Tragedy Support Group

“Hi, my name is Trudie and I’m part of the tragedy support group. I’m here to help you cope with my tragedy and to assist you in your dealings with me. Let me hold your hand as I walk you through it.”

There’s this stupid ad on TV where a guy wants to go on a boys’ weekend and his girlfriend won’t let him. So his mate comes into the house and holds her hand saying “Hi, I’m from Mitch’s network support group. Mitch loves you very much but he needs time out to reinvigorate his soul …” My sons think this is hilarious and often repeat it using different analogies.

When I started to think about this post, that ad is the first thing that came into mind. I should hold people’s hands, look into their eyes and say Hi, I’m Trudie etc etc.

That’s I feel most of the time; that I am responsible for making it easier for people to cope with the death of my daughter and to cope with my sadness. I know that when I want to tell people about Clea that I always find the right place and the right time so that they are comfortable and not too discomforted by my revelations. And I always try my best to tell Clea’s story in such a matter of fact way that they won’t feel the need to cry on my shoulder.

But wait a minute, aren’t they supposed to comfort me and let me cry on their shoulders? (Not that I like crying on other people’s shoulders).

My husband had an email not so long ago from an old ‘friend’ (I use the term very loosely these days). This person had emailed him just after Clea’s death along the lines of sympathy with a ‘hope you’re feeling well’ at the end – don’t you love that? I remember a text about a week after Clea’s funeral which read ‘hope all is well’. This person’s next email, coming two years later, simply asked “Is this still your email?” to which my husband replied “Yes”. And that was it.

I have since thought that maybe my husband’s reply should have been: Thank you for your email. I know that you are finding it difficult to reach out to me and I’d like to make it easier for you by pretending that my life has not changed and that the death of my beloved daughter has not made such a big impact on my life.

I wonder if that would have helped this person to send another email and even, dare I suggest it, pick up the telephone.

“I felt then that he knew I had recognised the death in his eyes, and was somehow apologising for not being able to hide it from me.” Two Pretty Men by Chuah Guat Eng.

This quote is from a story about a man who is dying and the response is from a lady who had just met the dying man.

That is how I feel – that I have to somehow apologise for not being able to hide my pain. That, in order, for people to feel comfortable with me, I have to pretend that I am ‘over’ the death of my daughter.

This morning, on my way to work, I stopped at my daughter’s grave and laid pink roses on top of her. I told her that today was my last day at the Department of Climate Change. I told her that last night I went out with two mothers of her friends and that one of these friends had finally shown me the mailbox she had created to remember Clea (maybe she expects ‘communication’ from Clea, hence the mailbox, I’m not sure). I shed my tears and I said ‘see ya’ like she always said to me.

That is my reality. Yes, it is uncomfortable but I can’t help you there.

And to complete my tirade, I will finish with a quote from Tom Perrottas book The Leftovers – “… (she was) the one who’d managed to impersonate a functional, relatively cheerful human being …”

Like Clea, I’m good at pretending. As she said almost every day, ‘let’s pretend we’re …’ yes; let’s all pretend.


About huntersoledad

Mother of three. Bereaved mother of one. Survivor and victim of 2009 Samoan tsunami. Could be if would be writer.
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5 Responses to Tragedy Support Group

  1. Hey Trude, I think of you almost every day, as Clea’s picture smiles at me from the bookshelf in my office. Yesterday though I got out my Christmas decorations and there is one that I made of a standing santa and in his hand is a long list of names of all the children of all my friends. They are in alphabetical order not family groups so Clea is high on the “Pretty Cool” list, I took a moment to think of this little girl that I was never lucky enough to meet and then thought of you and the rest of your family. I would love to see you and hold your hand for a few minutes in an attempt to give you some strength or even just to evoke a smile from the heart. Trace

  2. It somehow seems backwards, doesn’t it, that we as bereaved parents have to teach others around us what they need to do to help us…and that we have to comfort others when they should be comforting us…and have to figure out a way to make our grief palatable to others around us…on top of everything else we have to face. I remember trying to figure out a way to make people comfortable enough around me so they wouldn’t all disappear. I guess I’m just not that good at pretending.

    Hugs to you and your family this holiday season.

    • Thanks Rebecca. I spoke to a friend yesterday who lost her daughter as well. She said that for many years she felt that it was her ‘responsibility’ to help people deal with her and her sadness. But like me, and you, she is not very good at pretending. Hugs to you and your family for this holiday season too.

  3. Chuah Guat Eng says:

    Dear huntersoledad (Trudie?),
    I’m Chuah Guat Eng. I chanced upon your blog last night while I was googling myself (I do that now and then to see if anyone’s written anything, good or bad, about my fiction), and I was profoundly – profoundly – moved that something I wrote resonates with you. From your blog and your surname, I believe I’ve met your husband, at a translation conference in Kuala Lumpur a few years ago, and he has translated one of my short stories into Spanish. I’d often wondered how you were coping but never dared to ask, and I’m very glad to be able to make contact with you directly.

    I’ve never lost a child, so cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like for you. But I do know something about not being able to talk about unjustifiable pain done to oneself, and the anger – rage, even – that it should have happened at all. I do want to let you know I understand your need to write about it, and to share your feelings with those who may have gone through a similar experience but can’t express their grief, as well as those who have not had the same experience but nevertheless need to know for their own emotional growth. I think what you’re doing is heroic (in the Buddhist sense) – self- affirming, life-affirming, and humanity-affirming, and I send you my kindest and most loving thoughts.


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