Chapter 6: Strained Relations

Grieving people are often urged to get on with their lives.  It is suggested that their loved one would not want them to suffer.  They are urged not to dwell on the pain.  They are assured that God “needed another angel.”  They are advised to appreciate the years they had with their loved one.  They are avoided by those who don’t know what to say and overwhelmed by those who think they know best.  Worst of all, to me, was being advised to seek “closure.”  Some well‑meaning friends or relatives may assume, after only six months or a year that you are “over it.”  You may feel afflicted by a highly contagious disease rather than a terrible loss. Some people really care and others feel an obligation to pretend that they care.  I have been asked, “how are you doing?” too many times by people who don’t really want to know.  You may be surprised to find out who your true friends are.  The ones you expected to stand with you may be nowhere in sight, while some who you barely noticed may be right by your side.

My only true comfort back then rested with others who had suffered the same loss. They were the only ones who understood.  For the rest of the world, I wore my “mask” and nodded and said, “fine thank you.”  To those who asked specific questions I may have shared a small grain of the truth.  The whole truth would have scared them away.  This is why support groups and email groups are such a lifeline.  There is a safe place to go with your grief where you will be accepted, encouraged to talk, and ultimately find comfort.

The loss of a child can bring spouses closer together, or it can drive a painful wedge between them.  Some mothers I have talked to say that their husbands hold in their grief and try to carry on as before.  Another grief-stricken dad I know pours out his heart to whoever will listen.  Since everyone on the face of the earth handles pain differently, there is no “right” way to feel or behave.  While grief is universal, it is also terribly individual.  Each of us must work through it in our own way and hope that we can find a kind soul, be it family, friend, or stranger, to hold our hand for the long run.  A mother from my griefnet group wrote a poem to the people in her life who would not allow her the time to grieve for the loss of her daughter.  She most often expressed her grief through poetry.

Blubbering

it can occur at any time

it does not have a routine

schedule.

it comes into your heart

like a nor’ easter

creating havoc 
with your emotions.

I blubber 
I sob 
I cry

if you are offended 
annoyed

then..
go away

I do not need you 
in my life

you do not have to stay

and tell me

“get a grip”

“take your pills”

“pull yourself together”

my grief is deep 
my pain goes to the very bottom of my soul

and you do not help

or ease the hurt

when you say words that are cold

I just pull back

behind my wall

it is safer there

no one to tell me what to do 
or feel

I thought you understood

I was wrong

so 
I will cry my tears alone

and not be criticized

I do not need you in my life

please go away

I need to cry….

by Judith Melanie Mershon (griefnet.org)

I know of a woman who disowned her daughter-in-law, and thereby severed ties with her granddaughter, because her daughter-in-law remarried after the death of her son. Many parents have told me about the heartaches they’ve encountered in this area.  Strained relationships between parents and sons and daughters-in-law have piled tragedy upon tragedy on many families. Just as life was forever changed by the loss of your child, life will change again when their spouse remarries.  This does not have to be another tragedy.  Continue to love and respect your children’s spouses and welcome their new spouses into your family.  It’s not easy to see a stranger in the place of your son or daughter.  Grandchildren make life worth living again.  Don’t lose them too when their living parent remarries.  They have the right to remarry and go on living.  The bond between you and your grandchildren is priceless to you and them.  Whatever real or imagined hurts you believe have been committed against you by your child’s spouse must be let go, now.  Whether you are right or wrong is of no consequence.  Swallow your pride and embrace your child’s spouse and children.  Go first.  Life, as we know, can be too short.  No good ever comes from bitterness and pride.  Your heart may be aching, and love is the only way to begin to ease the pain.

Once again, it is good to be in the company of others who have walked in these shoes.  Their support, advice, and comfort is priceless.

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