Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Grief Help

We were introduced to a website called www.caringbridge.org when Katie was first in the hospital. It is a wonderful way to stay in touch with the world when you are facing a serious problem. David set up Katie's page for her, but she decided not to be involved with it. I used it to communicate with the outside world, since Katie decreed that medical details not be discussed in front of her. That ruled out using the phone, and she disliked having visitors as time went on, so the website became a sort of lifeline for me with our community.

I have learned a lot from reading other people's caringbridge pages, and I came across a new one recently. This young lady had just passed away, and her mother posted the following advice on dealing with grieving friends/family; it is extremely valuable.
From Taylor Baum’s caringbridge page:We have a choice. We can be bitter and resentful to others or we can help them understand and be part of our grief journey. What follows are what I call "10 Grief Lessons for Others." By sharing these lessons with those close to you, a new level of understanding between you and others can help you down that long difficult road to recovery.

1. BE THERE FOR ME.
If you are my friend, reach out, talk to me, hold my hand, hug me. Know that even though we may say we are all right, we will never be all right again.

2. WE ARE DIFFERENT.
Understand that what has happened will change us forever and if you are my friend, you will accept me for what I have become, for who I am now, a person with different goals and different priorities. What was once important to me may no longer have any meaning.

3. BE A GOOD LISTENER.
We want above all else to talk about our loved one. To us, they will always be alive in our hearts, and we don't want others to forget them either. Don't be afraid to mention their names in our conversations. They were real people at one time, even though they are no longer with us. They had hopes and dreams we'd still like to share with others. Please don't pretend they never existed.

4. NO ONE ELSE KNOWS HOW I FEEL.
We all grieve differently. Please don't tell me you know how I feel. You don't. Rather than asking me, "How are you feeling?" ask me "What are you feeling?" I can probably give you a more honest answer.

5. I MAY GRIEVE FOR A VERY LONG TIME.
There is no set time limit to my grief. It may take me two years; it may take me five years. I have to do what is comfortable for me. Be patient. I will do the best I can in whatever amount of time it takes.

6. KEEP IN TOUCH.
Call me once in a while. I promise to do the same. Invite me to lunch or to a movie. I will eventually go, because I will eventually feel better. Don't give up on me and don't forget me. I am trying to do the best I can right now.

7. I MAY CRY AT TIMES IN FRONT OF YOU.
Please don't be embarrassed, and I won't be either. Besides being a natural emotion, crying is also a cleansing emotion. By crying I can relieve a lot of anger, frustration, guilt and stress. And best of all, I feel much better after a good cry.

8. I PUT A MASK ON FOR THE PUBLIC.
Don't assume just because I am functioning during the day that I am "over it." I will never get "over it." I try to function normally because I have no other choice. You should see me when the day is over, and I am in the privacy of my own home and free to let my emotions out. My day mask comes off and I am just a mother, aching for her child.

9. SOME DAYS MAY BE OVERWHELMING.
The slightest thing can trigger a bad time. It can be a song, a place I go, a holiday, a wedding or even smells or sounds. If I break down and start crying or seem to be in another world, it is because I am thinking of my loved one and longing for what I will never have again. I may need to try different things before I find what will be right for me in my new life. Encourage me to reach for the stars.

10. LET ME DO WHATEVER MAKES ME HAPPY.
We will never forget our loved one. The pain never leaves. It just softens a little with time. We eventually function again, feel hope again, find joy in our lives. It is a long road that we travel, but with the help of friends and relatives who understand a little of how we feel and what we are going through, perhaps that road will lead to new paths to enrich our lives in new ways we never dreamed were possible.
Another resource which was brought to my attention by a staff member of Seattle Children's Hospital is http://www.griefhaven.org/
This is a sort of clearinghouse of information for bereaved parents; it is a website started by a bereaved mother, Susan Whitmore. Check out their newsletter archives, if you are looking for some writing by people who understand.

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