No! you don’t know how I feel but if you feel with me I will know.
I was a married mum when our first child was born. As an only child I never had brothers or sisters or really understood much about families or how they were created so my experiences were limited and like other only children I had a place to visit in my quiet times. I could clearly myself as a wife and a mum with many children and us all growing up in a happy family and experiencing all those events that I would have liked in my childhood. I had my private moments musing about maternity and how to make sure that I have a healthy child and wondering what the childbirth experience was really like. Our child was born with many major birth issues and we were told that she would not have a long life. Sadly, our marriage finished and 6 months later when our daughter was 3 years of age she died. I cannot describe the multitude of my feelings however a few of them are; abandonment, intense emotional pain, desolation, betrayal, sorrow, anger, shock, denial, physical pain, incomprehension, fear, desertion, self-pity, guilt, lethargy, exhaustion, unfulfilled, sadness, relief, insomnia, nausea, overwhelmed, hostile, dazed, anxious, tired, teary, unloved, alienated, insecure, numb, worthless, helpless, misunderstood, confused, unwanted and utterly powerless.
Did you have these exact feelings in mind when you reassured me that you knew how I felt and were you aware of my upbringing and my inner heart’s desires?
I am a dad and I grew up in an orphanage and then as a foster child. I had a few mums, dads, brothers and sisters and I always seemed to be moving around. I was often in minor scrapes but managed to become an electrician and I got married young and I have three great children with a wonderful woman and we are very happy together. We have 2 daughters and 1 son and we have been married for 24 years. The youngest is our son at 17 years of age and our daughters are 20 and 22 and are both married. 7 months ago, my wife was diagnosed with a stage 4 rare brain cancer called a glioblastoma which was inoperable and she died 3 weeks ago. I am totally lost and don’t know what to do or how I will manage with my life. My daughters have their own lives but my son is still living at home and I have to look after him. I am in absolute emotional agony but I can’t cry and I am never hungry and cannot sleep. I just walk around most of the time like one of those zombies you see in the horror movies. I wonder where my feelings went? I just don’t understand how I will survive it all. My mates just want me to go the pub with them and they are trying so hard to cheer me up with their jokes and goodwill. They are wanting to take my mind off it all but that is not possible. I can hardly remember the funeral. When will it all end?
One of my good mates said that he knew how I felt because his aged grandmother died from cancer. It made me so very angry and it got worse when his wife said she also knew how I felt because she was with him at the time. How could they know when the dissimilarities are so many?
I am a 13-year-old daughter and a sister to a 11-year-old brother who was diagnosed with an incurable illness. My life was really very good until I heard the bad news and then everything seemed to go wrong. My brother did not know he was going to die because he was badly brain damaged so we all had to be careful with what we said. His friends stopped coming to see him which made me very angry. He went to a special school now and they were very nice to him and we met a lot of other families with sick kids and made friends with a lot of them. My friends were very nice to me and I wanted to be with them most of the time however I felt a bit guilty not being with my brother all the time and I also felt very sad and mixed up at times. My father was very annoying and always treating me like a baby or just ignoring me. Mum was good. Maybe it was because she had seen her brother die when she was about my age. Sometimes I felt like no one knew I was living in the same house. I got very angry watching him get worse and I was with him when he died. It was terrible and I was absolutely frightened. I miss him so much. We were great play mates but he could be very annoying. I think of all the things we will never do together again or even those things we could do when we got older together.
What were those people thinking that said they knew how I felt when they asked me to be good as my poor parents were suffering so much? Did they think my pain was less? Didn’t I love my brother as much? Why did I not get the same attention as them? Why did those from the hospital stop talking to me when my brother died?
I am the eldest of three brothers and my youngest brother recently died in a car accident at the age of 17. We were a happy family in comparison to most that my friends seem to have. I am 28 years old and I am so angry at him and the world. He was so rebellious and we had a disagreement the day he was killed about his driving attitude. Our family is just so shattered and at each other’s throats. We all seem to have different opinions but share the vast varieties of pain of having someone die who we all loved so much. The only thing that we seem to agree on is that we all thankful he didn’t kill anybody else. None of us are handling it the same way and all of us are in different moods by the hour. I think I will have to get out of the house for awhile as they are driving me mad and I feel unsupported.
Why did my friends have to continue to let me know that it was his fault and that it was fortunate that no one else was killed? Why is it such a big deal to them when the police are not that sure that he was being rash? What gave them the understanding and presumption of how we must feel about this piece of hellish news?
I have just listed a few examples that show how the assumptions that some people make when they choose to show their grief expertise and cheer up the afflicted are so wide of the mark and so very hurtful. No one knows how another person feels! It is not humanly possible. Even if you have had the same event happen to you have not had the same experience. All you know is how you felt! Not anyone else! Not your partner, parent or pal. My suggestion when you encounter someone dealing with death or a severe life event that you have had is to stop all your thoughts and desires to share. Just cease the human impulse to be of help at that point in time. Immerse yourself in a retrospective bath of memories and see how well you came out of the wash.
Let your experiences and learnings be seen in your demeanour and how well you listen and love. Let your example show your calmness, acceptance and total honesty and be the future hope for their recovery. Share tears if you wish but not unasked for advice and never proffer any profound dictums. Remember at best you only have your experience, circumstance and the tools with which you managed your own rebuild. There is an enormity of unknown information that is not available to us when we meet people or even after 50 years of marriage to them. Be with them, walk beside them, encourage them to talk about their feelings and pain if they wish and most of all love them for you are about to share the miracle of suffering, resilience and reconstruction.