with some disgust. I was walking away, figuring something had happened. Her sister saw me and told the aunt – no she is ok let her in.

I later found out some of the girls from our high school had come by and done worse than the “he is in a better place” thing. They had said things like -well he couldn’t feel the pain like a normal person. Then they had tried to “save” my friend’s paternal relatives (Her Dad was Jewish). They got kicked out of the house. Add that some pro-death group had been hounding the family to withhold treatment because “you are just making him suffer” my friend was ready to spit nails. We spent the afternoon talking about our memories of her brother.

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Marozia February 27, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I am truly sorry to hear about your beautiful daughter.
When somebody in the family dies, all of the family must be consoled, and especially with a child, not just mother and father, but other siblings, grandparents and close friends.
When my grandfather died, everyone crowded around my mother, aunt, uncle and grandmother. I was very close to my grandfather and I loved him very much, yet nothing was given to me. A distant relation came up to me after giving her condolences to mum and said to me “I’m sorry about your grandfather. He was a lovely man.” She then looked at me and said “It takes time to heal.” Put her arm around me and stayed with me for a long time after. I will always remember that. She was the only one who spoke to me, no one else. And this was a lady whom my family made fun of as she was overweight. I always remind mum of her kindness to me.

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Ladycrim February 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm

This was very true and touching. I’m very sorry for your loss, Corinne.

#1 reminds me of when my mother passed a year ago and everyone under the sun was encouraging me to cry. I’ve never really expressed grief through tears, and I was so annoyed that people were essentially saying “You’re doing it wrong”.

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Jessica February 27, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Corinne- I am so, so sorry for your loss.

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waitress wonderwoman February 27, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I am truly sorry for your loss OP. My heart goes out to all of you here. Some of these stories I’m reading are truly unbelievable.
Please I hope everyone here is respectful of my story as it is a very personal one, that I hope can maybe help someone else who might be in my situation or know someone in my situation. That is why I feel compelled to tell it. It’s not easy. Please do not judge me. Trust me, I judge myself more than anyone else ever could. I choose to terminate a pregnancy over ten years ago. I was in a very dark place in my life. In my stupid youth, I honestly though it would be like getting a tooth pulled and I would never think about it again. Doesn’t work that way (at least not for me it didn’t). It was a mistake I live with every day over a decade later. I know I made the choice (and despite my pain, I am grateful to live in a country where I, as a woman, had the choice) but I grieve for that child every day. Very few people know of it and during the month that child would have been born, I am severely depressed. People that do not know can’t understand (and I don’t tell them. I once did tell a very close friend this past year and he later told me that he looked at me completely different afterward- that really hurt). Those that do know tell me to “just get over it already” or “it was in the past, forgive yourself, move on,” “It wasn’t even a real baby” and “you did what you had to do”. For me, I will never get over it, forgive myself or not think of what could have been. There is a hole in me that will never be healed and the self-blame is makes it so much worse (I have sought counseling to deal with it). Please understand, I don’t want to, in any way, take away from the content to the OP’s subject and make this a pro-life/choice issue. This is just my personal story of grief and the insensitivity of others that don’t understand it and how hurtful it can be.

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just4kicks February 28, 2013 at 12:29 am

When my hubby and his ex wife were married, they went through several miscarriages, only to bring a baby to full term and have it stillborn. Obviously, they were in tremendous pain delivering a deceased baby. They chose to not even know the sex of the child. Afterward, as the doctor and nurses were finishing up silently with their duties, and my hubby and then wife were beside themselves with grief, a nurse rushed in from another patient and exclaimed to the other nurses they just “had to come by the other room when they were done and see the MOST beautiful baby she had ever seen!!!!” The doctor (a family friend, who actually delivered all our children once we married) grabbed her by the arm and physically dragged her out of the room. My hubby said while he would never dream of laying a hand on woman in anger, was dangerously close to doing so on that day.
God Bless the OP, and all on here who have lost loved ones. May you find peace and happiness someday very soon.

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Melalucci February 28, 2013 at 3:43 am

Drawberry, pets are also not replaceable to those of us who love them. You don’t just get a new cat to “replace” the one who died. You get a new cat if you feel ready to welcome a new member into your family, and you still might grieve the old one.

