By: Betty Baggott, Alabama Baptist BOD, her words are in black, mine are red.
-I wish you would not be afraid to speak my child’s name. My child lived and was important, and I need to hear her name. We have experienced this SO often. Brad's friend was so scared to say "Carly". Which I can understand,he's young and had no idea how to handle the situation... but I did speak her name and we all talked about her. He was more comfortable and so were we.
- If I cry or get emotional if we talk about my child, I wish you knew that it isn’t because you have hurt me; the fact that my child died has caused me tears. You have allowed me to cry, and I thank you. Crying and emotional outbursts are healing. Most often, I can keep my tears private, but many times.. I just can't. It's never because anyone made me upset, it's because...that's me now. Good days are few and far between...bad and sad days are much more frequent.
- I wish you wouldn’t “kill” my child again by removing from your home his pictures, artwork, or other remembrances. I know that my family still has Carly's pictures out. My parents still have a drawing or two on their fridge. I think they still have the magnetic letters on their fridge too,,they spell C A R L Y. :**(
- I will have emotional highs and lows, ups and downs. I wish you wouldn’t think that if I have a good day my grief is all over, or that if I have a bad day I need psychiatric counseling. I m fairly certain some people think I need psychiatric help...and some days, I wonder that myself, but rest assured, my doctor and my counselor have both confirmed that when I feel that way, it's a "normal" symptom of grief.
- I wish you knew that the death of a child is different from other losses and must be viewed separately. It is the ultimate tragedy, and I wish you wouldn’t compare it to your loss of a parent, a spouse, or a pet. We have had many, many people compare our loss to their parent and even a pet. Not having lost a parent, I can not relate to them, but I do know that most children out live their parents..and that's the way it's suppose to be. We buried many pets and our last two dogs were gut wrenching for us. We cried and cried for those beloved pets and trust me, that was nothing compared to this. Pets are replaceable..kids are not.
- Being a bereaved parent is not contagious, so I wish you wouldn’t shy away from me. We have had so many people shy away from us in the past 15months. We know it's because they have no idea what to say to us. Which is sad. And we also know that some may fear hearing about our loss. It may be overwhelming for them and they just don't want to hear about it. That's pretty sad too.
- I wish you knew that all of the “crazy” grief reactions that I am having are in fact very normal. Depression, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and the questioning of values and beliefs are to be expected following the death of a child. Most of you know that I m dealing with some major depression, anger and anxiety and I sure don't know what I believe anymore. It's like being stuck between a rock and a hard place...literally.
- I wish you wouldn’t expect my grief to be over in six months. The first few years are going to be exceedingly traumatic for us. As with alcoholics, I will never be “cured” or will I be a “former bereaved parent,” but will forevermore be a “recovering bereaved parent.” There is no time limit on grief. Please don't assume we are over it. We will never be over it. It just plain sucks to be known as "a bereaved parent".
- I wish you understood the physical reactions to grief. I may gain weight or lose weight, sleep all the time or not at all, develop a host of illnesses, and be accident prone – all of which may be related to my grief. Well, as of today, I'm down 27lbs! Not because I m not eating. I wasn't eating the first several months into this nightmare, but I m now. I actually joined Weight Watchers in mid April. And I love it. It gives me something to focus on and right now, it's the only thing in my life that I can control. As for being accident prone. I sure am. Just in the past month, I've had 2 grills blow up in my face. Thanks to my very 'un-focused' mind. My mind just does not focus on much these days (other than my Weight Watchers). I have to take medication just to get a few hours of sleep. And last week, I blew the gas grill up in my face and singed my eyelashes, eyebrows, facial hair, hair on my arms and fried the flipping hair on my head. A few weeks earlier I lit the charcoal grill and forgot that I had actually lit the dumb thing...so, I added a shit ton more lighter fluid and tossed in a match,,, BOOM, right in my face. Can't figure out why I haven't burned my face all to pieces. Thankfully, I haven't. Paul has warned me, "PAY CLOSER ATTENTION TO THE GRILLS"...
