Mailbox Mondays

Mailbox Mondays – 12/19/11 – Dealing with the Death of a Child

A Mom is dealing witht he death of a child in her family via @chgdiapers

It’s mailbox Monday. On Monday, I publish a reader submitted question, and ask my readers to weigh in!

Questions don’t have to be cloth diaper related, just email maria at change-diapers.com with “Mailbox Mondays” in the subject, or fill out my contact form for readers, which you will always be able to find on my Contact Page.

Allison says:

Hello,

Today is the memorial service of my nephew who passed away 1 day before his 2nd birthday. He had brain cancer. It was so hard to watch him deteriorate. I can’t imagine how his parents (my husbands brother & his wife) are feeling. As sad as I feel, I know they feel it 100x worse. I have a 22-month old son and the parents of the deceased can’t stand to see my healthy, vibrant, alive son.

I’m looking for some input from other families who have suffered a loss of a young child so that I may act appropriately around my brother-in-law’s family. When can we start spending time with them again? They have two older children (12 and 10) who love to play with my son.

What signs should I watch for in the parents if they might need comfort from me? I feel like they need their privacy and space right now but I don’t like just standing by doing nothing. What can I do for them?

I hope you and your readers are able to help me out.
Thanks,
Allison

Allison, first I want to say how sorry I am for the loss of your nephew. I am not the most qualified to help you with this, but hopefully my readers will have tips and advice for you.

Things that I’ve been thinking about are to try to be there for them. If you “give them space,” they may feel isolated. Be up front with them. Tell them you love them, you support them, and you’re here for them, but you don’t want to hurt them further by having your son around.

I think the most important thing you can do for a grieving person in general (not just one who has lost a child) is to be there for them. Don’t just say you’ll be there for them, but actually be there. Especially after the initial flurry of family & friends dies down after the first few weeks. Lend an ear and listen while they share memories of their loved one, and share yours too. I think often people are afraid to upset the grieving person, so they will try to ignore/pretend it never happened (seems to occur a lot with still birth and miscarriage as well.) He will always be their son, and I’m sure they want him to be remembered. When a woman loses her husband, she is a “widow,” but what is a mother who loses her child called? In the coming years, people may ask her how many children she has. Does she say two, or three? I just can’t imagine losing a child.

I’m also guessing that both your brother-in-law and his wife are going to be dragging themselves around, going through the motions for quite a while. It might help them to have some easy to heat meals frozen & delivered to them, or to receive gift cards to local take-out restaurants if you’re able to do that. Most people say “call me if you need anything” but the grieving person is rally pretty unlikely to do that. Instead, I suggest you (or your husband) simply offer specific things (like grabbing a few groceries for them, driving their other children to activities or helping out with other errands you know they need to do.)

Unfortunately, I’m sure too many of my readers have been in this situation. Readers, do you have suggestions for Allison on how she can help her BIL & SIL?


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Maria Moser
Maria is the mother of 3, writing about cloth diapers & going green. You'll often find her juggling her preschooler and typing 1-handed in between sips of cold coffee. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development and other services.
3 Comments
  • December 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm
    Reply

    I have never lost a child who had been born, but I did suffer a miscarriage and people did say the wrong things at times, like it happened for a reason. It’s for the best, etc. although I can’t imagine anyway saying that under these circumstances. I really didn’t like the fact that everyone felt they needed to give me space. I felt completely alone in my greatest time of need. I wanted to know that people cared about the baby I lost and me and that they were there for me. I could have really used someone to talk to, just to listen to me. I also felt guilty because I was so wrapped up in my own feelings of loss that I wasn’t considering my partner or his daughter who were also grieving because of our loss so it would have been really helpful to have someone who could talk to my step daughter and help us with her. I spent a few weeks mostly laying in bed so if someone would have stopped by with some food or offered to take my trash out, I would have really appreciated it. I hope this helps and I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Julie G.
    December 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm
    Reply

    My advice is more for the future. I am no expert but my cousin died when she was 8 years old. I know I have heard my Aunt say that the one thing that upsets her is that sometimes that family acts as tho she never existed. As stated above, I think it is important to keep the memories alive. I think it hurts more to pretend it never happened than to talk about the happy memories. It may bring tears to their eyes to talk about him but I know they will be happy to remember him and that others remember him.

  • Stef
    December 19, 2011 at 2:20 pm
    Reply

    My only advice is to be upfront with them. Let them know that you understand that it is difficult to be around your son and don’t want to push them. Let them know that no matter how long it takes you will always be there. And i agree with making meals and taking them over or picking up groceries. Offer to take their older kids for a sleepover once in a while to give them time to grieve by themselves. Parents will always try to put off how hard it is in front of their kids so it may make it easier on them to be able to have some private time to grieve.
    Just be patient with them and know that losing a child is the hardest thing and most people never truly get over it. They find it easier to handle on a day to day basis but it never goes away.
    I hope this helps some and my heart goes out to all of you.

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