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Melalucci February 28, 2013 at 3:46 am

waitress wonderwoman, I’m so sorry for what you have been through. Thank you for sharing your story.

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Joni February 28, 2013 at 8:16 am

Posts like this are the reason I am afraid to say *anything* to a person who has suffered a recent loss. There are a million and six ‘wrong’ things to say and only a keenly sensitive person (which unfortunately I am not) will knnow the one ‘right’ thing to say. I am sure that people have been hurt because they feel like I am avoiding them after a death in the family (I wasn’t able to talk to my sister for a long time after she lost her newborn twins) and they are right to feel that way. But I’d rather offend people by a sin of omission than by saying something well-meaning but inadvertently hurtful.

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whatever February 28, 2013 at 9:18 am

my dad died when i was in my early 20s, almost 10 years ago now. when people came up to me at the funeral to give me their condolences i had to keep myself from cringing at the common phrases (english is not my first language, but the phrases are our equivalent of “my condolences” and “i’m sorry for your loss”). i’m sure most of them were heartfelt, but they just sounded empty.
the acts that comforted me the most on that day, and still do, were people coming up to me in the restaurant after the funeral to tell me stories of memories they had with my dad, how much he meant to them and the impressions he made on their lives.

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Cat February 28, 2013 at 9:54 am

What helped me a great deal was Dylan Thomas’ great lines, “Lovers may die but love does not; and death has no dominion.”
I came from an abusive childhood home. What I know of unlimited love, I learned from animals. When one dies, I get a new one so that the love goes on. Death has no dominion.
With family and friends, I think our society has sanitized death to the point where we don’t give people room for grief. Others want to make us feel better and to get back to where we were before, but there’s no going back. I can go get another cat. I can’t go to the Retirement Home, pick out a new mother, and take her home.
What we need to learn to do is to give people room and time to feel terrible. It’s good and it’s healthy. Repressed feelings will get expressed eventually in horrible ways. and we need to give ourselves permission to take time to grieve.
As a Christian, I always remember that Jesus knew Lazarus had died but He took time to stop and weep before calling Lazarus out of the tomb and back into life. I think He wept because His friend had died. The fact that He had the ability to call him back into life didn’t change that. If you are a Christian, don’t try to out-Christian Jesus. Take time to stop and weep.

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Library Diva February 28, 2013 at 10:16 am

Some of these stories on here are just shocking in their awfulness. I’m always one who tends to believe that most rudeness doesn’t occur out of maliciousness, just thoughtlessness or in some cases not knowing better. The tale of the man who would tell a grieving mother that the newborn was better off dead than living with a young unmarried mom makes me think differently. As do the people asking one poster if she’ll have another child as a “backup” for her struggling three-month-old (sending best wishes and good thoughts your way, btw). No one dealing with the illness or death of a loved one should have to deal with people like this, and the scary thing is that the rest of the time, they’ve presumably been decent people, close enough to visit the hospital and attend funerals.

I especially liked #9. A friend of mine lost her brother several years ago. She told me that when I was getting to know her and the whole conversation about families and growing up was going on. I told her that I was sorry and tried to change the subject, but she told me that since it had been a while, she enjoyed talking about him and remembering him. No one else seemed to talk about him or remember him anymore, she said. It made me realize that although my instinct is always to avoid that kind of talk, maybe avoiding it isn’t as helpful as we tend to think.

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what to do February 28, 2013 at 11:04 am

