This photo recently showed up on on two different sites on my facebook page. It was interesting to read the comments. There were the ones who thankfully gushed about the people who supported them. And then there were the comments by people who were definitely deeply hurt by the lack of support they received. You can almost feel the intense pain coming from those words.
When bereaved parents have support, I’m sure it’s hard for them to imagine those who don’t, those who basically end up all (or nearly all) alone. I’m sure it’s hard for people who know a bereaved parent to imagine that parent has little to no support. But it happens more than anyone would imagine.
With absolutely all immediate family more than 2000 miles away and nearly everyone we knew disappearing, we fell in the latter category. It was a very, very lonely and very, very painful and difficult time for us. The lack of support we experienced has had a huge impact on our lives. The secondary pain of not being able to count on support from those I assumed would support us and instead having to walk this walk almost all alone hurt and affected me more deeply than I can ever put into words. I’m happy for those who have support, but it’s important to remember that’s not always the case.
Let me encourage you to discard some assumptions you may have. Don’t assume that bereaved parents have support. Some will. Some won’t. Don’t assume someone else is supporting a bereaved parent. Maybe someone is. Maybe no one is. Don’t assume someone else is taking the time to write a note or memory to encourage the bereaved parent. Maybe someone is. Maybe no one is. Don’t assume someone else doing something, that someone else is doing anything. Maybe that person needs to be you.
Don’t assume that it has to be something big or that you have to know the person well. Even a small gesture can let someone know you care. Just make sure it’s genuine and that your motives are genuine. Don’t offer one gesture and then give up because it appears it wasn’t appreciated or wasn’t heard.
In the fog of grief that surrounded me, I was looking for support from people I knew, people I assumed would support us. One gal I barely knew asked me several times over many month’s time if I wanted to go walking with her. In my grief, I didn’t really hear her at first, but she didn’t give up. Her offer really didn’t register with me for about six months, as I desperately reached out to people I knew and thought would support us. In September, nearly six months after Jason died, I finally took her up on her offer. Now, as I look back, I don’t know what I would have done without her.
There are some excellent resources to give ideas on how to support a bereaved parent, much more so than when Jason died. I’ve written about this multiple times, as have many others.
Like some people commented in response to those photos on Facebook, I will never forget those who stepped forward. I will forever be grateful for my friend Mary, someone I barely knew when Jason died but one who stepped forward, who continued to ask me to go walking with her until I actually heard her, and who gradually became a wonderful friend. I will never forget the manager of a large hotel chain, one who was a client of my husband’s company and who barely knew us, who arranged for us to pay employee rates at a resort hotel in Hawaii. Without his kindness, we never would have been able to afford the respite we so desperately needed at the time.
But, like other comments, I will never forget those who didn’t. I will never forget the friends who disappeared. Those losses cut deep and I’m not sure that the scars from that time will ever disappear. I’m not saying I haven’t worked on forgiving; I’m just saying that I will never forget.
© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney
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