Death: the painful experiences mourners are subjected to
receive from those with the best intentions.
Introduction by Suzanne
When my friend since High School, Dana asked me to review her latest blog
before she posted it, I wasn't sure what she expected from me. I assumed
she wanted it proofread for spelling, punctuation and grammar. After she
sent me her rough draft, I realized she wanted help expressing herself as she
wanted without others taking offense to it. The truth is, this will
probably offend people especially anyone who after reading this realizes they
are one of those people who have said or done things during the last five
months of Dana’s mourning that have added more discomfort to her already
For those of you, who can identify yourself in the following paragraphs this is
not retaliation, it isn’t intended to bring you shame, punish you or push you
away. Dana did not wish any part of this on herself, her family, or her
friends. Her goal, I believe, is to bring awareness to this subject, now
that she herself is fundamentally aware of it. Unlike sex education, math,
and even religion, there isn’t a lot taught on death, how to deal with death,
or even how to deal with someone experiencing the loss death brings into
their lives. Most of us are clueless until we are a mourner or know
someone mourning. Most of us remain clueless long after we have moved on.
I can’t really add to Dana’s perceptions because I haven’t experienced
them. I have no idea what it is like to lose a child, at all, including
the way she did. I have lost a parent, aunts, uncles, pets, friends, and
somewhere along the line I realized there is nothing anyone can say or do to
make you feel better because no death is experienced the same and no loss can
be quantified regardless of the relationship, but there are plenty of things that
can make those suffering feel worse, angry, frustrated, depressed, and even
Over the months, I have monitored her posts on Facebook, seen her blog, texted
her and the pain is gut-wrenching, heart breaking, and often I would wish I
could find the right words, the right understanding, the right anything to make
her feel better but I know I cannot. I’ve read the words others
have written as comments and most of the time, it was obvious their intentions
were meant with love and compassion even though I knew how they would be
received. So time and time again, I simply comment with a heart
“<3” so she knows I read it, knows I “hear” her, but also knows I
can’t fix it and I know better than to try.
We should only expect to be responsible for our behavior and the words or
actions we display and in most cases we can’t be responsible for how other’s
receive our behaviors, words, and actions but if we truly care about the
mourner enough to write a response, or utter words of encouragement, then we
should want to know they received it the way we intended; if not, why do we
I realize the intuitive response is to offer words of encouragement, try to
find something positive to focus on, and respond with words that one believes
are the “right things to say” and even words someone has said to us or what we
have heard time and time again and in turn believed those were the “right
words”. The truth is very simple, there are no right words, behaviors,
or actions to make it right, not a single one. In fact, my simple
“<3” could be offending for any number of reasons, even though that isn’t my
intention at all.
If you are uncomfortable talking about death, don’t. The person who died
is not “death” so most mourning people find comfort in talking about the
individual. (This is not always true so have the respect to ask them
first or remain silent) If you are a religious/spiritual person and want
to offer words of encouragement then say a private prayer on the mourner’s
behalf that God or whomever you believe in, will lift them up, comfort them,
and encourage them and I guarantee you will have no chance to offend
them. Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the
door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is
done in secret, will reward you.
In closing, these are Dana’s feelings today. They may remain the same for
eternity or change tomorrow. That’s one of those things about mourning
that makes it all so hard to understand. Many of you after reading this
may want to apologize, or react defensively, or be in denial, get angry, etc
and that’s okay for you to do but it’s not a burden the mourner needs to be
privy to. Write out your feelings on paper and get it out then throw it
away and move on thankful that you have the opportunity to learn something
today about mourning, yourself, and how to deal with something like this in
your life as you continue to experience your life’s existence.
A lot of people provide
overly simple, empty phrases that minimizemourner's feelings, diminish the importance of
the one who died, and take away a person's right to mourn.
I am a Christian and I know and believe
what the Bible says. I know that the Bible can be of great comfort in
times of despair. I also need to say when the trauma of a sudden
unexpected death, of a healthy child, hits home some of the most "well intended" verses and quotes can send a parent into a complete meltdown and possibly
create a barrier between the person and God. I know the promises of God
and I know that in time they will help. When a person is in shock and
full of raw emotion the last thing they want to hear or can process is sayings
such as these. We, as parents, have to be given the chance to grieve and
that is uncomfortable for those around us to watch. It is ok to just sit
and listen. It is ok to run to the store and bring in extra toilet paper
and tissues, even a few buckets of chicken or some sub sandwiches but the
general statements spoken are not helpful in the first hours or days.