I’ve been thinking all day yesterday whether I should ask this question. If it doesn’t make it through the moderation, I understand. This is the first time I’m ever mentioning this online. A few years ago, I had something bad happen to me. I was dating and met a man who, a day before we were to meet in person, told me that his teenage son had died less than a year earlier. (I later verified it and it was true, in fact what happened was even worse than what he’d told me.) From that moment on, I let him treat me incredibly badly, because I was afraid of doing or saying anything that might hurt his feelings. Basically, whenever he said jump, I jumped. I agreed to, and put up with, things he said and did that I normally never would. By the time he was done messing with my head and cut off the contact forever, a month later, I was in full-on depression from what he’d put me through, and feeling guilty about it, because I thought I had no right to be upset about something that was so minor compared to what had happened to him. I could not function or take proper care of my family for about a month, and it took a tremendous effort for me to get back to normal. At the same time I do realize that he was still in a lot of pain, on a mix of alcohol and antidepressants, and probably not himself. I am still wondering what I should have done differently. My gut feeling, and each of the few people I’d told about him when we met, all told me that I couldn’t say no to a guy whose kid had recently died. So I never said no to him, even when deep inside I knew I had to, for my own sake. Should I have? Could I have refused to meet him? For our first meeting, he told me I had to come out 45 miles one way to his neighborhood, because he’d had a DUI and could not drive. If it was not for his recent loss, I would’ve canceled right then, but felt that I couldn’t. Could I have canceled? My question is, when you meet a parent who’s had a loss, and that person is doing something to hurt you, what are you allowed to do to protect yourself without doing too much damage to that other person, who is still in a lot of pain and is still vulnerable? I tried to look out for this man and be supportive of him, but I have to look out for my own family too, I am a divorced parent with full custody and they depend on me for everything. I’m still wondering where I could’ve drawn the line. Thanks.

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Drawberry February 28, 2013 at 11:34 am

Melalucci; That wasn’t what I was trying to imply and I apologize if it came across that way. I have had many pet’s throughout my life and mourn deeply for their losses. To this day I still cry for my childhood pet that passed away due to a cancerous tumor. I very much grieve for my pets and consider them some of the best companions I had in my life. There is absolutely nothing in the world that replaces a pet. New and much loved pet’s may come and go but they never replace one another, they just make new space in your heart that is unique to them. I very much was not intending to imply that pet’s are replaceable as it’s not something I believe in the least.

My analogy was meant to express that obtaining a ‘new child’ is not like adopting a new pet and that I was angry people seemed to think you could simply ‘replace’ the life of a child by ‘getting a new one’ the way some people may get a new cat when their previous one died.

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Mabel February 28, 2013 at 2:46 pm

*hug* I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

This is a good resource—so many times, people don’t know what to say or do. I’m going to bookmark this page. Thank you for sending it in.

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Cheryl27 February 28, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Another one to add to the list is ” it happened for a reason” I do not know how many times I have heard this not just when people have died but for those who are seriously or terminally ill. Stating that it happened for a reason and the reason is unknown does not make anyone feel better in fact it can be misconstruded as either the person who is ill or has died did something to deserve their fate or that in order to others to come together that it takes a death or illness to make things happen. Sometimes the best thing for people to do is to say that they are sorry for your loss, ask if they can do anything and to treat everyone the same, something tragic has happened but it doesn’t mean that the person in pain due to a loss of a loved one that they do not want to interact with you like normal.

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The Elf February 28, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Joni, I totally hear you. I’m a little shy and socially awkward at the best of times, and throw in something so sensitive as death and I have difficulty figuring out what (if anything) to say. But you can’t go wrong with “I’m sorry for your loss” or “This must be devastating for you. Is there anything I can do to help you?”* and “I’m hear for you if you need anything or just a shoulder to cry on.” I think it’s better to say one of those canned phrases than nothing at all. Please don’t avoid people who are grieving because that really does hurt.

* This brings up the whole “suggest something” or “just do something” for them but again I fear missteps and don’t know what to suggest anyhow. I’d rather ask, especially if it’s a choice between asking and nothing.

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John February 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Corinne,

I am sorry for your loss.

I have been through Chaplain training and two of the most important items they taught us about grieving and loss are: 1)Your presence, without words, speaks more than you will ever know; 2) When appropriate, ask about special times or remembrances of the loved one. (Please make sure it is an appropriate time.)

Grief is extremely personal and rarely can be expressed verbally. Too many well-meaning people fall prey to the fallacy that if there is silence it is a bad thing. Silence, at the proper time, is truly golden.

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Raymee February 28, 2013 at 6:05 pm

One thing that my mother does if she knows someone loses a close friend/relative/pet is buy the person a really nice scented candle with a note saying “light me when you are feeling lost or lonely”. She’s always had a really positive response from those she’s given it to.

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MichelleP February 28, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Waitresswonderwoman, thank you for sharing your story. I terminated a pregnancy when I was eighteen, and still mourn for her. I am 33 and think about her every day. Just because I chose it doesn’t make it any easier. I have named the child in my heart, and asked her and God to forgive me. I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t do it again, but still feel pain.

