On becoming a stranger

When something awful happens, people are at complete loss for what to do or what to say.  It’s like a switch was flipped and the tragedy changed you. There is little training in how to manage a family member or friendship with someone who has met the most devastating loss of their lives.

Friends and family don’t adapt quickly to your new circumstances. Just as I have not adapted quickly to being a mother of a child who killed himself. Why should I expect others to? Why should I expect them to know what to do or what to say? How can I know what’s going on in their heads if I don’t ask?  How can they know what’s going on in mine?

I think those of us who’ve experienced tragedy need to be more frank with our family and friends. They are not walking in our shoes. They have no idea what this journey is really like and they have to feel they are walking on eggshells, wondering which way to go.

They are clueless. Why wouldn’t they be?

They also feel helpless. That’s not a good feeling. When people feel helpless, they often avoid which leads to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. All of which could be cleared up if we just spelled it out.

I don’t remember what is was like “being on the other side.” How did I treat mothers who’d lost a child? I bet I felt out the situation and wondered what to say or do. I don’t remember really.

The truth is, we all handle loss differently. What one person finds comforting is exactly the opposite for another. I write in public. Others would find that a horrifying and unsettling exercise after loss of a child. It does not make either of us right. Or wrong.

What I’m saying is that we should not expect people to know what to do in extraordinary circumstances. So don’t be a stranger. Have a frank conversation.

Published by

AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

6 thoughts on “On becoming a stranger”

  1. This is so timely for me. I have felt Existential Loneliness all my Life. I endured and eventually became a Counseling Social Worker and Coach. Unlike my Son Sam who lost his battle with depression and lost his life to Suicide I am tortured by my Missing yet not Suicidal. I am however done to my Bones lonely because I was the “Rock” for so many friends and now it seems they can’t handle the Reality I’m living in. XOXO Ali 💜

  2. So how ironic you write this today, you reached out to me today and this is exactly how i am feeling….feeling like no one understands the pain i have been feeling for so many years…but because i want to hold on to the few friends i still have hanging around i dont share this pain with..because i dont want to lose your friendship and your lives that seem so normal as compared to my life that is so not! Thank you for allowing us to have this venue to share…

    1. And so many times I felt that before he died and now after. You feel like you are in a completely different category. People acted like charles was dead before he was dead. That hurt.

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