What I wish everyone knew...
This is a blog post that unfortunately was in draft mode in my mind only a few days after Greyson's funeral. I plan on sharing his story linked HERE when finished. After his passing we were surrounded by family and friends and had so much support that we will be forever grateful for. And as we continue this journey I can tell some people just don't know how to help, they don't want to hurt us more or say the wrong thing. I will admit I am not great at expressing how I need help in the moment and have spent hours of searching for blog posts on the subject to share. There are resources out there (will link at the bottom of the blog) but they all seemed to be missing something I would still want to add or didn't explain fully how I felt. So here we go - I appreciate all of you who will spend the time reading this lengthy blog post till the end. If you want to quick reference (as I hope this maybe can be a resource to others) here is the order of the post.
What you Can do/say
What you should NOT do/say
Gifts/Items we purchased or were gifted that gave comfort
Other things to know and to help understand (Glimpse into our pain)
What you CAN do/say:
- Say Greyson's name - will I tear up when you mention him, probably, but it is so great to hear others speak his name when we talk or when they are thinking of him or us. The cards, messages, talks, that stand out and give us the most comfort are when people say his name. Not just sorry for your loss, but a sorry for your loss of Greyson. He is our child, and just like you (if you have kids) love hearing your Childs name, showing your child off in photos, I do too. Just like you like to talk about your baby, I do too. Just like you are proud of your baby, I am too. Which brings me to my second topic...
- Before asking about Greyson's death, ask about his LIFE. I want to talk about his memories. I want to talk about his birth. I want to talk about Greyson and share these things with others. This might be hard for me to bring up. Too many times after a quick saying of "sorry for your loss" the subject gets changed as to avoid the subject and there may be times where I don't feel like talking but giving the opportunity to means the world.
- Show up - we have probably lost count by now how many say to give a call if we need anything. And from the bottom of our hearts we know you all mean that. But it is hard for me to take the initiative. My best friend showed up one day when I wasn't texting and that will forever be remembered. Now, I'm not saying to always just show up at our door but even given the option of going out to eat, bringing over supper, gives us the chance to accept or decline and lets us know you are thinking about us.
- Set up a meal train - we were so blessed to have a friend set this up and put in that we wanted healthy food. To have freezer meals ready to go with healthy options saved us for those first few weeks. As much as the "comfort" food is good for a few days our bodies needed something healthy. They are going through hell (my body is recovering from birth yet) and grief plays a HUGE toll on the body. Still being only 3 months (as I am writing this but I'm not sure how soon I will post) after Greyson passed away we still have MANY nights where the normal tasks of cooking can be so overwhelming.
- What to say??? - I know before going through this I would have had ABSOLUTELY no freaking idea what to say to someone who lost a baby and I know a lot of you don't either. THAT IS OK. We don't expect you to have the perfect thing to say. To be frank there is literally NOTHING you can say to make it better. It sucks. But telling us, hey we are thinking of you and Greyson and we don't know what else to say is just perfect.
- Just send the text, email, voicemail, letter if you're thinking/praying about us. Ever think about us but don't want to bring up the topic, afraid you might bring us down on a potentially "good" day, don't want to bring up "bad" memories of Greysons death, think we are tired of hearing we are being prayed for?? The reality is this is not an event that we will get over. Greyson IS our baby. We think about him 24/7. He is under the surface of any smile, any tear, any laughter. Just like you don't forget your child we will never forget ours. Implying or thinking that you reaching out might somehow remind us of the loss we endured I guess is a testament that you have not lost a child.
- Listen and let there be silence. As awkward as you may feel. Just because the conversation has a break or silence if we are talking about Greyson does not mean you need to change the subject. It takes a lot for my brain to process and it can take a minute for a thought to be put together in my brain. Sometimes there are no words that can be said but listening and letting there be silence is ok. That gives us the chance to open up more if we want. It lets us feel heard when those opportunities come when someone just truly listens.
- " I know you are putting on a brave face, and I know/recognize that you are hurting behind that smile" These words spoken by a co-worker/friend that meant so much. There are times when professionally I have to have my shit together. And to know that this is not being misunderstood as I am doing great is a relief.
- It's ok to ask to see his pictures. I want to share his cute little face, his perfect little scowl (that is identical to Mark). The sad reality is that most new moms are able to go around and people get excited and ask to see pictures but after he passed away people stopped asking to see him. Not even our whole immediate family was able to meet Greyson while he was on this earth. Those moments when our visitors pick up our album filled with every picture we have of him, it warms my heart.
