Grief and Holidays: What the Bereaved need from friends and family
Below is a blog by a person who has lost a loved one. It's got great insights into how grieving people feel, particularly during the holiday season. Please read and share with those who are hurting.
I know it is hard. I know you don’t truly understand how I feel. You can’t. It wasn’t your child.
I know I may look and act like I’m “better”. I know that you would love for things to be like they were: BEFORE. But they aren’t.
I know my grief interferes with your plans. I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years. But I can’t help it. I didn’t ask for this to be my life.
I know that every year I seem to need something different. I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating. But I’m working this out as I go. I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son. It’s new for me every year too.
So I’m trying to make it easier on all of us.
I’m trying to be brave and think ahead and offer up what I can to help you understand.
I’m not asking you to stuff your feelings. But I am asking you to weigh your disappointment in things being different against my unfathomable sorrow in burying my child.
And this is what I need from YOU:
Acknowledge my loss. It doesn’t matter if it has been a few months, a few years or even decades-every single time the whole family gets together, the hole where my child SHOULD be is highlighted. Other people may have moved on, and I am stronger now than I was, but the missing is as hard today as it was the day he left. I need you to acknowledge that even if you don’t understand it.
Be flexible. Every day is different for me. And even if we did a certain thing last year, it may not be something I want to repeat. Life circumstances continue to evolve-living children grow and marry, grandchildren make their appearance, health issues may emerge and change physical capabilities-life keeps on regardless of loss. So this year is DIFFERENT than last year. For everyone. If we all embrace flexibility, there’s less opportunity for breakage. Rubber bounces. Glass shatters. I don’t want my loss to be the central focus, but it’s a huge part of my experience and I can’t ignore it. Help me, please.
Give me space. Grant space in the larger picture-don’t make showing up to every family event a “mandatory option”. Understand that even with planning and the best intentions, I may wake up and realize that I. just. can’t. do. it. Or I may come, but leave early. And grant space in the details-if I walk out of a room, let me go. It may be helpful for one person to check on me after a few minutes but don’t send the calvary to drag me back. I don’t always want to detract from a gathering and I may need to cry, or gather myself, or just sit silently remembering my son.
Give me time. Time by itself does not heal anything. But time is a critical component of healing. If this is the first holiday season after loss, don’t pressure me with artificial deadlines about what I want to do or whether or not I’m going to participate in this or that. And even if it’s not the first season, I still need time. It will be the third set of holidays after my son’s departure and I’m still feeling my way in the dark. Don’t force me to decide if I can’t. Just go on with your plans. If I can join in, I will. If I can’t, then I won’t. That’s the best I can do. It’s how I have to live every single day right now.
Grant mercy. I will mess up. I will say things in the passion of loss that I regret. Overlook it. Don’t lash out or hit back. My emotional tank is so empty sometimes that it’s a wonder I can still feel anything. I am truly trying. Grant mercy.
Extend grace. Grace is lavishing love on the unlovely. Forgiving when someone doesn’t ask for it. Doing something for someone and not expecting anything in return. Step up and step out in faith that loving me will help me heal. Even when you can’t see that it makes a difference. Don’t stop. Don’t withdraw.
Know that this is not what I would have chosen.
Child loss happened TO me.
It is out of my control.
And the calendar pages keep turning. Every holiday season means another year gone without the companionship of the child I miss.
I want to continue to embrace life, to enjoy my loved ones, to make new memories. But I need your help to make it happen.
Don’t abandon me now.