Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things People Say…

I hate to nitpick about what I’ve heard or read over the last several months from so many well-meaning persons. I hate to nitpick because what is worse than saying the “wrong” or weird thing is saying nothing. (I’ve been sadly and profoundly surprised and disappointed by several persons from whom I’ve heard diddly-squat.) Saying or writing something definitely beats saying or writing nothing at all.

I have kept all the cards sent to us since Brandon’s death, most arriving in June and then slowly dropping through mid-July. I both looked forward to and hated the daily mail. I appreciated knowing that each card sender acknowledged the immensity of Brandon’s death while I also felt completely “creeped out,” because the arrival of the daily mail forced me back from my brief vacations to the land of Denial. I opened and read each card, and I fit each in the overflowing basket with all the rest. Now, several months later, I tell myself every Sunday that this is the week I’ll go through all the cards again, and every week (so far) I've failed to find the courage to do so.

The crammed card basket that I'm afraid to face a second time

Here’s where I get nitpicky even though I know you mean well. I really do. And I really hate to sound ungrateful, but you wished or prayed that I feel “peace,” “comfort,” “healing.” If you’re a parent, do you really think you might experience any of those feelings if that feeling pertained to the death of any of your babies? Really? I will never see Brandon in this life again. I will never see those amazing and alive brandy-colored eyes. I will never see that shit-eating grin. I will not get to watch him grow older. He will not be here to support and love his wife. He will not be here for his daughter’s entire life – no evolving hugs and kisses from an adoring toddler, dismissive teenager or reconnected adult child; no celebrating his daughter’s birthdays, no praising her for good grades, no coaching her in soccer, no teaching her to drive, no warning her dates that he’s watching, no nostalgia and pride as he walks her down the aisle.

Unless you can bring my “baby” back to us, and I know you can’t, please don’t talk or write to me of peace, comfort, healing. Ever. I’m working to accept. I’m trying really hard to remember that the Creator’s time is different than measly human time. I’m doing my best moment to moment, and some moments are better and some worse.

But heal? Be comforted? Feel peace about his death? No can do. Don’t wish or pray it. Don’t expect it for or of me. Ever.

I’ve kept two cards displayed on the table next to the card basket. Neither suggests this is an event that will resolve in feelings of peace, comfort or healing. They acknowledge the enormity of this particular grief and they imply support or solidarity.

 Card: Angel of Grief (1895) photographed by Michael H. McKann (2007)

Support and Solidarity

Want to say or write something to me that has meaning? (And just to confuse you, each parent who has lost a child to death is different. Some may find messages of peace, comfort and healing to be uplifting. I’m just not one of them.) Tell me you “get” that you don’t understand. Share a memory. Say you’re sorry. Or simply acknowledge that there really are no words…


  1. In all sincerity Karen, I am so sorry :(

  2. Thank you for your honesty, Karen. I cannot imagine the grief you are feeling. And I don't think I would ever feel peace about it either.

  3. Very true words spoken and in fact, even the most painful, most wrenching, most horror filled words of a mother in the midst of the agony of loss, are, in fact better spoken than kept silent. The pain rages on and on, this is the terrible truth. The wrong words offered are clumsy but well intentioned. Yet, no matter how hard I tried to remind myself of that, it didn't make the wrong words offered to me, any less stinging. People truly don't know what to say. There should be a course in school on what is right and what is intolerable to say to a grieving parent, but, there isn't. And yes, oddly, some of my closest friends and relatives pulled away and some never even returned. I believe the thought of losing a child was so terrifying to them, that they thought it might be contagious and so, they fled. But, Karen, it is now 17 years since my huge basket (that turned into a trunk) of cards, letters and angel trinkets came to my mailbox and I have yet, to find the courage to re-read them. I am not sure I ever will. Love to you on your most broken days and the ones where you come together for even a few minutes.... Ann