What you should NOT do/say:
These are things I wish I didn't even have to say and this is going to be the hardest for me to open up about but I hope this helps someone else. If you have made a mistake and done any of these, know that this isn't mean taking a jab at you. I want you all to know what hurts so maybe this can help someone else. If you misspoke (we are all human and fuck up - I am by no means perfect and say stupid shit I want to take back a lot), an apology simply as I'm sorry and owning up goes a LONG way.
- Asking when we will "try again", "have another", "hope you have another child", "insert any other reference to us having another child". Lets just take a minute and imagine your child/husband/wife just died (this is going to SUCK, but to get a glimpse of what we went through, go into that dark place because I promise you the overwhelming sadness of just imagining this does not touch the surface of the actual darkness). Your future is now missing, your future is now altered, and you don't want to accept it. You don't want this future, you don't want this pain, you don't want this to be a part of your story, you are confused on why this happened and at times don't believe it did. But that crib is empty, that bedside is empty, the room is quiet. This person that you would LAY DOWN YOUR LIFE FOR is gone. This person is irreplaceable. In my scenario, I held my son when he took his last breath, I held my son as he had seizures, and I couldn't do a damn thing to help him. I couldn't switch places with him. I have trauma from this experience that has forever altered my life. Now after all that somehow you still wake up every morning, you are still getting your ass out of bed, and somehow managed to plan a funeral. You somehow survive all of that. Then 5 days after the funeral a neighbor comes up - in a jolly tone- and asks when you will "try again". Your gut flips and wrenches. You go back into shock. You have flashbacks of the ambulance sirens, of the hospital visits, of the doctors face when they sit you down to tell you He is gone. You get pulled back to reality and manage to respond in a monotone voice because the shock is overwhelming "I don't know - I only lost my son a week ago". You somehow make it through that day and few days after, thinking no way this question will happen again. That was just a fluke, people can't really think this is appropriate to ask?? Then another week goes by and another neighbor asks "Are you going to have another". Once again you go into shock, a little more prepared this time and simply say that is not appropriate to ask. But your gut still wrenches up. The flashbacks still hit. As that moment goes by for that person it gets replayed in your head over and over again. You send out a snap chat in utter shock to family and friends that this has now happened TWICE within a couple weeks of burring your child. You are trying to forgive but the utter trauma that comes along is overwhelming. But a response comes back "so how do you feel about that (referencing to having another child)". And it feels like a knife just cutting in deeper. Then you go to the dentist and get asked again, and a week later you go to bible study to try and connect again with people and God... and get asked again... All within 5 weeks of loosing your child. All while you're barely getting out of bed, having no idea what your purpose for your life is, all while you're waking up every day living your worst nightmare. Someone who cannot be replaced is gone. Someone who will never be forgotten. You see when you ask these questions out of curiosity (I get it to be curious, but that doesn't make it appropriate or ok. Let me say this one more time for those who skimmed that. Just because you're curious or want to know DOES NOT make it ok or appropriate EVER) it discredits Greyson's life. Even if you don't mean it too, it implies that oh you can just have another. That these babies are replaceable because you can get pregnant again. You would never in a million years think to ask a grieving widow if she thinks she will remarry again right? Even if you are just curious, asking anyway is implying your curiosity is more important then the loss we just endured. It is an UTTER disrespect to Greyson and to us. And to be blunt - this topic is nobody's business but between a husband and wife, unless they want to share. You are not entitled to this information if you're a close friend, you are not entitled to this information if you are family.
- Say "this will be good for you""you should do this" - please don't act or think you know what is best. I know you are trying to help but reframing it to I know this helped others, it could help you is so much better. Everyone grieves different and not even I know what is best right now.
- "This is God's plan" "God needed another angel" etc. Don't get me wrong here. I fully believe Greyson is watching down over us and is with Jesus. But this does not make me feel better. This discredits the pain that I am feeling. As if I should now feel better. I read a post that explained this well. This is not God's perfect plan. God's perfect plan involved a garden. We live in a broken world were we now have pain. And God is grieving with me. God lost his son too.
- Don't post on social media before we do, and try to wait before making phone calls to your extended family/friends. I understand your heart is hurting too and you want to express your pain but if we have not posted it yet that is probably because there are still people who DESERVE to receive a call from us to be informed. Call us old fashioned but as hard as it was making all those phone calls/texts, I believe that helps us come to the realization of what just happened and they deserve to find out from us first. Instead of finding out on facebook, or have it spread through acquaintances. It is very hurtful on both sides when you have close family who hear devastating news from facebook or an acquaintance instead of from us. Instead feel humbled that you were one of the first to be shared with and pray.
