Post by Still Standing Contributor RaeAnne Fredrickson of Still Mothers
Grief bullies are all around us. I wish it weren’t true, but it is; the desperately brokenhearted are ambushed and attacked for their normal response to grief.
It’s happened to me. It’s happened to my loss friends, and sadly, it will happen to the next parent whose precious child dies. Even people who seem to have amazing support will eventually experience an inexpiable shift, where suddenly people have “had enough.” And every time I encounter these heartless attacks, my blood boils, my heart grieves deeper, and I have to fight the urge to reach out and shake the insensitive offender.
These grief bullies are intolerably cruel.
What’s so appalling is that these unfounded attacks are often made by family and friends, the very people who should be supporting them the most. They claim to be “well-meaning,” and to have your best interest at heart, but good intentions mean nothing when it comes to grief.
It’s the selfishly-motivated desire to be rid of our pain that brings about this turn from support to attack. And while it’s inexcusable that a baby loss parent should be accosted for his/her completely normal reactions to a devastating loss, it seems to happen all the time.
Related: Unfriend Me
Just like any other bully, the attack is never about the loss parent. It’s always about the bully. Grief makes them uncomfortable, so they lash out. It’s the ultimate version of kicking someone while she’s down. It hurts my heart because the LAST thing in the world a grieving parent needs is heartless “correction” by a person who has no clue what they’re talking about.
And believe me when I say, if you’ve never experienced the death of your child, you do not understand, and your opinion of child-loss grief is irrelevant.
How sad that we live in a society that thinks you can get over the death of your child. How broken it is to believe a few months or years will be all it takes to heal such a massive, gaping wound. I guess people don’t understand the bond between a parent and child. I think they don’t see how bullying sets healing back, how it makes it even harder to move forward.
Otherwise, they would know it never ends; that love doesn’t end with death. The grief of living without your child is new every day. Yes, it changes, but there is no such thing as the day you wake up and are “done.”
If people put their energy into supporting, nurturing, and encouraging the bereaved instead of focusing on their own needs and opinions, can you imagine how much easier it would be for the parent to heal healthily? I can.
It’s time for grief bullying to end.
So let me take a moment to speak directly to those who bully the grieving:
First, let me say that unless you own child has died, you do not understand the grief of child-loss. Period. So stop thinking you know how it should be done. You don’t.
Secondly, I want to know: What is it you don’t understand? Are you so heartless that the death of a baby means nothing to you? Do you really value the life of an innocent child so little? Are you so lacking in empathy?
Or is it that you’re afraid? Afraid that if you accept my reality, then you’ll realize you’re vulnerable too? Does it hurt too much to face the truth that death can take whomever he likes, whenever he wants, and you also could just as easily be sitting right next to me in grief?
Related: It Could Never Happen To Me
I did not choose this. I don’t want to feel this way. But if I’m the one who has to live this out, the very least you can do is try to be understanding and compassionate. If I tell you how I feel, it doesn’t matter one bit if you don’t like it or disagree. It’s not about you. At all.
Your only job is to support me, right where I’m at, lovingly. If you can’t do that, then you need to stay out of my life.
When you and your friends in the gossip circle decide “someone needs to say something,” or when you get the urge to “set me straight,” STOP. You are wrong. Completely and wrong.
My child died. My heart, my beliefs, my comfort, my joy, my safety, my future, my dreams, and so much more have been mercilessly stripped away, and I’m expected to keep on living. I will never be the same again. Suggesting I “get help,” “take a pill,” “put on my big girl pants,” or anything like this are all completely selfish and massively insensitive things to say. They do the opposite of helping me. They make my life harder, and it’s already about as hard as it can be.
“Tough love” has no place in grief-support.
Helping me involves climbing down into the ugly pit of grief in which I now unwillingly reside, and sorting through the sorrow, anguish, rage, trauma, confusion, and injustice with me. Your quiet support is all that’s required. Unfortunately for us, not many people can dig deep enough into their pool of compassion to be the kind of support a grieving person needs, for the long term.
If my choice is between grieving my beloved child’s death in the way that works best for me or being your friend, you’re going to lose. I will not pretend to be okay for the sake of people who don’t understand. My love and my loss are too big to hide, and it’s not my job to make you feel better.
Always remember this: It’s never okay to criticize a grieving parent. Ever. You have no idea how hard it is to live without your child, and your inability to understand doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong. It means you need to put that much more effort into loving and supporting me.
Until you can do that, I have no room for you in my life. My heart is too full of love for my baby, and my energy also tied up in supporting myself as I do the work I need to recover from this trauma.
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash