It is okay to be sad

Last year one of my oldest friends said a final goodbye to her young boy of thirteen short years.  It was the end of a long fight of almost one year to the day, since they had learned he had leukemia. For a year they held him, they cried with him, they comforted him. They fought along side him every minute of every day.  Until with a broken heart the time came to say, as only very strong parents can do, “Enough”. Then they brought him home and they sat beside him as he moved on to his next adventure.photo credit: JonathanCohen via photopin cc

Can you imagine it?  For them four children became three.  The house lost a voice, a laugh, a ball of mischief.

Today I was reading the facebook page of the wonderful charity Aoibheanns Pink Tie where I saw a link to a post “The grieving parent and the pressure to stay positive. It made me think of my friend. Daniels mom.

I have shared a lot of the sadness of the past year with my friend and now I can do nothing but stand by and watch her grieve. I do so wondering where she gets her strength. Every day I hurt for her. Yet I also admire her enormously. Every time I see her standing upright, and still breathing I admire her. I am not sure how I would be if the roles were reversed.

It is only just over six months since Daniel died yet my friend cannot be seen to be missing her son in public. Why? Because society does not understand grief. Society puts a timeline on grieving.

What can be worse than burying your own young child? Probably nothing. However less than weeks after his funeral, the watchers were out, passing comment.
“God love her she looks wrecked”.
“She’ll never get over it”.
“She’s falling away to nothing”.”
“I saw her last week at the supermarket, she looked dreadful”.
“I was talking to her the other day but she started to cry”.

When I hear these comments I shake my head. Give her a break. She is grieving.

Because most people know that I am close to her, they regularly share these comments with me.  I was stunned in the early days, a mere two or thee weeks after she buried her son, people I would have thought were intelligent, were saying things like,  “They’ll just have to get over it”, “Or they’ll have to remember they still have three other children”.  I could not believe it. Even myself, who was only a family friend began to feel the pressure not to be seen grieving. To publicly “put on a face”.

It has to be said my friend has in the past few months become an Oscar winning actress. There are days when I go shopping and I do not look my best. However my friend no longer has that luxury.  She has to dress well even if she only wishes to go shopping, as if she is not looking her best it is put down to her grief. If she forgets something “Sure God love her, she’s all over the place”. If she smiles or laughs in public, I will hear within days “She seems to be doing well”.  People are so superficial, and very quick to judge.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonnyc/132922595/">CarbonNYC</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

The reality is that Daniels Mum and Dad lost part of their heart and soul. Every minute of every day they are missing their handsome boy. At times they can operate normally, at other times his loss is overwhelming.  They wear their sadness, for now, on their faces and within their hearts. They have other children who need help and support through their grief. And every day they live in a world without their beautiful boy.

So for goodness sake please stop rushing them through grief. If they wish to cry, let them. If they don’t feel like eating, in time they will. If they are forgetful it is because they have so many memories, good and bad, which they cannot put aside. If they look a bit older and sadder, that is how they should look. They are broken hearted. If they laugh out loud it does not mean they are over their grief.

However I know my friend. I know her well. In time she will come through this. I do not imagine it will be easy for her, nor do I think she will be “over it” quickly. But, in time, she will laugh once more with her heart, she will have to act less, and some day, probably years from now, she will become accustomed to living in a world without her handsome son.

Recently a bedroom was opened in Daniels honour in the Ronald McDonald house in Dublin.  On the plaque it says “For your resilience, courage and character, it is an inspiration to us all”. His parents, having shared the journey with him, chose those words with care. They perfectly described how Daniel faced his illness. They also perfectly describe how his parents and family are now facing their grief.

So please do not rush them. There should be no timeline on missing someone. Just let them be.

photo credit: CarbonNYC via photopin cc
photo credit: JonathanCohen via photopin cc

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24 thoughts on “It is okay to be sad

  1. Beautifully and heartfully said Tric. I admire parents for just breathing after losing a child. I can’t imagine anyone thinking a parent needs to get past the loss of a child within any time frame.

    My grandparents grieved until the days of their deaths. And I understood that. Much care and sympathy to all of you.

    1. Thanks Coleen. It has been quite an eye opener.I think the other commenters are right when they said that people are not good with grief and would like it to just go away.
      But how can they think someone would be “normal” after all that has happened, equally it is not right to think just because they are grieving that they are not still great friends and good company.

      1. You should counsel friends of those who have lost loved ones. I can’t imagine expecting a friend to “deal with” something that I have no idea how I would cope. My heart goes out to all of them.

  2. Wonderful post, Tric! There is no time line on grief. Just being there for the person and the warmth of caring is so important. I’ve learned so much about grief since I started working with grieving children. It’s so important to allow yourself to go through the grieving process.

    1. I agree. It is healthy to mourn and miss your loved one. It is also normal to take some time to adjust to a life that is changed forever.
      Thanks Michele.