Gifts/Items we have purchased or received that gave comfort:
- Healing Embrace Bear
- Mother of all Mothers Book
- Cards, not just the cards in those first couple weeks, but cards sent a months later with messages of prayers and thoughts, and Greyson's name. The memory and hurt may have eased for you but it has not eased for us.
- Meals/Gift cards for food
- Rosary made from flowers from the funeral
- A framed picture of the song we chose to have played at the funeral.
- Stones with Greyson's name personalized.
- Hand drawn picture of Greyson
- Album to put our ultrasound photos in.
- Something to do or anything for self care. A craft, a face mask, some new bubble bath, a cozy blanket.
- Plants to keep - Native plants are great because they are low maintenance and come back
- Album of all his pictures
- Jewelry with Greyson's name or initials
- Books I have read Shattered: Surviving the loss of a Child, Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope, The One Year Book of Hope (One Year Books)
Things to know to help understand (Glimpse into our pain)
- I will not heal from this or get over this. One of my favorite quotes is from a blog post below that says “Your grief and your loss are not a disease that heals; they are an amputation that produces a lifelong limp.” This is a lifelong journey and grief that will not end until I one day see Greyson again.
- Holidays - when everyone else is happy. When social media floods with pictures of their families. I am not sure how we are going to make it through this year, and honestly being around so many people gives me a lot of anxiety. I might be skipping a lot of gatherings. Please don't guilt trip me about this. I need to prioritize myself. I'll show up when I can and I'll leave when I need to. Everything hurts just thinking about Greyson not being here.
- The days are hard to get through, my brain is constantly foggy, focussing is hard.
- I don't feel strong.
- Sometimes I feel crazy
- I may get short tempered - don't take it personally
- I wake up every day to living my worst nightmare. Having a nightmare that your son died... then waking up and having to realize that that is your reality.
- One of the hardest things was having to still pump for over a week after Greyson passed away.
- Siren's can be triggering, medical beeping of machines can be triggering.
- Sometimes it is hard to share how I am feeling. You watch and analyze interactions with people. And because we have a culture in society that does not talk about this very openly. When I am blunt on how I am feeling. The no actually I am not doing ok, I am not fine, people tend to go silent and change the subject. Or respond with but you are so strong, I could never do what you are doing. You will get through it. It's not in our culture to be honest and say you are not doing ok like that. Just think how often in your week you are asked "hey how are you doing" at the start of every conversation. It is the culture to respond back with oh I am good/ok/etc. And those times when I am too tired to be open, and not wanting to deal with the silence and quick subject change, I just lie. I say I am ok. And you see the subconscious relief that goes over their face. Which just makes it so much harder the next time to be honest/open.
- The silence from people who talk to you but never acknowledge what happened and just carry on like nothing has happened is deafening.
- Taking photos of all my clients this fall was hard but I couldn't imagine if I didn't do it and they didn't do their pictures, then that year and would have lost out on a year of memories captured. Those photos of Greyson we have are so cherished and I hope my clients look at their family photos the same way. But after all my shoots I would come home and crash.
Other Blog posts for more understanding
- How to support someone with a loss
- Grieving the Holidays
- Don't tell me how to grieve
- Secondary Losses after Child Loss
- How to help a grieving parent
- 11 tips for helping a grieving parent
- 5 things you should never say to a grieving parent
- Helping a friend through fatal fetal diagnosis and stillbirth
- What I wish more people understood about loosing a child
- Why we will never get over it
- How to recover from unbearable tragedy
- 5 Worst things to say after someone dies
- Podcast - How to Cope with Loss P.1. - How to Cope with Loss P.2
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this and all who try to understand a little more. Know that unless you face a loss like this you won't ever fully understand and that is ok. I don't want you to fully understand because that would mean you would have to go through this unspeakable grief and pain. Being open and willing to learn just a little means so much. I thought I would end this post with sharing my life mission statement and of course some photos of my precious Greyson who I can't wait to see again someday <3
To follow God wholeheartedly, to be a caring and compassionate mom, wife and family member.
To leave the world in a better place by being a steward of the land and educating others on the importance of conservation. To share my passion for God, hunting, and the outdoors with others.
To always be thankful for what I have and not take anything for granted.