I’m going to admit something right now that is incredibly embarrassing. I’m going to admit it, because I think it’s important to talk about. It’s important to point out that even a bereaved mother such as myself can have a history of grief faux pas.
Before Adrian died, I had very little sense of the impact of death. It was an abstract concept to me. I had known people who had died, but nobody close enough to trigger intense grief. And so, when someone in my circle lost a child, I misunderstood.
Like most situations, there are some details to the story, and most of them are not my privilege to share. But when I saw that this person’s relative had posted on Facebook about their child dying, instead of the parent themselves, my first thought was that the parent must not have cared…
I want to smack myself today, because of course this is not true! But it is what I believed at the time, and I wonder how many other outsiders are feeling this way about me, or about other bereaved parents, today? And this is why I’m sharing.
I’m sharing, because I think there is this unspoken assumption that appearances are everything:
If someone isn’t tearing out their hair or doing the other things you “expect” of a grieving person, then they must not be feeling “real” grief.
If someone is laughing, or chooses to go on an exotic vacation, then they must be “cured” of the pain of their child’s loss, and now it’s okay to pretend the loss never happened.
And of course, these things are not true. But I know, even now, they are things that some people still believe.
I am ashamed of what my first thoughts were when I heard about this child’s death. And it wasn’t until I lost my own son that I realized how completely clueless I had been.
Grief is hard, and death isn’t often talked about. And this is one of the reasons I write today. Because these stories are still happening, and your loved ones are still being hurt by them, and it’s something you need to know.
Nobody is born knowing how to deal with grief. We are all just figuring it out along the way.