I've inadvertently created an experiment of sorts, the results of which thus far are quite interesting.
In an effort to exercise some due diligence for the book I am writing on coping with the death of a child, I reached out to two distinct groups of people, asking them to share their experiences with me. My ultimate goal is to help parents and those close to them along their journey, in part, through sharing the collective experiences of those who have been through it already.
One group is my own family and close friends. I sent an email, explaining the purpose of my inquiry and even questions that I'd love for them to answer, although anything they felt like sharing was welcome. I wanted to know what their experience of Meghan's death was like, from their perspective. Not only for me, but for others who might benefit. I know what MY experience is and I have a vague recollection of some things my family and friends said and did, but I never asked nor never knew how they found out, what they thought, felt or said or how it truly impacted them. Then and now. I don't remember everything. There were about 30 people on that list. I have gotten exactly two responses back. They were not the ones I thought would be the first to reply. Two others have asked if we can have a conversation/audio recording instead of them writing a reply and we are arranging for that. Two others have said they would 'work on it', but I've heard nothing else as of yet.
No one else has even acknowledged the email. That hurts. A lot. I'd appreciate an "I'd love to answer but I can't until x day" or "I'd really like to, but I'm not sure I can, can I only answer some of the questions?" Really, any response would be nice. Maybe a "Hey, I think it's great you are doing this for other parents. I'd love to help, but it's hard for me..."
I get that I'm asking them to go back and re-live what was a very difficult and painful experience for them. I get that it's hard. I get that it's sad. I get that people are busy and would rather scrub their house with a toothbrush and pull out their hair strand by strand than answer my questions. That said, try being me. I have no choice. MY CHILD DIED. Try living with that every day. If you think it's hard for you, guess what, it's exponentially harder for me. I think of her every day. Every. Single. Day. I drive by that funeral home every day. I live my life without her. Every day. Give up your damn TV show and do something for the greater good for Meghan's sake! I'm sure at least some of them are impacted by her death to this day pretty significantly. Not everyone left my house, the wake or the funeral and completely forgot she existed. My pain does not cease to exist. I'm sure I"m not the only one.
Why are we so bad at death, grief and talking about it?!
I'm finding it hard to not be frustrated and hurt by the lack of response from my own circle of friends and family. I hesitated to even write this rant. Then again, I've always prided myself on being truthful, transparent and authentic. We all make our choices in life. I just hope we also all realize how they impact others. I can't help how I feel. Even if I understand the reasoning they might be using.
In sharp contrast, the other group I reached out to was other bereaved parents. I sent a personal email to the other bereaved parents I know personally. To date, I have received but one reply, from a mom who wants to answer but can't go there yet. I get that and appreciate her saying so. These are people who know me personally in some capacity. I guess the personal attachment part somehow makes this harder?
I also posted a request on Meghan's Facebook Page. I simply asked if other bereaved parents would message me privately so I could ask them a question. I had over 50 replies in 12 hours! Most of them were more than willing to answer my questions and about 15 of them did so within a matter of days. They opened their hearts and shared their children, their pain and their experiences with me, so that I could share them with others. The answers are quite similar in terms of what the helpful things people said and did were and what the very non-helpful things were. I have been deeply touched by their transparency and am filled with gratitude that these total strangers have opened up to me about something so personal and painful. Some of their family members shared their experiences, too.
Why did I get so many more replies from bereaved parents I didn't know? Because no one ever asks them about their feelings or their experiences! Because they want to share their child's life, death and story. They want people to know about their child and how that child impacted their lives. Because I wanted to hear it. I listened. With all my heart. I shed tears. I replied to every single one of them. And again when they send their narrative back to me. Because it matters. Greatly. I asked their names and they told me.
I suppose it really isn't all that surprising, although I'd be lying if I said I'm not a wee bit frustrated. Parents who have been there get it. We share a collective pain. A collective grief. A knowing. We all know how much we needed to know what others felt, said and did when they were first in our shoes. We want our children and our grief acknowledged. Every day. We want to provide that which we could not find when we were thrown down this awful path. We wanted our family and friends to read something that gave them comfort, advice and information from actual bereaved parents so they would know what to say and what not to say. So they would know what we really needed. So they could hear from other siblings, grandparents, spouses and friends of their experiences, so they'd know they were not alone in their experiences.
Now I know why those books are so hard to find. People are so reluctant to share. Why?
I hope I can change that. I can't do it alone.
I'm certainly learning quite a bit on this journey. I do hope more people find the time and the courage to dive into their own pain and share their experiences with me. If we bereaved parents have to do this every day, they can surely do it for one day. It is instrumental in my healing but more importantly, it will be so helpful to others walking this same road.
Thanks for listening.