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.