A few weeks ago, there was a post going around on Facebook titled "Things Bereaved Parents Wish You Knew". There were eighteen items on the list, and, of course, I could totally relate to all of them. But since this is Ten on the Tenth and not Eighteen on the Eighteenth, I decided to pare the list down to the ten things that meant the most to me personally.
So here goes..."Ten Things Bereaved Parents Wish You Knew".
1. Please don't be afraid to talk to me about my child. My child lived and was very important to me, and it is a comfort to me to know that he or she was important to you, too. My child is pretty much always on my mind anyway...you're not going to "remind" me that he or she is gone.
2. If I cry when you speak of my child, it isn't because you have hurt me. My child's death is the cause of my tears. You have talked about my child and allowed me to share my grief and I thank you for both.
3. If I seem absent-minded and forgetful, that's because I am! "Grief Brain" is a common malady in bereaved parents. I'm really not losing my mind, but sometimes I may feel like I am.
4. Please don't expect my grieving to be over in six months, or even in a year. The early months may be the most traumatic for me, but please understood that my grief will never fully end until the day I am reunited with my child in Heaven. And though it may sound strange, I don't really want my pain to completely go away...it helps keep me connected with my child.
5. When you ask me how I'm doing, that's a really hard question for me to answer. I will probably tell you I'm fine or I'm doing okay, but neither one of us has enough time for me to fully and accurately answer that question.
6. Please excuse me if I seem rude at times. Sometimes I just don't have the emotional stamina to participate in the small talk and keep the smile on my face. I may just have to "check out" for awhile.
7. Please don't tell me that you understand or that you know how I feel. Unless you have lost a child, you cannot understand how it feels. I pray that you will never know how I feel.
8. Being a bereaved parent is not contagious, so please don't shy away from me. I need your support now more than ever before.
9. You may see me struggling emotionally sometimes, especially when I'm at church. This does not mean I have lost my faith. For a variety of reasons, church is just a very emotional place to be.
10. Please understand that the loss of a child changes a person. When my child died, a large part of me died with him or her. I am not the same person that I was before my child died and I will never be that person again.
So, there it is. Ten Things Bereaved Parents Wish You Knew. In the course of making this list, I actually changed it up quite a bit from the original Facebook version. Now, I would never claim to be a spokesman for all bereaved parents. But over the course of many conversations with parents who have lost children, I've found these things to be common to many of us.
As Item #10 says, Hannah's death has changed me forever. I am not the same person I was prior to February 26, 2009. Through God's grace alone, I am a better person. And in spite of the grief I live with every day, I will seek to honor Hannah's life through my healing. Because of His goodness and faithfulness, I can honestly say that I believe the best days of my life on earth are yet ahead of me. And that's a huge encouragement while I'm waiting.