Dipping a Toe In – Monday, September 27th

Dear Poor Lucky Me,


Reading your blog has given me (and countless others) a lot of insight into how people grieve. It’s easy to forget how people are skill grieving even when they act like they’re ok. The comments on your blog also remind us how many parents suffer the loss of their children.


I wanted to reach out to you for advice. Many of your readers, fans, friends and family don’t always know what to say or how to act. We don’t want to ignore your pain, but we don’t want to bring it up if you’re doing ok…I mean if you seem to be doing ok. Could you give us some insight? We want to support and love you, but some of us need some guidance.


Love Always,
Trying to do the right thing


Dear Trying,
Thank you for your thoughtful question, and for your support and sympathy. This is a hard question to answer, because the nature of grief keeps changing- sometimes I feel like it changes every 20 minutes. I can only speak for myself but here are some points to keep in mind:


-When you first see the person, say- “I am so sorry for your loss, and I think about you frequently” Then stop talking. I know it’s hard to just stand there in what may feel like awkward silence, but it allows the griever to steer you in the right direction. I like when people say that to me because then I know they’ve heard what happened, and I don’t have to keep up the “everything’s great!” facade. I also do like to talk about what happened, and when people bring it up it alerts me that the person is ok with me talking a little.


-If you are worried about introducing a trigger (inviting me to a child’s birthday party for example) ask the person! Ask them how they’d feel and assure them that your feelings won’t be hurt if they decline EVEN IF YOUR FEELINGS MIGHT BE HURT. Your hurt feelings might subside after a few minutes, but acting insensitive towards a grieving person might scar your relationship for a very long time.


-Sending flowers is thoughtful, but sending food is helpful. Bringing over a casserole is like giving their soul a hug. Sending Harry & David’s, a little bag of groceries, carry out from a favorite restaurant- it all makes the grieving person feel cherished and keeps them from having to make decisions. When your heart is really broken, even feeding yourself seems impossible.


-Reach out to the person whenever you feel like it- even if you’re worried you let too much time pass or you won’t say the right thing. If you sent a card right after the tragedy but still think about the person, send another card. I am so touched by people who check in with me regularly. It makes me feel less lonely.


-Let the person lash out and cry and mourn. It is scary to watch, but you can help by just being there and pretending not to be scared. The girls in my book club have been so instrumental to my recovery because they just let me be the new person that I am. They aren’t afraid of my moods- they never take it personally if I’m not feeling chatty- they aren’t afraid of my pain. They ask about it and just treat it like it is, which is just a new part of my personality. I feel so safe around them because I trust that they never forget that I’m mourning, even when I’m cracking jokes. They never try and change the subject if I want to talk about what I went through, and I can’t help but be overwhelmed by their support and their faith.


-Remember that you might not always get it right, but your heart is in the right place. Sometimes people say stupid or hurtful or insulting things, but I know they want to say all the right things. It’s hard. If you put your foot in your mouth, just take it out and say “I think what I just said was inelegant. I just meant to say I’m so sorry you’re going through this.” Or, just say “I’m so sorry for your loss”. That’s all you ever have to say.


-Finally instead of saying “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do”. Try saying (like my incredible friend Kitty did) “can I send a cleaning lady over, can I order you dinner, do you want the name of my psychic” etc. When people are in terrible pain, they rarely know how to ask for help. If you give them a list of ideas, they’ll trust you. They’ll call you when they do think of something they need.


As I’m writing this I’m realizing how much my trust was shaken when Tommy died. I didn’t trust my body, I didn’t trust doctors, I didn’t trust my friends or family to understand and empathize. I still feel so wary in social situations. In fact, sometimes I think it’s worse now than it was in the beginning. The loneliness and sadness is less sharp, but now it covers everything near me in a fine black dust of sadness. Every time I brush up against some one or something I look down and find myself covered in this sadness that’s too fine for other people to notice readily. And I know I can’t keep pointing it out.


I hope this was helpful. It was cathartic for me to try writing advice again, so thank you for your question.


Poor Lucky Me

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  1. tina says:

    a beautiful and eloquent answer, just like you.

  2. sue says:

    I just learned from you. And I think of you so often.

  3. Big Sully says:

    Wow- you should print this onto little cards for people to hand out at funerals cause EVERYONE is wondering the same thing when a tragedy occurs. You are so good with words.
    And on that note, I was laughing my ass off today at your Halloween post from last year on inappropriate costumes. My kids were looking at a costume catalog and sure enough, Charlotte suggested that I be a “sexy bee” for Halloween. You should definitely repost that one again this year! Love, me

  4. Suzy says:

    I think this is the best response to that question I have read (and I have read a LOT of them. Every line rings true.

  5. Leslie Ann says:

    Great advice!!! I emailed a friend to continue support, and that turned out to be VERY timely (wink, wink). And, I sent a card to another grieving mother which I hope will also be received as the blessing I meant it to be. Keep smiling and thinking positive!!! The new psych. doc. sounds great!!! HUGS!

  6. Kristin says:

    Hey! This is now posted on Faces Friends/Family page. Check it out if you want (and let me know if you have a better ‘title’ in mind :) http://www.facesofloss.com/p/for-friendsfamily.html

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