I have had people tell me that it “shouldn’t hurt because it was your choice” and a doctor tell me “so you’re going to keep this one” when being seen for my second pregnancy.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone here who has posted about losing a loved one, especially you.

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waitress wonderwoman February 28, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Melalucci- Thank you for your kind words. You have no idea how much they meant to me. I was very, very hesitant about adding my comment as many people have expressed to me the thought that I do not have the “right” to grieve for something that was my choice. I was afraid others here might be of that same opinion and say something towards that notion. Part of me was hesitant to revisit this thread today.
MichelleP- Your story brought tears to my eyes. I have had many friends that have terminated a pregnancy as well, and, as far as I know, and from what they tell me, have had no problems with their decision at all, adding to the feelings that my grief was not justified or normal. Hearing the story of someone who knows exactly what we are going though sometimes is exactly what a person needs the most when dealing with a loss. I cannot thank you enough for sharing your story and letting me know I am not alone or wrong in feeling the grief and pain that I do. God Bless you.
Genuinely letting someone know you are sorry for their pain over someone whom they have lost in their life, be it a child/parent/family member/pet/unborn baby and letting them know that you are thinking about them in their time of grief (even if you can personally relate to it or not) is simplest, yet kindest thing we can do for one another. Both of you did that, and it means so such to me. Also acknowledging and understanding, that for some people the grief may never go away but, only with time, may lessen, is also one of the most compassionate things a person can do.
Again, to the OP and everyone that shared their stories, as a fellow human being in this sometimes hard and unfair world, my heart goes out to all of you for your losses.

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waitress wonderwoman February 28, 2013 at 8:56 pm

@Raymee- your mother and her gift sound lovely.

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Melalucci March 1, 2013 at 12:46 am

drawberry, I see what you mean now. I’m sorry for the losses that you’ve gone through. I’ve been through it myself a few times, too.

Everyone’s being so brave by sharing all their stories. I hope it helps. I think it will.

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Barbarian March 1, 2013 at 7:20 am

It is wrong to say that a dead pet can be replaced and that it is frivolous to mourn their loss. Years ago a coworker lost her beloved dog and took a day off to cope with her loss and make funeral arrangements.
That day the office manager asked me to do a task for this coworker while rolling her eyes and stating why this person was gone for the day. I did the job. Then I sent my friend a card our family vet has given us on 3 occasions, when we lost our pets. I wanted to show her my support and she said it really touched her I cared.

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LonelyHound March 1, 2013 at 11:24 am

I will never understand how people can react like that when a family loses a child. Having a child, whether it is #1 or #12, irrevocably changes the lives of the parents. Why, on this green Earth, would any one assume that losing one does not do the same?

My senior year of high school my class lost 4 students. Three were direct classmates and one had graduated the year before but volunteered and worked at the school. I knew two personally. One died of a birth defect and even though the family knew the day was coming it was not known my the population at large (until after his death). Though people might “comfort” the family by saying he was living on borrowed time the fact of the matter is he was still a very important part of their lives and was inseparable from his sister. He was their son, they loved him and his memory deserves to be cherished and his life mourned. My other friend was killed in a car accident. He was the type of person people love. they had to restrict his funeral to swim team members, family and invited friends because otherwise they’d have needed to rent out our high school gym. the requirement, though, for the swim team members and his friend was that they had to tell a story about him. All the stories were recorded for the family to play back when they missed him. There was much laughter at the funeral as people retold how he dressed up as Mr. Clean for Halloween, sernaded the team with Duke of Earl and would genuinely help people.

The one thing I really wish people would think about *before* they open their mouths to say something like that is: The moment your little baby is placed in your arms (and, indeed, before that even) you know that this little creature is supposed to out live you, not the other way around. The father of my friend on the swim team said it was unnatural for a parent to out live their child. I agree.

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Joanna March 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Re: #5 – At the age of 21, I was diagnosed with a rare disease which soon robbed me of the ability to walk normally. While I CAN still walk, it’s rather difficult, I can’t go far, etc.

You would not BELIEVE the number of people who have said things to me like, “I totally know what you’re going through! My 90-year-old grandma also has trouble getting around!”

