Cold Comfort

A had a call during the week – a friend asking advice on how she could support her sister who had lost her small son in a tragic accident. I have also recently been involved in helping another friend prepare a contribution for a book on dealing with death. This contribution was about how to treat people who are dying or who are grieving.

I don’t actually have any advice. For me, there is nothing positive or life affirming about losing my daughter. I told my friend to simply be there for her sister. Take your cues from her sister. Let her make it known what she needs. Listen to her, let her tell her story. It is a long hard life without your child and once all the others have done their bit of kindness and moved on, you may be the only one left to comfort your sister.

When I was helping with the book contribution, my only thought was that everyone grieves differently and providing any advice is a minefield. I remember people offering (and some still do) me advice on how I should grieve for my daughter. I did not respond well. I would not be game to offer anyone advice on how to grieve.

For us, it was all about closing down and hiding ourselves away from the world – it still is like that. That’s the way we cope. For others, it is all about having lots of people around and trying to make the best of their situation. Each to their own, you do whatever you have to do in order to get through each day.

When I started a new job last May, my manager asked me how she could help me. I said, once you understand that you can’t help me, you will be able to deal with me. She thanked me for taking away what she felt was a responsibility or maybe an obligation to help me in some way. But she can’t, and no one can.

For a bit more than 218 weeks, I have tried to deal with the death of my daughter. I admit that my grief is not the same as it was 200 weeks ago but it is part of my life. There is an enormous hole in my life and there is always someone missing.

I watch people preparing for Christmas knowing how excited Clea would be about Christmas. I am unable to engage in such excitement anymore. I probably look like a complete Scrooge at work but to expose myself to the possibility of releasing such emotions is more than I could cope with, particularly at work.

We had our yearly Christmas breakfast with The Compassionate Friends last Sunday – 40 people sharing breakfast because their children have died. Most talk about the inability to decorate their houses or trees, and their lack of interest in the so-called festive season. I guess we draw some comfort from all being in the same boat. When I went to my first meeting of The Compassionate Friends, I remember thinking that I did not want to be like these people. Now, I know I am like them.

One of my sons has been having a hard time at school. He came home in tears, fought with his brother, and went to his sister’s room. He played her music box, took out her coloured bangles and has been wearing them ever since. He was five years old when she died. He is now nine. I’m not sure what memories he has of her but I’m sure he feels the loss of her presence and her protection. She would look after him. She would make sure no one was mean to him. He knows that.  The bangles are colourful and girly but they make him strong. He draws comfort from wearing her bangles.

Just as I draw comfort from wearing her pink butterfly headband wrapped around my wrist. As does her father (she had two pink headbands).

It is cold comfort but is there any other sort?

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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4 Responses to Cold Comfort

  1. Livonne says:

    I know people get it wrong when they try to help, but I don’t think it’s an intentional blunder. I used to have to remember that. When I get asked how best to help someone, I just say, be there. and don’t try to fix it… you can’t.

    • I don’t think any of us ever even contemplates the thought that there’s any intention to it. We all know the intention is not wrong. Yet trying to fix what cannot be fixed is pointless, and sometimes people get hurt in the process, people who are already hurting anyway…

  2. I have come to the realization that people try to “fix” because they don’t know what else to do. Trying to do “something” probably seems better (whether it’s giving advise or whatever) to them than doing nothing. It’s difficult to accept advise, though, from those who really don’t know what they’re talking about, especially when it relates to the death of a child. Even when one has suffered a similar loss, there is never “one” way to grieve. We are all different, even as our losses and and responses to grief are different. I like your advise to your new boss; you released her from her own guilt and expectation that she needed to do something.

    Our daughter was 17 when her brother died at age 19. They were the best of friends, closest siblings I’d ever seen. He was always there for her, no matter what. She looked up to him; he protected her and cherished her as a little sister. She has been lost without him in many ways ever since.

  3. That enormous hole grows bigger every day. It engulf all and I’m doing my best not to disappear into it completely, although I spend most of my time staring into it.
    Like you, I’m one of the people who does best at home, where I don’t have to expend energy pretending to be okay and trying not to cry. When I’m not surrounded by people who assume I must be better by now, I am much more comfortable. Maybe someday I’ll emerge from this shell, but I have no idea when that will be. My social interactions at work are also limited because I can’t deal with the frivolity. I suppose I must also remind some people of Scrooge (I’m really just trying not to spoil their fun).
    I wish your sons still had Clea to protect them.

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