Something I learned really quickly, was that I needed to let go of my own pride and independence in the aftermath of death. It is so hard to let go and let people help. There is this feeling of debt that I owe all the people that helped us in that time. But I know I can pass that on in the future to help others when I am able.
I am by nature, a person who wants to do everything myself. Anytime someone has offered help, just at the grocery store or when I’m out with all my kids, I always have said “I’ve got it thank you!” Accepting help is not in my nature, and I think it’s not in many peoples nature. It’s hard to take help, because for some reason we think it makes us weaker.
Letting go to let people help you means accepting any help that is offered. No hemming or hawing. If someone asks if they should bring you supper, don’t say if you want to. Say “Yes, we would really appreciate that!” If someone asks what they can do for you, let them know of something that would be super helpful like grocery shopping or watching your kids. People really do want to help, and if there is a time in your life that you need help it is NOW.
If no one has asked if they can help, and you really need the help, you need to communicate that you need help. Sometimes people don’t know and understand that you need help. It’s a very hard place to come from, a place of pain, grief, and emotional turmoil. Then to ask for help on top of that? But people cannot help if they don’t know.
People cannot help if they don’t know.
I know you are in such a fragile place with your grief, I know you are broken, I know you are in so much pain. Grief is so new for you and it’s unfair that you need to tell people what you need. But your support group is also grieving. They are grieving for you and for your child. This grief and learning how to support you is new to them as well. They need help navigating these new waters just like you do. If you and your support group can work together with communicating needs and wants, then you can get the support you need and they can give the support they can give.
Something that worked well for me is I had one person I asked for the help I needed and then they figured it out. So I needed babysitting a lot so I could go to therapy, I was going 2 times a week and my therapist was only available during the day. So this friend found babysitters for all my appointments for me. It was amazingly helpful. I could just focus on getting better and going to therapy. There are so many ways you could have one person help, if you ask them.
If you put on a front, and pretend all is good, people do not know. If you do not reach out, people don’t know. If you don’t talk about what’s going on inside of you, people don’t know. You cannot expect people to know that you need help if you don’t say something.
I really believe your friends and family want to help you. They want to support you. They want you to feel that they care. But it’s new waters for them, just like it is for you, and you all need to figure it out together.
One of my sister-in-laws told me after Aria died that, “if you need something you need to tell us. Please communicate with us, because we don’t know what we are doing”.
I really appreciated that, and it was a reminder for me that we are all figuring this out together. Grief is messy and different for everyone, and everyone wants to help and support but just doesn’t quite know how. So please communicate with your loved ones what would be helpful for you!
If there is a anniversary coming up, or something that you want to do in remembrance of your child, make an effort to let someone know that you would appreciate some remembrance if you want. I go back to people don’t know how to help. And if you want to do something in remembrance, at least ask someone else to plan something if you can’t. It would be so nice if others did stuff, and if they do that’s amazing, but people cannot read your mind or know what you want. I have certainly done nothing and then been sad when no one acknowledged Aria or our grief that day.
It’s hard to even know what you want. And it might just be that no matter what it will just be a hard day. Many days, there’s just nothing anyone can do to help.
Grieving with grace
Sometimes, we need to give the people trying to help a second chance. Likely, they will say or do the wrong thing. If we can remember that most people are trying to help, we can let go of the comments that hurt. They will come. The comments that hurt. Nobody knows quite what the things are that hurt you. It might be a bad moment, or a bad comment. Don’t write someone off with one comment or one things they are or aren’t doing. But if comments do continually hurt, you might need to give some space for yourself, because you can’t handle that right now, and that’s okay as well. But in time, I hope you can see that the comments usually are not made with ill intent.
Just like we need lots of grace in our grief, we need to extend that to others who make hurtful comments, who say nothing because they don’t know what to say, who struggle with not knowing what to do.
These are some of the most painful silences, because the friends we thought we had seem actually not much like friends. If you are anything like me, it can make you very angry. I get that. I can get the same way. Just let them go for now, and maybe someday again you can reconnect.
I had talked with a friend, that her therapist told her those of us that are grieving are responsible for teaching others about grief. It’s a hefty responsibility, and it’s also one I was unhappy with. I was not happy with the fact that in my most vulnerable place, I’m the one who has to reach out and let people know this or that about what I was going through. But it’s something that is hard to understand, and most people don’t care to know about grief if they have never been through it. They are scared to even contemplate it for themselves, because they don’t want it to be their story.
I know you say, “well good for them, they can just ignore grief, and I can’t. It’s in my face and my life all day long.” I know. I know that feeling. I know the anger at other people for being able to move on with their life. So it’s our job to educate them.
It chokes. I was there too. I’m in a place now where I can share, and try to educate. You might not be, so sharing articles that talk about grief could also be helpful to your family and friends. Let them know when something really resonates with you. Then maybe they can get a glimpse into what you are going through.
If you find yourself without a support group, or a family who even after trying to communicate with them just doesn’t seem to care, I would really encourage you to find online support groups, or go to a physical support group near you. Compassionate Friends is a national grief support group that might have a local chapter near you. We also went to a grief support group at our children’s hospital. There are a lot more than you realize around you, so just take your search online. Please don’t sit alone in your grief, there are so many other ways to get help even if you don’t have support.
I have opened my own closed Facebook support group for grieving mothers, so if you want to join me there, I’d love to have you! https://m.facebook.com/groups/382474705895661?ref=bookmarks
If you can't follow the link, my group is called “Living with Grief: Child loss with Megan Hillukka”.