  3. To the person who said ” She’ll never get over it.”:
    You’re right, asshole. She never will. She lost her child, and she will never, ever be the same. A part of her will always be missing.
    So sad for you and your friend. Every time I hear of the loss of someone’s baby, my heart splits. xx

    1. Thanks Cookie. It is heartbreaking, and even for me unimaginable. However I think it is so unfair to expect her to be “normal” and yet equally so unfair not to give her huge credit for how amazing she is doing. I cannot begin to tell you how much I admire the whole family.

    1. Thanks a million Don. I think you are correct, it is difficult to know what to say, but I don’t think saying nothing is the answer either.
      However how stupid to think after a few weeks or months they could move on.

  4. I’ve come to realise you have to be two-faced Tric, but not in the normal sense. The first face is the face you put on when you’re out and about, the one that gives the impression that you are doing okay and you are just getting on with your normal life. People look at you, see you’re not a blubbering wreck and they can approach you and talk about the normal things in life, but never talk about the elephant in the room, the loss of your child. I heard a close family member say recently ‘sure they’re 7 months on, they must be over it by now’. You’re not. The other face is the one you keep when you’re at home or by yourself. It’s the one people expect to see but don’t because when they see you, you go back to the first face. I cry a lot still, when I’m in the car, at the grave or when I’m at home in familiar surroundings. You just learn to turn this face off in an instant when somebody calls to the door or when you meet someone on the street. Things are as hard now as they were nearly 8 months ago, you just learn to deal with the other side better. I am sure it is the same for Daniels parents. After talking to people who are in the same situation, dealing with the loss of a child, I find I am not alone in dealing with grief in this way.

    1. It would seem Bryan that you are coping, which is all that can be expected after such a short time.
      I think it must be excruciatingly difficult to begin to really grasp what forever means, and to be living in a world where every one else has moved on.
      I feel for you every day. When I call to see Dan I give Ben a wave too. I can never imagine, not even for a second, what you are going through.
      Thoughts are with you, and I’m sure your wee small boy is looking over you and doing his best to comfort you.

  5. Sorry for your loss, Bryan.

    Tric, how are Daniels parents other children doing? I happened to hear a Sr. Helen interviewed on Ray D’arcy yesterday. She works with children you have been bereaved. Thought of your friends. Hope they’re doing as well as can be.

    1. Thanks a million. Yes the whole family are amazing. Grief is something that those of us not going through it cannot really ever share.
      Thank you for your kind thoughts.

  6. After I lost Richie, I had a hard time going out in public. I would get the stares or the automatic head cocked to the side with the sigh from people. I even had one person tell a good friend of mine that it was going to something to see when I did fall with grief. And the statement of getting over it! Ha! I will never get over it. I will just adjust to where I do not cry in the grocery store over his favorite foods. Or in the high school when I walk the halls he used to walk. OR in stored that have his favorite things. People can be cruel in the things they say but I think it is just fear. They are are fearful it will happen to them and fearful they are wrong in being grateful it wasn’t their child. I think of you often and pray for your peace.

    1. Thanks so much. You are very kind to think of young Dan and his family.
      I think the only people who can really help those who have lost a child are others who have experienced such a loss. It is a lonely grief one that will last forever, and so beyond anything the rest of us can understand.
      Best wishes to you, and thanks so much for adding to this with your experience. I am sure it will help someone.

  7. What a wonderful post and you, a wonderful friend – After my son died, I, too, struggled with the expectations of others – of where they thought I should be on any given day in my journey – so many close friends and family anxiously waited for me to ‘get back to being myself’ – the real breakthrough for me was the realization that I would never again be the me I was before he died – It was a profound shift in my thinking, my priorities, what I held sacred – I realized that many of the things I had thought so important before no longer were and that I had a new outlook on what I wanted my life to look like –

    Profound trauma or grief can change you – but that doesn’t always mean it’s for the worst – 🙂

    Once I communicated this to loved ones, that I would never be the same person again and that waiting for that ‘me’ to show up to assure them of my ‘wellness’ was an exercise in futility – well, things became easier – there were those who understood and took the time to learn what the ‘new’ me really wanted from life and what I was willing to spend my time/energy on –

    There were others who just faded away and I no longer had to spend time/energy trying to reassure them –

    The shallow comments of others can be so hurtful some days and I’ve found that those whose lives have, thus far, not been deeply touched by grief can often not stand the pain of witnessing another’s grief – and thus, they anxiously try to ‘hurry’ someone else along through the grieving process so that they, themselves, may feel better – 🙂

    Many hugs and well wishes to you and your friend as you both walk this path –

    1. Everything you have said makes great sense. I particularly think the idea of the “new” you is a great way of thinking. It doesn’t mean you are a “broken” person, but one whose life is very different to what it used to be.
      Good friends will always be there and as you say the others are too hard work to be worth the effort of trying to please.
      Great comment. Thank you so much.

  8. Wonderful words and what an understanding friend you are. If only more people could be as supportive as you. I learned first hand after losing my daughter that it’s impossible to know true grief until we walk in the same shoes as others. Thank you for these true words so many need to hear.

    1. Thank you Daphne. I totally agree you are part of a group that others like myself can never imagine.
      I am so sorry for your terrible loss, and I commend you on your very positive response to losing your little girl. I am filled with admiration for you and people like you who can turn such grief into something positive..

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