It was months after Adrian’s death, and I was sitting on the couch, trying to focus on mindless TV. It was the point after death where sympathy had mostly evaporated. And I didn’t want casseroles, but damn—I was lonely!
Awkwardness surrounding loss and grief
“I’m here if you ever want to sit in awkward silence.”
As odd as it sounds, this is one of the most supportive messages I received after the death of my son.
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.
It’s hard to feel sad and helpless when someone you love is struggling after loss. It’s hard to sit there in the darkness and support them when they are most in pain. It’s hard, but if you can do it anyway; if you can accept your helplessless and move forward, you will be more helpful than you know.
Sometimes you don’t understand the impact of your actions, or your failure to act, until the same situation happens to you. And when some of my own friends disappeared like I disappeared on my cousin, I understood how much it was hurtful. And I was filled with regret.
People are going to feel uncomfortable about death and grief…It’s not your job to comfort people who become discomfited by hearing your story. That’s on them.
Your words may be awkward. You may stumble. You may stick in your foot in your mouth entirely. It’s still okay. What’s important is that you acknowledge the loss. That you embrace the awkwardness. That you show up anyway.
Almost 4 years in this community, and I can identify most of the wrong things to say. I write scripts and stories. I try to make things better for other people. And sometimes, still, when it comes to those I care about, words fail me.
I’ve seen so many people begin a post about grief with phrases like, “This may sound odd,” or “Sorry if this is weird.” I’ve decided I’m going to stop doing that. Grief doesn’t have to be reasonable. Death certainly isn’t.
There is a tendency in our culture to avoid talking about “negative” things like loss and death. We often use euphemisms or try to cast things in a better light. I choose not to do this. Death is not a dirty word; it simply IS.
I realize, when I look back at these moments with pain, that the thing I wanted least to know, was the true value behind the relationships that seemed valuable to me. Because it wasn’t what I thought it to be. And that kind of knowledge is quite hard. The death of my son taught me who people in my life really were, and that is knowledge I would rather not know.
I’ve been running into a trend recently when I talk about Adrian’s death, especially when I share more “uncomfortable” feelings such as anger or regret. People seem to feel like they need to urge me to find peace or to otherwise feel differently. I wish more people understood the power in authenticity; in feeling whatever and however one needs.
Please think, before you request a trigger warning, if the unpleasant sensation is worse for you than it is for the person speaking. You may find it “triggering” to hear about the death of my child. Imagine how much harder it is to live with it.
Adrian was cremated, but it was important to me that he also have a funeral. I wanted to honor him and his short but powerful life.
Grief is awkward, and when we talk to the bereaved, we often want to say anything at all just to fill the void. Here are some things to avoid.
The shock wears off, and we keep talking. You ask for details, or maybe you don’t. You start thinking. And now you are afraid for your child.
Almost three years ago, we both were pregnant. I didn’t realize at the time how closely we aligned. I think I thought about saying something then, but I didn’t. No excuses this time. And then your son was born, and my son died.
People sometimes ask me if my daughter is my first child. I needed a simple way to tell them I had a child before her, but he died. When people ask me now, I have a simple response.
This year has been hard for me, but it’s been a clean kind of hard. Most people understand grief is a thing. Most people understand pain surrounding death. I don’t think most people understand what happens afterwards.
I’ve often said that those of us who have experienced tragedy live in a new layer of existence. It’s the thing that defines us now, that marks this transition to this separate world. And I almost said “different” there instead of “separate,” but this is another defining characteristic; because the only thing that is different is each of us. Because we are a world inside of a world, and we are the only ones who know.
You asked me to this party, but you don’t want my casserole. It’s too heavy; it’s filling. It doesn’t fit your theme.
Dear pregnant woman in my office – people are starting to get excited. They threw you a baby shower, and things are starting to feel very familiar. I wish I could explain why I’ve started to dislike you. I wish there were some logic beyond jealously and pain.