[Adapted by JOHN BUTTON from an original article by Elsie Sieben TCF USA]
- If you haven't been able to call me for a long time, tell me that you are sorry, and that you haven't known what to say, but don't say you've been too busy. This has been a momentous time in my life and it hurts to hear that it has been so low on your priority list that you couldn't spare me a five or ten minute call.
- If you invite me for a meal (and please do!) in the midst of my grief, expect me to talk about my loss. It's all I'm thinking about anyway, and I need to talk about it. Small talk neither interests nor helps me.
- Don't change the subject if I should start crying. Tears and talking about my child's death are the healthiest ways for me to realize this intense emotion.
- Telling me that So-and-So's situation must have been harder to bear won't make mine easier. It only makes me feel that you don't understand or can't acknowledge the extent of my pain.
- Don't expect that because my child “is in the presence of the Lord” that that is all that should matter, that I should not be hurting. I may believe that and be thankful for it, but my arms ache to hold my child here. I miss the physical contact so much.
- Telling me that I must be a special person for God to send me such a heavy burden and that “God's will is best”, implies that God did this purposely. I may believe that His will is best too, but I don't believe that everything that happens (including my child's death, or anyone being killed by a drunken driver for instance) is God's will.
- Don't remind me that I'm lucky to have other children. I am, and I know it, but my pain is excruciating for this child and having the others doesn't take that pain away.
- No matter how bad I look, please don't say “You look terrible”. I feel like a total failure right now so I don't need to be told that I look awful too.
- Remember, my child to me is a very special and unique person who can never be replaced.
- Don't say “I know how you feel, I lost my mother”, it is not the same. We all expect our parents to die one day, after they've led a full life, but I am grieving intensely for all the might-have-beens of my child's short life.
- When you ask my husband how I am doing, please don't forget to ask how he is feeling too. He has also lost a child and if you ignore his hurt it says to him that his pain shouldn't exist, or that it doesn't matter.
- Don't ignore my surviving children. Remember they are also hurting very deeply but may not be able to express their true feelings. If I snap at you for saying any of these things, please forgive me and try to understand that it comes from my intense pain.
- Hug me, tell me you care and that you are sorry this has happened, even if you don't understand the depth of my pain.
- Be available to me, often if you can, and let me talk and cry without judging me. Saying “don't cry” or “don't be angry” is like saying “don't be thirsty”. My feelings are part of a normal grief response and I will work through them more quickly and easily if you are not judgmental .
The Compassionate Friends (TCF) is an international, non-denominational, non profit organization dedicated to offering friendship and understanding, comfort and encouragement to bereaved parents, siblings and grandchildren. Our purposes are to promote and aid parents in the positive resolution of the grief experienced upon the death of their child/children, and to foster the physical and emotional health of the bereaved family. We provide counselling and a monthly newsletter that encourages outreach and useful information about grieving and the healing process.