Also, all of these statements may be true at
one time or another. It is more about letting the parent or bereaved time
to process everything. These statements are ok to discuss if the grieving
person brings it up. The mourner must come to terms with these statements before they can or should be openly discussed by others. I would also suggest the
person who does decide to say these types of statements have a very good
relationship with the bereaved. If one of my close friends wanted to
discuss any of this with me at this time (5 months out) I would be more open to
discuss it without a sarcastic or snide response. If a stranger or
someone who is not close decided to just spew out one of these statements they
may want to back up quickly.
He's in a better place.
I know Corey is in heaven but in a mother's heart there is no
better place than with her.
I heard one person say, "If it is such a better place, then
how about we pray your kids go there tonight"
Another person said, "If it is so much better, then we could
trade. I will take my son back and your daughter can take his
One author wrote, “He's in a better place? No, he is in a
morgue. He was hit by a bus. He was not even sick; he had
attainable goals and dreams for the future that won’t be met now.”
I realize there is no better place than heaven. There are
no worries. All things are made new.
Corey does not need to cut himself to feel relief. He is
not confused about social order. He doesn't need to seek deep pressure by
throwing himself into things. Corey will have no more earthly desires like his cravings for deep pressure or pain. No more tight squeezes, no more
cutting, no more rolling down the steps, no more shutting himself into
Maybe God did want to end his misery. Maybe He was saving
him from something far worse. But as a parent of a child who is gone,
other people do not need to point these things out.
After the parent begins to come to terms with these realizations
and begins to share them with those around them, then this can be discussed with
You don't have to worry
about him anymore.
It is true I do not HAVE to worry about him anymore, but worrying
about Corey was not as bad as losing him. In fact, my sleepless nights while he
was in college were nights I had committed to pray. I had decided that
whenever I could not sleep that meant God wanted me to pray for him.
Sometimes the panic would be replaced by restfulness in the Lord.
Another side of this is that I actually still do worry about
him. It is as if my mind plays tricks on me. I will do a head count
as I lock the door at night and think, we are missing one. Then I realize, one of them isn’t coming back home.
We just recently moved into a smaller place. We went from
a family of 7 people and 3 dogs to 4 people and no dogs. (My mother and
pets were living with us) I continually think, “How will Corey find us
when he is ready to come back home.” So the truth is, I do not HAVE to
worry about Corey anymore, I still do.
Are you over
I (we) will never be over it. Our lives have been changed
forever. We lived for 19+ years providing love and guidance to our
child/brother. Now, he is suddenly gone. How do you get over
it? Several doctors I have spoken with in the past few months have said
it can take up to 2 years for you to say you feel “ok” again and 10 years to
develop a new “normal.”
As a mom, I do not think that I will be “over it” until I join
him in heaven.
At least he
I haven't come to terms
with why he had to suffer at all. Why is there Autism in the world? Why
does anyone have diagnosis? Why did Corey have to live with constant
turmoil in his head? My son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum
Disorder. There are others who are diagnosed with issues so much more
painful and long suffering. I know that Corey isn’t suffering just the
same as those parents know in their heads that their child is not suffering any
longer. But in our hearts that are broken none of it makes since and the
words are not helpful until we come to terms with it ourselves, even then they
may not be helpful.
God needed another
In an attempt to not get
too philosophical I tend to go along with people that say, Corey is an angel
now. The truth is that I am a Christian and the Bible says he is a Saint
not an Angel. It is easier for our finite minds to accept that our loved
ones move on to be Angels but God has all of his Angels.
God needed him
more than we do.
Seriously then why did He let me have him in the first place?
God does not NEED anyone.
I'm glad my
son saw what your son went through maybe he will appreciate life and make
I am so glad my son could
be the sacrificial lamb. Young people make their own choices.
Sometimes watching what one family went through will make an impact but
teenagers and young adults see themselves as invincible so they do not think
anything like that will ever happen to them. It is sort of like the
example 1 out of 4 die in an accident. Since our friend Corey died, then
I’m certain we won’t. We can continue to party.
