Being there afterwards

Not too long ago, a bereaved mother friend (that I have known for many years - long before she lost her child) contacted me to tell me that someone else she knows had just lost a child.  She was devastated.  Not only is it devastating to know that someone else is about to get on this nightmare rollercoaster, but learning of another loss can actually bring you right back to the earliest moments of your own loss.  More than one bereaved mother reached out to me in my early grief and then disappeared - it was just too much for them.  This friend could not bear to go to the funeral of the child who had just passed.  She would have been transported to an ugly place that she works very hard every minute of every day to get through.  She told me that her plan is to help the grieving mother moving forward as best she can....after everyone else disappears.

I was really upset then to learn through the grapevine that people were judging her for not coming to the funeral.  They were saying that "of all people, SHE should have really been there to lend support".  My question is WHY?  In my opinion, of all people, SHE should be given "a pass" to skip the funeral and then help in whatever way she can moving forward.  Anyone can attend a funeral or a memorial event - only very special people step forward to be supportive after that.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I appreciate very much that so many people came to Maxie's funeral.  I really do.  But, most of them disappeared soon after - never mentioning Maxie again (in the best case), never to be heard from again (in the worst).  Attending a funeral is the "easy" part - there are other people to sit and make small talk with, and even if you don't know a soul - the time is taken up with prayers and speeches and eulogies.  The hardest thing you'll have to do is give a hug and say "I'm sorry".

It takes a much stronger person to be with the griever in their own home, to talk about their loss, to sit with them while they cry, to keep oneself from trying to "make it better".  That is the really hard part.  Speaking from experience, those are the people who helped me get through the early mess.  To be honest, there were so many people at Maxie's funeral, and I was in such shock, I can't even remember everyone who was there.  I only remember bits and pieces of the day.  Having a crowd there meant a lot, but I cannot account for who exactly made up this crowd.

Speaking from my heart, I have to say, I am not sure if I will be able to attend funerals moving forward.  I am sure I will be judged for that- and I guess that is ok.  Funerals are maddening to me - because while everyone thinks that they bring a sense of closure, my experience is that the funeral is the easy part...the "party" that marked the beginning of my descent into hell.  It was the place where most everyone and everything I knew dropped me off and said goodbye and then left me for good.  While important and meaningful, there is something awfully superficial about a funeral - a ceremony that is performed before the loss even sinks in for the ones who are most affected.

As the months pass and the more recently bereaved mother begins to fully absorb the magnitude of her loss, she will be most grateful for the mother who has walked these footsteps ahead of her.  It won't matter to her that the other mother wasn't at the funeral.  The newly bereaved mother may not even remember.  She will understand why her friend couldn't be there on that day and she will appreciate that she is there now.

If you haven't been there yourself, you should not judge - for you would never EVER want to know from your own experience what you would do in the same situation.


Tiffany Torres said...

Oh goodness. It makes me livid to hear of bereaved parents being judged. i for one know that i can not attend funerals now (especially of children/babies). maybe one day that may change, but that's how i feel right now. i still have not passed the hospital and it's been over 2 yrs. people who have never dealt with this unimaginable loss should really not say anything at all about how we decide to cope with the pain of living without our babies. period.

Sarah P. said...

Abby, I could not agree with you more and I have never been in your shoes. Your point is brilliantly stated and well-written. To the people who think that attending a funeral is true support, I say bullshit. You are spot on, and clearly, such a good, wise friend to so many people.

Jayden's Mommy said...

There was 268 people who attended Jaydens funeral. I remember pieces of it. The one bereaved mom was not there but I totally understand. She has help me a lot during the past 14 horrible months. I know I will never be able to attend another funeral of children/babies. When people judge I just wish they had 1 hour of my day what it is to have to continue to live without your own child.