Yes, being a healthy and active college student who’s suddenly unable to live independently is TOTALLY the same thing as a person naturally starting to deteriorate after living decades of productive, normal life. TOTALLY.

That said, I think that whether it’s something like my situation or the loss of a child, people have this need to RELATE. They are eager for others to know they connect with them and whatever they’re going through (even if they really don’t or can’t) and thus they say these dumb things. But you also have to look at their intentions, which are typically good, and can’t be too harsh on them.

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michelle March 2, 2013 at 6:42 am

I am not sure if this is much help to people but when i was grieving i think the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me was “how can I support you?” There was no judgement, no personal opinions or assumptions on what i need to feel better. I have never forgotten that person and how much that meant to me because I was able to really talk about how I felt.

I believe that i will always remember to ask this question when trying to help some one who is struggling in some way.

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denise March 2, 2013 at 7:09 am

I lost my brother over a year ago.I know when someone dies many people focus on their religion. It gives them comfort and strength. However I am an atheist with no belief in an after life.. I was told over and over that he was in a better place and I would see him again. I understood that these people thought they were helping but in reality they were only comforting themselves. I would have preferred things like I’m sorry for your loss or thoughts about my brother. Again I understood but after awhile I would have to walk away because I didn’t want to snap at someone who was trying to help.

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Dibella March 3, 2013 at 6:57 pm

A close friend of mine died a few years back when we were still in high school. His parents reacted by getting pregnant in-vitro, and my late friend’s twin sister copes by caring for the two new twins. when i visit I’m always civil, but I always have this lingering discomfort around the twins….luckily the sister doesnt’ seem to notice…how do I get over it?

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abcd123 March 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm

I want to share my opinion though it may run counter to the norms.

Everyone will die eventually, some earlier than others so I guess we should at least prepare ourselves for it. I personally find too much grieving a bit selfish. In my opinion, people who do this try to make the death all about themselves. It’s probably normal for the first few weeks but months, years. If the person who died is looking back at how you did after they died, do you think they will be happy at how you turned out. Many people think that the amount of the grieving they do equates to how much they cared about the person. No it’s not. If you really cared about that person, you would have showed it to them when they were alive. Mostly, grieving is the result of guilt. The guilt about the things that you should have done, or words that you should have said to that person when that person was still alive.

As for the rules above, it reeks of self-righteousness.

1. No person is perfect and no person knows everything. The fact that you are a mother doesn’t automatically mean you know the best for your child. What if you really are doing it wrong? Do you think in your state of mind, you can actually make the best judgment? Do you expect us to sit down and just not tell you when you obviously are doing it wrong.

2. You know that heaven is a nicer place but you want them to stay with you? Isn’t that a bit selfish. A true mother will want the best for their children. Do you want your children to continue to be with you even though they’re suffering?

3. What if there was really a way to save your child that you are not aware of? What if there is a new technology still undergoing clinical trials that you are not aware of that might save your child. You don’t want to know that? When the life of your child is at stake, your ego and pride should be put aside.

4. There are things called miracles. And no, not everyone wants to live forever.

5. It may seem not to be the same thing at all but you really don’t know their relationship and how it affected that person. What if that grandmother was someone who really mattered to that person. Your statement makes it appear that your child is more valuable than the grandmother. Really? To you yes, but everyone else, no. No one can claim that the life of this person is more valuable than the other.

6. If you are never going to over it, then don’t expect people to treat you the same way as before. You have to learn how to move on. Some people overdo grieving, to the point that they neglect other people in their lives.

7. You don’t like advice but you need food, help and money?

10. Seriously? You are not going to have another child ever because you lost one?

12. You don’t want to be viewed as the freak show but your actions speak louder than anything else. Maybe you’ve already taken the grieving way too far, right into freak show territory.

13. If you are losing or gaining weight at alarming rates or if you are not sleeping at all, something is definitely wrong with you.

15. Yes, remember that your family is hurting too. Not only you.

16. Because your child died, you cannot be asked to help about anything? But any help to you is appreciated? No wonder people avoid you. That is the essence being selfish.

Seriously, you need a friend to remind you of how bad you’ve become before you become the total freak show you dread. You shouldn’t waste too much time grieving, instead focus on celebrating life with the ones you love. What if you die tomorrow? And you look back at your life and realize you forgot to celebrate yours. When you remember a dead loved one, it should bring a smile to your face by remembering the happy times you had with that person. That is the best way honoring that person’s memories.

