There are a few things I have taken from my dad’s death that have been positive. One of which is that I have learned what NOT to say to someone else going through this kind of loss. People will say some stupid sh*t. Unfortunately I am sure I am guilty of saying some of these things at some point to people.
Here are some examples on what NOT to say/do based on my experience:
*I don’t want to hear about your dead aunts step cousin who died, and it was such a hard experience, but everyone was better for it and got over it. “I DON’T CARE about your loss right now!” is all I could think when someone said that to me those 9 days sitting with dad waiting for him to die. (Because that is what we were doing, waiting. Horrible feeling, waiting.)
*A few months ago someone told me they would pray for my dad. I was like “What?” pray for my dad? He’s dead. He is the one that got the better end of this whole deal. Yeah, he was sick. It was miserable. But he is in heaven now with God. He is healthy. He isn’t here left behind without him. Pray for him??? Really? Maybe my religion has me believe differently than others about what happens after someone dies. I should be more open-minded I suppose. But I don’t believe my dad needs to be prayed for. I NEED TO BE PRAYED FOR. I’m the one that cries every day. I am the one that has a huge gaping hole in my life without my father. I am the one that is suppose to carry on as a mother, wife, employee, citizen and act like nothing has happened to me. Pray for me and my family. Not my dad….shesh. Maybe I am being selfish.
*Don’t tell me that I have spent long enough being sad and it is time to move on. Really? Do you think I have a switch and can pick and choose my level of grief/happiness. If that were so I would have flipped that sucker a long time ago. Grief is all-consuming. It physically hurts sometimes. I hate it. I am not consciously choosing to be sad. So don’t tell me I can decide to be happy. It doesn’t work that way.
*“At least you knew he was dying and had time to prepare.” Ok, I am still undecided on whether that is a good thing or not. It has its pros and cons. I have mentioned them here and here. You are NEVER prepared. So many emotions come with death. Especially from GBM, like I posted here. So I have decided not to say that to anyone anymore. It sounds logical and comforting. But it isn’t.
*Don’t get frustrated with me if I don’t remember something you said to me in the first few months after my dad died. I don’t remember really anything from that time frame. There has been more than one occasion that my boss has told me “We talked about this a few months ago.” I just stare at him for a minute and then he remembers. “Oh yeah, that was during your Zombie mode.” I’m surprised I made it to work with a bra on and the same shoes, let alone got any work done.
What you should say/do:
*Tell me you’re sorry, and you understand what I am going through (only if you really do though). That it is hard. That you love me.
*Let me cry.
*Let me talk about my dad. Tell me funny stories that you remember. Tell me what he means/meant to you.
*Let me go to my dark place once in a while. Watching someone die for 9 days (10 months technically) is traumatic. Sometimes it plays over and over in my head for hours. Not because I want it to. I can’t stop it. I need to be alone. I need to feel sorry for myself for a minute.
*Let me be angry. It doesn’t mean I am angry at you. Of course the anger may come about when you do something that pisses me off, but usually the underlying factor of it all is that I miss my dad. The fact that you didn’t unload the dishwasher etc. just set me off.
*Remember that every holiday, every event, every minute feels like someone is missing. It is ok to acknowledge that “It would be awesome if your dad was here.” Or “I bet you miss your dad today.”
*Be more empathetic and sympathetic. I have learned that grieving is a LONG process. I have learned everyone does it differently. Some (like me) need to and enjoy talking about their loved one. Others (like my mom) don’t like to talk about it so much. They just try to move on in their own way. You may not agree on how others choose to grieve, but you just have to deal with it and work on yourself.