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.
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.
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.