Saturday Morning Message: Responding to Comments
Author: Carol Lane
This week there were a variety of comments about how others celebrate the lives of their loved ones on special days. They also offered strategies about coping with family members and friends who may have a different way of grieving or have opinions that hurt you deeply. I found an article from the TAPS website titled Beyond the Burst of Support written by TAPS Suicide Prevention & Postvention Senior Director Shauna Springer. The article is about finding TAPS, a group of survivors who will stand beside you for as long as needed. Even when others don’t understand, you can always contact someone from TAPS who will listen.This Sunday is Mother's Day which might be hard for some who read the Saturday Morning Message. I hope the strategies presented here help support you.
Thank you for all who responded this week and those who are reading this message.
Mother of Bryon
Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message
Part of the online conversation on a recent Tuesday chat for all survivors centered around the comfort grieving people find in their pets. Allicia, daughter of Burr, wrote, “Studies have shown that cuddling a dog or cat can help people overcome trauma.” Many TAPS family members love their pets, sothe question this week comes from Allicia: Have you had an experience with an animal that has helped you with your grief?” Please feel free to send pictures with your pet’s name in addition to your comments. We look forward to your responses.
♫ Song for the Week
Joanne, mother of William, sent the song for this week. Joanne wrote, “The song that reminds me of William and his commitment to our country is American Soldier by Toby Keith. He loved that song.
Answers from Survivors
Responses from Survivors to last week’s question: How do you respond to family members when they make comments about why you still celebrate your loved one’s birthdays or any special day?
From Sandra, mother of Adam and wife of David: My husband passed away just three months before my son, Adam. I was left quite alone to manage Adam’s birthday, which is probably the hardest day of the year for me, because that was "our" day. I was the one who birthed him those 33 years ago, and carried him under my heart for almost 10 months! To my delight, my two best childhood friends traveled three hours to spend that weekend with me, so I wouldn't have to do it alone. After we visited the cemetery, on a whim, I stopped, got a birthday cake, had it decorated to say "Happy Birthday Adam" and we delivered it to the homeless veterans shelter. The next year, we prepared his favorite meal and sent another decorated cake to the same shelter. The residents were quite touched, I'm told.
This year his birthday was a weekday and I brought the cake to work to remember him to share with coworkers. I know some people don't understand and think it is morbid, but I'm celebrating one of the most precious gifts I ever received in my entire life on the anniversary of his birth. I truly believe that there are some people who can never understand that need. I'm not being critical of them, for they have no way of understanding this need, nor would I want them to. I make it a priority and honestly have decided that it doesn't matter to me if people understand or not. I can be quiet and firm about that date and every year it's easier to manage, as I choose to make it a celebration of his life, and not another memorial to his death. To get to the point my response is, "He was BORN that day and he will live forever within my heart and therefore I will celebrate him every year, just as if he had never departed." It helps me far more to acknowledge it than to pretend. That would kill me. It's not even an option.
From Catherine, wife of Rob: I’ve been a widow now for 11 ½ years, and our son died 18 months after his dad, so I have some experience here. I have learned that my family’s response to me and how I am “handling” the death of Robb and Dylan is vastly different than what I want to hear. BUT then I remember what my psychologist said to me once. It was pretty simple. She said, “they are not you.” We all grieve differently, especially kids. I think your son is just trying to find his way in the shadow of his brother’s death. My daughter and I can talk about her dad, but she doesn’t talk about her brother with me, and it’s been 10 years since he died. As a mother, I still celebrate Dylan’s birthday, I just don’t ask my daughter to participate. I usually buy a piece of cake and put a candle on it, and I might post something on social media. I think, as mothers, what we need to keep in mind is the ones left behind need us. I can guarantee a sibling probably will not say so, but deep down they need us possibly more now than they did before. So instead of saying something about “your brother’s birthday” take his face in your hands, and just tell him you hope he has a great time and you will miss him like crazy while he is gone. Then kiss him (because it always throws them for a loop). Then remember he is just trying to navigate through this life he has now without his brother. I hope you find the answers you seek. It's a rough road we walk, but thankfully we have others we can talk too.
From Merry, mother of Wesley: When I post the anniversary memories of Wes' death and his birthday on Facebook, I get a very positive response from some family members, but not all family members respond. No family members have ever asked how am I doing with my grief, journey, etc. When it comes up in my conversation, I usually get a compassionate look or hug, but there is no dialogue. No one has ever been so stupid to say "Aren't you over that yet?" I usually put the word "journey" in my conversation and then they seem to understand. I have no idea what they say when my back is turned though.
From Leslie, mother of Eugene: No one grieves the same. Everyone needs to grieve their own way; you can’t tell your son or anyone else how to be or grieve or deal with your son’s angel birthday. Believe me, your living son misses his brother. He doesn’t need to go to a cemetery to know his pain or sing “Happy Birthday.”
We forget that as mothers we think our grief is the worst. Trouble is grandparents, aunts and uncles and siblings hurt tremendously. Mothers tend to ignore or put their pain on a lower scale. The reality is that your son hasn’t stopped thinking of his brother. Please let him know that he should have a good time wherever he will be....he needs that from you.
From Elsie, mother of Daniel: It’s so important for others to remember, not that our loved one died, but that our loved one lived. How they lived is how we want them remembered. We use birthdays and other special occasions to remind others of how they lived. This is how they touched our heart and how their legacy goes on.
If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who participated in this week’s Saturday Morning Message, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.
The Saturday Morning Message was created so survivors can share questions and read how others respond. By sharing coping strategies, together we become stronger. I am always looking for questions for future messages. You can also submit favorite songs that are meaningful to you. You never know how your words may touch the heart of another. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing email@example.com. I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. In order to have your reply included in the week’s Saturday Morning Message, it is best to send your response to me by Tuesday morning of the following week. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message.