Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What not to say to a grieving parent...

This post will end my series of posts, dedicated to grieving dads.. The following was sent to my by a grieving dad, Paul Stanley from Jacobs, Iowa - who has lost 2 children - his beautiful 5 year old daughter Samantha and his handsome young son Paul, who was only 19 when he took his own life.. Paul wanted to remind others, that often times their helpful comments, may not be so helpful...

Yes dad’s, just like us moms, have certain phrases that have been said to them since their child has died that they could have done without… Here are some of those "thoughtful" expressions that dads, just like you and I, whose children have died, could have done without.

I want to believe that none of these individuals who made such foolish comments did so with malice in their hearts – they just don’t realize that their comments can often create more pain for us, and they don’t realize that “when in doubt about what to say, say nothing” For those of us who are the recipients of such comments – let the comments go, and simply respond by saying “I pray you are never where I am today”
.. Cherie Houston

"It was their time." Would that it be the "time" of anyone compelled to utter this one. No one who loses a child will be comforted by this statement.

"God wanted him/her more than you did." I'd rather have heard: "He or she is with God now."

"Don't you think that you should be getting over it by now?" This from someone whose most significant loss was her ninety-something grandmother dying at home with the family by her side.

"It's a good thing you have other children" Believe me - it doesn't help - each of our children is unique and can't be replaced - but it is a very common statement to parents in the days and weeks following the death of their child...

"I know exactly how you feel." If you haven't lost a child you don't have a clue, my friend and I pray you never do.

"Why did you have to do it?" Kevin who lost his young daughter to suicide told me how much he hated to hear this one resounding in his mind. I know what he means -- I hate to hear myself saying it, too.

"You know, you have to him him/her go." No, I don't have to, and I never will. The part of him/her that lives in my heart will stay put.

"All that anger is keeping you from healing." That might be true were "healing" an available outcome. Grieving isn't an illness that I can "heal from" Grieving is a process - a journey - and sadly the anger is part of the process - part of the journey... I don't think I will ever get over this, I just want to get through it...

"He or she is in a much better place now." His or her "place" was here for the 30-50+ years they lost. If they could have seen that their pain was temporary, he could have taken his time getting to that "better place."

"Well, you know that it's been more than (1 year, 2 years, 8 years, etc.) now." Sorry to be noncompliant but I'm still his Dad and will be forever.

"You've got to stop blaming yourself, it wasn't your fault. It was his/her free choice." A suicidal individual in the throes of unimaginable suffering can make a "free choice" but I don't have the right to feel responsible for missing his anguish?

"Too bad that he/she wasn't stronger." In the case of suicide, pain levels all. Experience psychache (intense psychological pain) and then talk to me about strength.

"Try to only remember the 'good times'." From a parent at a grieving conference who remarked "I never had any other kind of 'times' with my son before he died."

"I supposed that now that you have a grandson it makes up for losing your son."
What perverse logic led to that conclusion? Actually the little guy often reminds me of what I've lost and what my son's missing.

"You need help. You really ought to see somebody!" I'd really like to see my child again. That would help.

"I had a great Christmas with my family and all. Its really too bad that your daughter messed yours up!" This was said to a parent whose daughter was murdered by a drunk driver. Parents who've lost children wouldn't wish it on anybody, but maybe there are exceptions.

"Well, at least he went out with a bang." From a co-worker to the aunt of a 22 year old man killed by lightning.

"Good to see you back, time to get over it...your wife has to realize that you can't spend all your time at have to treat this like a military operational loss..." From a "superior" officer to a father who lost his infant son at age 4 days.

"There was nothing anyone could have done." Few suicide grievers find any solace in this throwaway line. Maybe, just maybe, something damn well could have been done to save him!

"Did you know that he or she was mentally ill?" No comment.

"He/she must have been very disturbed to take their own life." I believe that he/she was in a tremendous amount of pain that I can't even begin to understand; I'm the one who's "disturbed" by your ignorance.

"You are young - you will have more children." But I want this child - I want the dreams we had for this child. Sadly this is a comment made all too often to parents who lose very young children or suffer miscarriages - believe me, this comment helps no one and is quite honestly, ignorant.

Be gentle - don't dwell on these or other hurtful comments and

forgive those who make them...

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