There is a real story of a mother who lost her two boys within a year. Her first son was diagnosed with a terminal disease and from then on, all attention and was focused to this son and neglected the other to the point that her other son wished that he too have a terminal disease so that his mother would also shower him with attention. After her first son died, she spent the following months grieving. Months after the first son was buried, the other son was diagnosed with a terminal disease. And her other son died within months. Now she has the rest of her life to grieve.

There is healthy grieving, abnormal grieving and the freak show grieving. You should have friends to tell you when you’re taking it beyond healthy grieving.

I remember a movie starring Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler. It was about grieving the death of a husband and how her friends helped her moved on. The song Together Again by Janet is heartwarming song about losing a loved one.

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MichelleP March 4, 2013 at 10:50 am

@abcd123, I hope you’re joking.

Admin, please remove that cruel comment above. I beg you.

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admin March 6, 2013 at 8:10 am

Despite the rather harsh tone of abc123’s comment, I think it would behoove people to read in the context of “eat the meat and spit out the bones”. I decided to approve it because there are some valid points being made, specifically in regards to excessively prolonged mourning. I personally know someone who is still in profound grief 15+ years after the death of his wife. It has affected his relationships with his sons, his family, his friends, his work productivity. He has never moved on and I believe his wife would be profoundly saddened that her death from brain cancer was the catalyst that literally destroyed the family because her husband could not get past himself to see how his grief was so selfish. He just was not there for his then teenaged sons and then through their young adulthood. It is beyond sad because only his grief mattered. So, I do not hold to the position that one has the freedom to grieve however long or hard you want, particularly if you have a family who needs you.

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Ergala March 4, 2013 at 11:44 am

RE: abcd123

Your post makes me pretty angry. Nobody has the right to tell another person they are grieving the wrong way. So yes, if you tell me I need to get over the death of my child 3 years down the road you better believe YOU are the one in the wrong.

A lot of people do not deal with seeing other peoples grief. That pain….it’s very raw and extremely painful. Not just emotionally but physically. When we lost our first child I felt like someone had taken a knife and driven it through my chest and was twisting it. My tears burned, breathing was excruciating and I actually did throw up. That was MY pain to bear….mine to go through and I still go through it every time his due date rolls around each year and the day that we found out we lost him. I still cry when I think about him. If I want to cry openly that is my business. I’m not asking you to hug me, console me, give me inspiring words. I’m asking for you to show me some respect and to respect the pain I am obviously in. Which means either standing there silently, asking if I need a moment or simply stating “I am so so sorry”. THAT is what I want.

But to say a simple list of things not to say to a grieving person is self righteous….that is mind blowing. The list doesn’t say “You must only speak of my child around me” or “You may never name someone the same name of my deceased loved one out of respect!”….these rules are common sense. You don’t downplay the death, you don’t compare it to your own experiences, you don’t change the subject if the person wants to talk. If you are uncomfortable talking about it then be honest and say that. Don’t bean dip them. Death is a major event and it’s part of life yes. But when it happens to you in a very personal way, it absorbs everything around you and becomes a focus for awhile.

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Tellmehowtobehappy March 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

There are things that you need to accept. Though this is hard, it is the most right thing to do. Learn to let go and continue to live.

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Melalucci March 5, 2013 at 1:50 am

waitress wonderwoman, you are so welcome.

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waitress wonderwoman March 5, 2013 at 2:10 am

Re: abcd123
With all due respect, I, too, was somewhat disturbed by your comment. I think the term “freak show grieving” is very very harsh, insensitive and hurtful. Let people grieve how they must. If you cannot do that in a respectable manner, perhaps it is best that you distance yourself from them as to not be inconvenienced by their grieving process and upset them even more, or if they are close to you, gently suggest they seek professional help from a bereavement counselor. Someone who is trained to help people who are suffering from the pain of loss, not just someone with an opinion of when they think they should just get over it already. I feel as if some of your “points” are much more reeking of self-righteousness than that of the OP, it almost comes off as you find yourself annoyed at people who don’t deal with loss as you. And I highly doubt most people going through the loss of a child or loved one is “making it all about themselves”. Unless you are a licensed professional on such matters, please have some compassion about how *you* feel grief should be handled.

