A couple of days ago on one of the grieving parents’ boards I am on someone asked if it’s normal to lose friends and family when the death of a child occurs. Based on the responses given by other parents who have had children pass, it’s more than normal. It’s common. I didn’t think it was just me. This confirms that. One woman even wrote she had written her sister out of her life. The question for us people grieving is what do we do about it?
Grieving sucks. But, more than that, grieving sucks up every ounce of energy one can muster. I am a very high energy person. I hardly know what it feels like to be tired, but during this grieving process I’ve had to dial back on some things because, like nothing else in my life, grief demands my full attention and energy. The last thing grieving people need is another negative emotion to deal with. So, if something is causing you undue stress in your life while you’re going through this, I say get rid of it. If it’s a person, let her go.
Unfortunately, our society does a terrible job of preparing us to deal with death. When someone suffers the untimely departure of a loved one, people are at a loss and sometimes react in inappropriate ways. To avoid causing us pain, they’ll avoid mentioning our loved one, pretending she never existed. They may simply stay away and stop calling. They may offer trite platitudes that hurt more than they help. The thing I encourage people to keep in mind though is they mean well. They are doing the best they can. You can’t expect to get orange juice from a carrot. Some people are just not empathetic. So, try not to get angry with them. Try not to get frustrated with them. That’s just another negative emotion for you to carry and then you’ll have to deal with trying to go through the forgiveness process- adding to your burden. Why not bypass that whole deal and just don’t get angry in the first place?
Having said that, you also don’t need to be dealing with someone else’s emotional baggage during this time. If there is ever a time to be selfish, this is it. This is a time when you need to put yourself first. If you don’t take care of yourself, there will be nothing left to give to others. When I was a kid we were taught the acronym J-O-Y. Jesus, Others, You. Catchy and memorable since I remember it approaching 50 years later. But, it’s wrong if taken literally and uncritically. Yes, it’s good to be selfless. Yes, it’s good to not always put your needs before the needs of others. But, Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself, which assumes that first you love yourself. During the last 10 months I’ve done things I would normally have done, but even more I’ve passed on things I would normally do for others. My family isn’t emotionally close. The way we deal with Shayna’s passing is mostly by ignoring it. Being around people with kids Shayna’s age is still hard. Being in an environment where I can’t be my authentic self takes energy, energy I sometimes I just don’t have. So, there have been times I’ve passed on certain events or gatherings. I have given myself permission to be selfish right now because I need to be.
Someone posted a meme a few days ago: “In tragedies strangers become friends. Friends become strangers. And every day people become heroes.” Those of us who have been through this know these words, while they may be shocking to some, are true. People I never expected to step up have stepped up and showed themselves to be much closer friends than I thought. People I expected to step up have faded away. People we hardly knew have done amazing things for us and to honor Shayna. For those who have faded away, I have released them. I literally have said to myself that I just let them go. I won’t spend a lot of time trying to pursue them. I won’t spend a moment being angry with them. I won’t spend a moment being guilty about my decision. It’s what’s right for me, right now. And frankly, I don’t think any of them even knows I made the decision and it’s not important that they do. Should they choose to come back into my life at some point, they’re more than welcome. Meanwhile, I have to do what I have to do.