- Our child’s birthday, the anniversary of her death, and holidays are terrible times for us. I wish you could tell us that you are thinking about our child on these days, and if we get quiet and withdraw, just know that we are thinking about our child and don’t try to coerce us into being cheerful. No one has tried to make us be cheerful during any of these times. We have had a few laughs during these times, but we've had our quiet times too.
- It is normal and good that most of us re-examine our faith, values, and beliefs after losing a child. We will question things we have been taught all our lives and hopefully come to some new understanding with our God. Oh boy, do I ever question everything I've ever believed in. Things I had been taught throughout my childhood have all but been tossed out the window. No matter how hard I try to understand God, it's just not happening for me. I don't understand anything about God now, and I fear that I never will again.
-I wish you would let me tangle with my religion without making me feel guilty. Not many people object to my thoughts on religion right now. My head is just to messed up to think about it. And I appreciate the fact that no one is throwing it in my face.
- I wish you wouldn’t offer me drinks or drugs. These are just temporary crutches and the only way I can get through this grief is to experience it. I have to hurt before I can heal. No one but waiters and waitresses have offered me alcohol. As for drugs,, well unless they are prescribed by my doctor...that's not happening either.
- I wish you understood that grief changes people. I am not the same person I was before my child died, and I never will be that person again. If you keep waiting for me to “get back to my old self,” you will stay frustrated. I am a new creature with new thoughts, dreams, aspirations, values, and beliefs. Please try to get to know the new me – maybe you’ll like me still. I've been saying this long before I read the writings of Betty Baggott. I am NOT the same person and I don't like it anymore than anyone else. I find myself saying things to other people that I would never do before losing Carly. I don't bite my tongue and cower and let things slide, just to avoid a big time..maybe I should, but it doesn't happen anymore. I am NOT the same person. I didn't ask for this change in me. And most often, I don't even like myself..but, due to my life taking a drastic change for the worse,,,this is me now. Either like me..or not, I suppose that's the jest of .
I believe that instead of sitting around and waiting for our wishes to come true, we have an obligation to tell people some of the things we have learned about our grief. We can teach these lessons with great kindness, believing that people have good intentions and want to do what is right, but just don’t know what to do with us. We have had some people offer to help us out in some way shape or form, but for the most part people say, "let me know if you need help" or "do you want me to bring a meal? just let me know, call me" Well first off,,,,most often "we" the parents who are grieving, will NOT ask for help. We kind of have other things on our minds. You may mean well and that's a really nice thing, it is. But in reality, we (bereaved parents) are not likely to call you up and ask you for anything. Take it upon yourselves to help a bereaved parent. Their world, as they knew it has stopped turning. Step up. Don't expect to be called upon, it rarely will happen that way.
Pick your phone up and call us just to chat. Don't assume and fear that we will only talk about our child who has passed away. Some times a 10 minute phone call to just say, "hi, I was just thinking about you today" really means so much and can lift our spirits, if were having a rotten day. It also reminds us that people really do care about you..because more often than not, you believe no one gives a crap. One of my girlfriends called me today, just because. She lives in Florida now and even tho., we only talked about 15minutes, it was so good to hear from her and to know she thinks about me and my family.
About the worse thing you can do to a bereaved friend, is vanish from their lives. So, if at some point you find yourself in a situation knowing a bereaved parent, don't expect them to reach out to you...YOU need to reach out to them. Don't tell them to call you, it may not happen, their lives have been turned upside down. But YOU could pick up the phone and call them.
I've become friends with several bereaved parents, all through facebook. I belong to a group of bereaved moms. Most of those moms feel these very same things. However, we do try to understand that people kind of fear us now. Either they are afraid of saying the wrong thing or they are afraid of us saying something about our child and the thought of that makes them very uncomfortable. We understand that other people have lives, busy lives..we get that. But, our minds are a jumbled mess and we long for some sense of normalcy.