“How to help friends grieve” is more of a question than a statement. “How do you help friends grieve?” But I’m gonna take ya’ll on a journey with me. Please bear with my language because I’m not sure I am using the words that I INTEND… it’s frustrating but I believe this needs to be said, and SHARED with others, even if not as elegantly as I wish. [NOTE: John and Roni have read this. We all would like for you to share this with others.]
Roni and I both have some similar “thoughts” about life. If you are doing something, you should take notes, make a list, “do something,” to share with others, so they can learn from your mistakes or achievements. Or just to SHARE an experience. Hence my blog. I have always “journal-ed” and always SHARED my life with my family, ever since I was little, via handwritten letters and phone calls. Converting “my weekly letters” into an electronic version was very easy for me! Now, 18 years later, it has the added benefit of helping me remember my life! (Literally! More about that here: http://blog.scottsontherocks.com/blog/2014/09/30/neurology-appointment-093014/)
From Roni’s perspective, she also has always shared her experiences with others. And as tragic as the death of their son has been for them, it’s an experience that she is openly and honestly sharing with all of us. She asked me to share some “lessons learned” with people who are helping friends whom have lost their child (in this case, their only child). In her words,
“I think it’s important that, as we go through this, somehow we leave a legacy to help others who are or will someday be going through this. Whatever we can do to make it easier for the next guy has always been important to me in everything I do.”
[NOTE: To me, she has shown this in her life, in all she does! Advance Arrangements is also a testament to this desire… to help people avoid the chaos others have endured! http://www.advancearrangements.com/ ]
I’ll start at the beginning…
Late one night, after my post about Dalton [ http://blog.scottsontherocks.com/blog/2014/09/29/missing-dalton/ ], I emailed Roni and John to tell them about my day, tell them how much I think about them, and that we include Dalton in our lives. Trust me, it was nothing elegant but I just wanted to “hug on them” and… to be honest, I felt like they SHOULD KNOW when Dalton makes us smile. I don’t know how to word it without it sounding tacky… I mean, if something had taken place during his life, you can bet, I’d have called/emailed Roni & John and told them a funny story! So, why not now? I couldn’t think of a good reason NOT to share it, so I did. Even though we had cried, so what? I didn’t consider it “uncomfortable” and it was a “blogworthy” day. I’m seriously spending more time thinking about it NOW, than I did prior to “shooting off an email before bed!” I basically said all of that to Roni and that was the end of my email.
However, my email evoked a response in them that I guess is understandable and guess you can say it was even intentional.
They thanked me. and I don’t mean “thank you for your email” … i mean “Thank you so much for understanding” type of “thank you.”
You all “know” that it is important that loved ones KNOW that you think of those that have passed. I’m here to tell you that it is EXTREMELY important that the parents of children whom have died, KNOW… and I mean TRULY KNOW that their children live on in the lives of others. That their short beautiful lives will not be quickly forgotten. I knew that. I know that. And yet, I guess I do NOT “truly share” that with John and Roni. I know my family celebrates Dalton’s life daily. I know John and Roni know that we LOVED Dalton. But now, I realize that maybe they were not “truly aware” that we STILL LOVE DALTON, and will continue to do so for the remainder of our own lives. We will continue to share Dalton with others.
Talking about Dalton makes us cry. It also makes us laugh, and smile and remember. Some might call it “uncomfortable.” I call it natural. I now realize, from my email to Roni, that others translate “uncomfortable” into silence. “We shouldn’t make anyone uncomfortable, so we should NOT bring up Dalton nor make anyone sad.” I’m paraphrasing a thousand different reactions that people have around parents of angels. I’m telling you that YOU ARE WRONG. SPEAK UP NOW! SPEAK LOUDLY! or Speak softly. DO NOT REMAIN SILENT. Your feelings are not feelings of discomfort and your silence causes real pain. Yes, silence causes pain. Your silence speaks volumes. You think your silence is quiet respect for their comfort, when it really says “we want to forget.”
I am no specialist. I am no doctor, nor counselor, nor parent of an angel. But I know I am right.
I want you to truly think about this and I want you to stop and examine your actions. Using this experience as my guide… If you think of “your angel” (in this case, Dalton), please tell their parents, grandparents, and other family and friends. They WILL cry. It’s NOT “they will probably cry” because THEY WILL CRY. Guess what, YOU WILL CRY. Do not think that their tears are silent cries for you to never do that again! They are tears of joy, not tears of discomfort.
As I said above: Talking about Dalton makes us cry. It also makes us laugh, and smile and remember; and strive to do better; and then “DO IT FOR DALTON” I’ve seen this in my family and I know we are not alone. This is an easy assumption to make! There are so many of you out there that loved Dalton in life, and love Dalton in memory. Tell John and Roni! Go to his website: http://www.doitfordalton.com/
You also need to tell John and Roni that you are thinking of them… EACH OF THEM. If it is true… TELL THEM! So what if it makes you cry; so what if it makes them cry! It is so important that they know how much you love them; how much you think about them!
If you have another angel in your life, take this lesson and apply it now!
Just like the title says, you are “helping friends grieve.” The added bonus here is that THEY will also be helping you grieve.