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Bint March 6, 2013 at 11:40 am

To an extent I actually agree with abc123’s post. It’s incredibly difficult even to comment on this without seeming hideously callous, but this is a list that, if understandable, is harsh on people who are trying to help. And this is only one person’s idea of what they should do, so it’s not even ‘right’ for every case. If you read others’ reactions, someone was hurt by ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ because it sounded so meaningless.

Trying to say the right thing is fraught with pitfalls or even impossible. Some of the things on this one are – or should be – obvious ones to avoid, but others? Send them money? I mean…this is not the first thing that springs to mind when someone has a relation dying. Many people I know would think that inappropriate. And the grandmother – yes, I agree with abc123. You cannot tell someone that THEIR loved one’s death is less sad than yours. That’s so cruel and yes, it *is* self-righteous.

I compare this list to an email circulated by a couple we know whose 16 year old son was murdered not long ago. In this email, they thanked everyone for their support and then said something along the lines of, “Please don’t be afraid to speak to us about the murder, or wonder what the right thing is to say to us. We know you care about us and support us, and it means so much however it’s shown.”

There is an enormous generosity in that message. I have no idea how they had it in them to find it, but they did. They lost their child too.

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LadySnowdon March 10, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I agree with Bint’s first paragraph. Just as this lady has asked us to not tell her that she’s “doing it wrong”, please don’t tell me I’m “doing it wrong” when I try to reach out and comfort you. Obviously there are malicious things that people say and do, and it’s good to be aware of what some of those look/sound like, but many posters have made a point that our society sanitizes and separates us from death, so that a lot of us don’t know how to act. Telling me I’m wrong in how I try to comfort you just means I will withdraw even further next time someone needs comfort, because I won’t want to offend them.

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Alexa March 11, 2013 at 5:05 am

Re point 6 and the one year grief thing: I think this dates from the Victorian era when there was an expectation to wear Full Mourning (black crepe/non-shiny fabric, a black “weeping” veil, black ribbons, black edged handkerchief…) for a year and a day. For six months after, the colour schemes moved from grays. The following 9 months were Second Mourning (drab colours, grays…) and thereafter Half Mourning with a trend towards wearing colours again.

I admit I was angered by abc123’s post the first time I read it, but on reading it again and reflecting on it I would say there is some merit. As I said in my earlier post, my brother died over 10 years ago and although my parents and I will never be the same, we have all been able to move on in some way. Yes, we still bear scars and yes there are days when we mourn for what we have lost but over time we are able to smile at what we had. Turning points for me were realising that it’s hard enough to bear the burden of one person’s-worth of grief, trying to bear it for three is too much and coming to a realisation that he’s at peace (whether you believe in an afterlife or not) and it would be selfish to wish him away from that.

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GSR March 15, 2013 at 7:02 pm

One thing that seems to be a common occurance, (and I’ve been guilty of this myself), is for someone who is attempting to comfort the one who is grieving, to “steal the spotlight” and put the focus on their own grieving.

Example:

“I’m so sorry about your loss. I lost my (whomever), and I can tell you….”

I imagine we do this an attempt to try to relate with the person who is grieving; sharing our own experiences, attempting to convey to them that they’re not alone, and also because we too are grieving. We must excercise discretion and caution so that the focus remains where it should be. In their time of need, it’s about THEM, Not us.

The last thing I would want to do is come off looking as if I’ve “hijacked” the situation; comparing tragedies, discounting theirs in favor of mine, making it sound as if whatever I had gone through was far worse than their situation.

There are some truly heart-wrenching stories on here. To all who have suffered a loss, I wish you peace and comfort.

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KP March 19, 2013 at 3:05 am

When I was 21, I lost my father in a terrible accident. Being so young, some of my friends said thoughtless things, mostly because they had never encountered something like that in their lives before. Then there were the things older friends and extended family said, again out of either inexperience or thoughtlessness. But what was worse was the friends who said nothing, because they didn’t want to say the wrong thing. Now, 8 years later, my mother and sister and I laugh about the silly things that were said. Sure, some comments shocked us, and hurt us. What all of us in our family have agreed since then is that we would rather have people say the wrong thing, than say nothing at all.

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