Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What to do for those who have lost a child?

I mentioned in a previous post that my husband’s brother died in a drowning accident at the age of 24. His birthday was Christmas day. Needless to say after the accident, Christmas was no longer a joyous holiday for my husband’s family. His mother would take to her bed a few days before Christmas and not come out of her room until after the festivities were over. This changed after she had grandchildren, but I’m sure there was never a Christmas where her beloved first born was not far from her thoughts.

A couple of years ago, I met a woman at the gym who had recently adopted a little girl. We were talking about her new daughter when she mentioned she had had a son. He had died in a drunken driving accident when he was 18. And yes, he had been the drunk driver crashing his truck into a tree. The woman began crying, telling me after five years she still has a hard time coping with her loss. We stood in the parking lot talking for some time as I told her about my husband’s brother and how difficult it also had been for my mother-in-law to cope with her loss.

This woman has since adopted another child and no longer comes to my gym, but her friends talk about her. They say things like it’s time she “moves on.” And they tell me how she still travels out of town for the week of her son’s birthday leaving her two adopted children with sitters. They think she should spend this week volunteering for “Mothers Against Drunk Driving.” They say things like, this woman’s son is really not her adopted children’s brother and by continuing to carry on about him she is ruining their childhood.

I thought of this woman, my mother-in-law and the other women I know who have lost a child as I read this Dear Abby column. A mother who lost a daughter two years ago wrote a letter of advice to Dear Abby for all the wonderful people who asked her two years earlier, “What can I do for you?”

She tells us:
Accept me for who I am now. Her father and I work hard to honor her memory, but we will never “get over it” to the degree of being who we were before. I am different now. In some ways – I think – better, I am kinder, more patient, more appreciative of small things, but I am not as outgoing nor as quick to laugh.

I know people mean well when they encourage me to get on with my life. My priorities have changed. My expectations of what my future will hold have changed. Please extend to me again the offer of “anything I can do” and, please, accept me as I am now.
Enough said.

1 comment:

  1. A powerful post, Savvy. I think we do want people to "get over it" because it is easier for us. We don't live with the lost, the changed family, day to day and probably prefer to not be reminded of the person who has died. "Accept me as I am" is a good rule for all of us.

    Best wishes to your in-laws. It's a tough time.