Saturday Morning Message: Survivors Offer Support to New Survivors
Author: Carol Lane
Survivors talked this week about ways to support those who are new to the path of grief. Some great answers were written and those who replied also shared their feelings about the journey as they continue. Most of them considered having someone to listen as the top priority and I would agree with that as well. There were some other interesting ideas presented like asking the person to get their nails done with you or giving a gift certificate to a restaurant for take-out food when it is too difficult to cook. I hope you enjoy these thoughtful replies to last week’s question.
Everyone is good at something. Next week, let’s share a knack that our loved one had for something. It can be anything serious or funny. It will be interesting to read about the ability or skill that our loved ones demonstrated in their lives.
I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. It doesn’t have to be a reply to the Saturday message. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful. If you have a question that you would like to see in the Saturday Message or to send a reply to this week's question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FROM TAPS SURVIVORS
From Shirley, surviving mother of Tom: I have already had the opportunity to help another person who has lost a loved one. I just held her and let her know I knew what she was going through. I told her to take the time to grieve. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Then I let her know that if she ever needs to talk to someone to just call and I would be there to listen. I always go and talk to her when I see her at church. She is also one of the women who helped me through one of my rough days. She just held onto me and cried and I cried right along with her. This has also helped me out to some degree. I still miss our son and the pain from that loss will always be there. One of the things I told her is there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
From Peg, surviving mother of Brian: After surviving the death of my son I feel I understand more of the emotional turmoil of losing a loved one. It has made me understand that sometimes the best gift for that survivor is the gift of just being there to talk and listen.
The grief journey is the most difficult journey I have ever experienced, but having the TAPS hotline and other survivors to talk and share with was a Godsend. Some days I could only read the postings and barely imagine life beyond my despair. But knowing I was not alone; others were there; and they too experienced the same grief helped me make it to a better place. It gave me hope and assisted me in navigating my way through the darkness.
When people today ask me how I am doing I use the following analogy. Instead of my loss being a hemorrhage, it is now just a slow bleed. It will always be there, but I am managing it and trying to use my loss to help others with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. It feels therapeutic to think I may be able to help the next Brian who transitions home and is damaged from war.
From Leslie, surviving mother of Eugene: The loss of a child is surreal and a nightmare. But you can't live in that world. I have another son (and now have a daughter in law and granddaughter). I needed him to function and live by seeing me work and love again. I needed to live. The family needed to live and I believe they took their cues from me.
For the holidays, I wanted to look good. I indulged myself....mani/pedi and color. Then went shopping for something new. I looked good and it made my family smile. They then thought if it's OK for me to do this, so can they.
Not every day is great, but I think of what Gene would do and what he would want. I think of him daily. I talk to the heavens. But I live. He would want us to live.
From Sasha, surviving spouse of Michael: I am still new to all of this. I have been a widow for six months. But knowing what I know now, I would have to say that you are allowed to cry. It does not make you weak. You are allowed to go in a deep, dark, crabby little place. Nobody will think badly of you. You distance yourself when you need to, but embrace those who are there for you. You are not alone in all of this. And when you feel the need, your spouse is still there for you giving you the inner strength you need.
From Rose, surviving mother of Nicholas: I would offer them hugs. Spend time with them and let them talk about whatever they want. I would send them cards and letters to support them. Those are things that helped me. I would bring them foods, but not right after the death. I might give them a gift certificate, so they could use it for take-out or eat in meals. I did not feel like cooking after the passing away of my husband and son. I take it one day at a time.
Holidays are especially difficult for everyone who has lost loved ones. The memories of the good times together and the pain of knowing that those times will not be again is hard. Tell new survivors that it is OK to cry and be sad. Do whatever gives them peace. I pray for my children, others who are grieving, and myself. Take things one day at a time with the Lord’s help.
From Caryn, surviving mother of Nathan: First thing I would say to them is that I am sorry they had to become a member of this "community", but know they're not alone. Those first days and weeks will not seem real, almost like a dream. You won't want others to be around you, but you "need" them. Only do what you can handle, even if it's just seconds at a time.
Keeping a journal helps. You can write your emotions and also jot down things so you don't forget. I use multiple journals. When I go back and reread them I can see how far I've come which helps on those bad days.
Everyone will have input on how you should be dealing or coping, but only you know what you need. If you're struggling, PLEASE get help. Support groups like TAPS and others are wonderful.
I don't know if time "heals”, but it does allow you to compartmentalize your life so you can function. Find what works for you; the one thing I can say is you shouldn't keep everything inside and try to cope on your own. Talking and sharing can help bring you peace!