“Be brave” “Be strong”
about bravery when faced with such essential questions as, "my child is
dead. Should I live or die?" Also these types of statements can be
detrimental to living siblings. They think that they have to be strong
for the family and then they do not grieve. Each person needs to grieve
and in the moment this does not look like strength but it is. Bravery and
strength is allowing yourself to cry or mourn however you need to without the
burden of needing to “stay strong for the family.”
Grieving is a
process, stages to work through
”This sounds absurdly cold
and mechanical, and leaves no room for unexpected, spontaneous experiences of
grief that do not conform to any preset theory, and may be surprisingly
essential, somehow, in learning to live with one's grief.”
“Avoid talking about
"Stages of Grieving." Elizabeth Kubler-Ross never meant for her
"stages" theory to be taken as literally as it has in regard to
bereavement, later writing that grief happens in its own time and fashion, and
cannot always be neatly resolved.” The Grief Toolbox
You are doing
You do not
live in that person's head or heart. For all you know he or she may look okay
but be contemplating suicide. Do not add expectations of "doing well"
to those already so burdened with the loss of their loved ones that they may be
feeling like death themselves. Don't push your expectations on them; simply
allow them their time to grieve.
God wanted him.
I want to scream when
people say this. I want to tell them, “Don’t blame this crap on
God.” God designed us to live in the Garden of Eden where there was no
sin and no death. We, as humans introduced sin and death into the world. I am
sure, now that this has occurred God has a place for him in heaven. I
think it likely breaks His heart to see His people suffer.
gives you more than you can handle
In the words of Mother Theresa “Then I wish He didn't trust me
so much.” I know that God allowed us the ability to seek professional
help. He also intended for His flock to take care of one another.
With both of these supports in place in, an intense way, life begins to look
like, I may be able to move forward. But if this same type of tragedy and
death happens to non-believers, people not tied into church, family or other
type of support system, they may well self-destruct.
I would like this statement to read, “God never gives you, on your own, more than you can handle.” With the supports of His people and
some professional help handling grief becomes bearable. I do not use
bearable lightly because there are times even with all of the supports in place
it does not feel like a person could possibly live through these intense
feelings alone. With rampant mental health issues and domestic and
family issues the statement above could be easily debated. God intended a
life minus sin and death, without those two factors this life would be a lot
easier to handle.
The basic point once again is this statement can be hurtful
because until we have accepted that God allows such trials to occur, we are not
ready to hear about God helping us through it. We understand God’s truths, but it does not make it any easier to handle in the raw emotion.
There are a lot of things I do not understand right now. You ran over our son and killed him and have not made any contact with us. I would think you would want to know how our other children are doing or how me and my husband are doing. Or maybe at least just apologize.
I am still in shock and I feel like I live in a fog. Not sure when this feeling will ever lift.
The fog is similar to waking up from surgery. You know, when you wake up you are confused about where you are and then you slowly begin to realize you are in pain. Then after a little while you realize, "oh yes I just had surgery". This happens about the time you are offered more medication. There are people all around you, looking at you taking your vital signs, asking if you want water or ice chips. People begin to call and ask if you are ok or if you need anything. You are still in such a fog you have no idea if you are ok or what you could possibly need other than the pain to end and to be up and on your way.
People assume a lot of things and say a lot of goofy things to me these days. I have had to set in my mind that my ok's and normal's are different than they were before. These become sort of relative terms I suppose. Before my ok’s were, work is going well, gene and the kids are doing good, the dogs are happy, no one is sick, types of answers. Today ok means I am functioning. I am out of bed. Then people say, "well call me if you need anything, I mean it day or night" Well can I just be honest here? I can't remember to call when I am in my darkest hour. I likely do not even know where my phone is. Of course I need something I need someone to bring my son back. I need someone to text each day and say what did you do today, are you functioning, do you want to go our for a soda, could I bring your family over dinner, would your family like to come over for dinner. I guess at this stage of the game I (or we) still need people to assume that things are not ok at least to their standards and come up with ideas to help. I need something absolutely but I have no earthly idea what it is.
