My wish is that we understand that grief doesn’t exactly have an end. As we move along the path our grief changes. Our beginning isn’t the same as any other length but that doesn’t mean that along the way we just hop off and have no more sadness, pain, or tears. It means that our paths sometimes fork along the way.
Sometimes the path we walk loops around and we walk back into feelings we thought we already dealt with. Sometimes those loops are brought on by milestones like birthdays, first steps, first days of school, school pictures, graduations, weddings, and countless other milestones along the way.
Sometimes our paths meet others. We walk with them for an unknown number of steps until our paths fork again. We continue through the journey of survival through the rest of our lives. My wish is to touch lives along the way.
Along my path I have found a few things I wish I and others understood about grief before they became a giant fork. This perpendicular fork often leads to relationships ending and hard feelings.
…it was okay to tell people when they are not being helpful.
Now I am not saying this should be said to everyone nor should it be said out of anger. The truth is there are people out there that aren’t going to be as helpful as you wish they were. This includes family and friends. I spoke up about things that were bothering me and I was told to “get over it.” To this day those relationships are strained at best. I wish the words, “I am sorry.” would have been used instead.
…people understood that trying to protect children from death and the emotions of grief isn’t helpful.
There are so many things we want to shelter our kids from but hiding a loss or your grief from them can do more harm that good. Kids don’t need all the details about the passing of their sibling, cousin, friend, ect. They do need age appropriate explanations.
Children need to be able to say goodbye just like adults. We received some unkind words about letting our daughter’s older brothers have a private viewing of her body. That day I was thankful for the caring funeral home director who gave the sound advice on why it is important for them to see that she was no longer coming home. They felt her hands and face and asked questions. He answered every question with compassion and set us on a path that helped our boys along the way.
On many occasions they have joined in my tears as we remember their sister. The know there is comfort in talking about their own grief. It has opened the door for them to reach out to friends and strangers as they experience their own loss.
My wish is that we are understanding of our children’s abilities and need to grieve as well. We can protect them without sacrificing their grief needs. Sometimes it means we have to open our wounds a little more than we want.
… that death and grief didn’t make people so uncomfortable, and there were fewer awkward encounters.
It doesn’t matter if it is right after the loss of almost seven years later. I inevitably make someone uncomfortable when I share Clara’s part of our life. If I cry, they feel bad and don’t want to upset you again so they avoid the topic. If I don’t appear sad, there have been not so nice comments. Sometimes it is just awkward.
I have learned never to use Clara’s life as a way to create awkwardness. When I was pregnant with my last baby I heard so many comments about my pregnancy. Never more often than while standing in line at the grocery store juggling 4 boys, groceries, bags, and payment. “Are you hoping for a girl.” “Trying till you get a girl.” “You don’t know what your missing with no girls.” Step #1 breath. Step #2 say “Thank you. Healthy is okay with me.” End.
I too often out of frustration clearly stated, “I do have a daughter, she passed away when she was 3.5 months old.” That certainly stopped all further comments. That however does nothing for the community and outsiders who honestly aren’t saying those things to be mean. They are just trying to initiate small talk to be polite. I realized I have been on their side with small talk that really isn’t any of my business either.
Anyway, be prepared. It will happen with strangers and sometimes even with family. My wish is that we handle these situations with grace and create awareness through projects like #CaptureYourGrief about pregnancy & infant loss.
As I look at my wish list I feel these situations in my past and present. I know they will be a part of my future too. My wish is that some day these things will be accepted by all. I hope one day I can be open with others without judgement. My wish is that my path will have fewer forks and loops and that someday those perpendicular forks might meet again.