Monday, April 11, 2011

Grief: From the Eyes of a 7 Year Old

My friend is now in her 20's, but is candid and realistic in her remembrances of her mother's death when she was 7. Below are some of her comments which she shared with me. I quote with her permission.

Here are some things that as a 7 year old I gleaned:

1) Be at the memorial and the funeral (if possible). Although we might not get around to saying hello, we see your face and will never forget that you were there. I still remember just looking around from the front row and seeing the faces of our friends.
Kim's thought - it is true that we often make visiting a bereaved home or attending a visitation or funeral ABOUT US and that we are seen. Don't worry. Whether you are "seen" or not - you did it for them. Let that be enough. Even if you are not acknowledged, they most likely did note your being there.

2) Bring by a warm, home-cooked meal in disposable containers...but don't stay and chat. Just say, "here you go, I hope you enjoy it" and leave knowing that the family doesn't have to think about whose casserole dish is whose.

3) Send a card, but don't burden down the family with flowers. It can get overwhelming and when you forget to water them and they die, well, that's just even more depressing.
Kim's thought: I never ever thought about flowers being more of a burden than a blessing. I suppose you must weigh each case separately on this. Her concerns are very valid though.

4) Be aware that you might not get a note or a call back acknowledging your call or note or meal; but don't think it goes unappreciated. My mom died almost 17 years ago and I still remember the hand-written cards and meals.

5) Unless you absolutely have to call, don't call for at least a week. We had to unplug our phone because people cared so much the phone was ringing off the hook. The family (especially if there are young ones) needs time to grieve without having to comfort others outside the family.
Kim's thought: It is so true. Often the family finds themselves comforting someone else who comes for a visit. In the first few days, be sure that if you are going to visit, that you are going to be a blessing, not a drain on the family. If you are, yourself, experiencing uncontrollable emotions about the person's death, find someone besides the family to dump on. We all need outlets. But a vulnerable grieving family can only hold so many people up during a time such as this.

6) If there are young children around who lost a parent (just speaking from my experience), don't talk to them saying things like "I'm sorry for your loss." That means nothing to a 7 year old. Just give them a hug, maybe a teddy bear, and let them be a child. I got yelled at by a stranger at my mother's burial because I was playing a running game near other tombstones. I never was able to go back to the place my mother was buried without thinking of that woman who made me cry when I was finally getting a glimmer of joy with a friend. Let kids be kids, even if it doesn't seem "proper." Kim's thought: So much to say here, but I think my young friend says it all! Don't judge another family's grieving process with what you yourself think is proper. We are all different.

7) My dad let me wear my favorite dress to the funeral (bright big flowers on it) and got criticized for it, but he knew that I wanted to wear the dress that I thought my mom liked best on me. He got it, others didn't. Don't criticize parents during this difficult time. They are doing the best they can. Kim's thought: What a father that would have the foresight and sensitivity to allow his daughter to wear the "forbidden" flowery dress to her mother's funeral! Seriously, where do we get these ideas that a dress must be black or it bodes disrespect of the deceased?! Jeff has already given me permission to wear a red dress to his funeral - if he goes before me - so if you are disposed to traditional black, you might not want to come to that funeral!

I can't thank my young friend enough for sharing these poignant thoughts with me about grief from a very young 7 year old perspective!

What about you? Do you have any thoughts we could add to these entries on grief?