People avoid talking about Corey. I want people to talk about him. I am so grateful to his facebook freinds who continue to post on his wall or send me messages. They mean the world to me. I want to hear about my son. I do not want anyone to ever forget him. Do you ever think about my son? Do you wonder about his siblings or parents? Do you wonder if he had grandparents who loved him?
I have trouble driving. Do you have trouble driving now that you have ran over someone’s child?
Do you have trouble thinking, keeping all of your thoughts straight?
Do you have trouble concentrating?
Are you able to drive without seeing my son in the road?
I often wonder what look he had on his face before you hit him.
My husband, he is handling things. He still hurts daily but has been able to return to work. He still is haunted sometimes by thoughts of our son’s death, especially with the work he does.
Our next son CJ, it was his 18th birthday when Corey died, that was really hard. He has went off to college. He might not have went away to college had he not signed a commitment to wrestle for the college. Maybe it was a good thing for him. Maybe he needed to get out from under the gloom here. He seems to be settling ok anyway.
Our daughter, she handled things like a trooper. She went around making sure everything was handled and in order. She has likely stayed too strong. She does not like tears but she will give away hugs.
Our youngest son Isaac, he cried himself to sleep for 2 entire months. It was VERY hard to watch this. These two kiddos are ready to learn how to drive but my panic attacks are such that I have difficulty getting into a car with an experienced driver let alone a new one. The good part is once they learn to drive I never have to drive again.
I think grieving the loss of a child is the hardest thing a person can ever do. I think a close second is watching your children hurt and grieve. I think I am, at least attempting to do everything right for them. Get them in counseling and support groups, let them talk and cry, make sure they have friends and mentors around.
It seems like every movie we watch and every book we read right now has to do with someone dying. It is amazing I suppose it has always been that way but mercy it seems so much worse now.
It also amazes us how many Cadillac Escalades we see everywhere. I do not recall seeing any of those crazy large expensive cars anywhere before. And police lights, bike riders, people in the roadway. Oh how terrifying it is to me.
I suppose also you were probably made aware that your insurance fought for you and decided that none of the accident was your fault. There were no true witnesses it was just you, your SUV and my son. You are the only one that truly knows what happened. You are the only one who will ever know if you looked down at the time, or changed your radio station, took a drink of coffee. No one will ever know. At this point I bet you do not even know. You likely have blocked that part out, especially if it was any fault of your own. Your brain has to protect itself from self destructing so you have a story in your mind at this point that may or may not be the actual way things occurred. You are also the only one who knows if he died instantly. Oh how I hope he didn't suffer.
We were able to collect donations and pay over 10 thousand dollars for the funeral. We went as cheap as possible. People told us we could ask for help from the treasurer. That seemed like a joke. We did go and apply for help. They would give you $2000 toward burial only; this included a thin pressed wood box covered in velvet, and the hole in the ground. No one could add money to that to make it any nicer, no one could even be at the graveside. It was very sad. It is called a paupers funeral. That is not what we wanted for our son. Thank God he provided people to assist us during that time. My husband’s life insurance started exactly one week after Corey was hit.
Do you and your husband have life insurance? Have you saved money aside in case one of your children is in a freak accident? I hope so because no one needs to live through any of this let alone without money.
Corey was a special young man. He was on the Autism Spectrum and did not always understand the consequences for his actions. Well for that matter he didn’t always understand his actions. He was in such desperate need of friends that he would do anything anyone asked him to do just to fit in and be called a friend. Once people got to know him they loved him. He had the biggest smile and the brightest blackest eyes you could ever imagine. He was a great singer and dancer. He always wanted others to laugh. He would come into a room and because of the Autism thing he would not pay attention to anything already going on he would just break out in dance or song. All you could do is laugh or join him. He was so very book smart. He could read books very quickly and retain it all. He was rule bound and frustrated when others broke rules and got away with it. He didn’t understand hierarchy of relationships so he would often get in trouble for talking to an adult as if they were on his level. He cared what he looked like with his hair etc but he would wear anything you gave him. He loved red bandannas. People always associated that with the gang stuff but he wasn’t affiliated with a gang his just loved the color read and wanted the hair off of his neck.
He was a people pleaser and lived his life to make everyone happy. Toward the end he began to change. This frightened us very much but we would have never dreamed it would end up the way it did.
RIHP son. We love you. We did all we could but would have searched for more had we known.