Friday, January 31, 2014

Don't be overprotective: A How to Say to a Grieving Parent

We took Autumn to her first movie in a movie theater this month. She hated the noise and scary moments, much like Grumpy Cat. The movie. I hated it. That would be her meme. But she loves this song. When Autumn has the time to sit and watch the video, she'll watch it multiple times in one sitting. I rather thought she'd love Olaf, and she does, but this is the song she goes back to and asks questions about and is fascinated by. I am sure I'm reading into it but I wonder a little if Autumn, in her 6 year old way, sees what many others see in the movie: "Let It Go has become an anthem for anyone who has ever felt dissed, disenfranchised, or devalued." Not that Autumn has been disenfranchised or devalued, except by certain distant family members who think girls are second class, but she has stuff she's trying to let go.

We're still open with Autumn in the aftermath of yet another loss in her life. I think some people get upset that we don't protect her more from the pain but, seriously, how are we going to do that? And to what end? In 15 years maybe I'll look back and find I was horribly wrong, but aren't we giving her tools to deal with real life? I prefer to let her process and cry and talk and wonder and ask rather than for all of us to bottle it all up and pretend nothing is wrong. "I wish baby Garrett didn't die. If he didn't die I wouldn't be sad because Jaden and Ja--what is his name?--aren't here." I can't simply let thoughts like that roll around in her sweet head without some outlet!

Autumn's Favorite Part. Source.

Happily, that isn't every day. Around 98% of the time she's totally fine but something will trigger a thought and we have an interesting conversation. And that's okay. Frankly, I'm not interested in protecting her. I am the same way with myself.

I think there's a difference between sensitivity and being overly protective. I understand that after a terrible event, many people struggle with celebrations and good news related to their (our) loss. For some time, I had a hard time with baby showers, first birthday parties, and events like that. And that's okay. Time and effort have eased that ache. It is still there but it isn't overwhelming most of the time. Baby dedications are the last Very Hard Thing because all of my Garrett verses are about hope after death while baby dedication verses are about hope and raising a good child. I don't get to raise mine and it's tough. Tough enough that as of right now, I don't plan on having a dedication for any future children we might have. But that's my problem, not the problem of the people on stage.

The same goes for pregnancy and adoption announcements. I've found this strange, persistent belief among a few that if they tell me they are pregnant or have had a placement, I'm going to fall out and weep existential tears until I am dehydrated. I haven't the foggiest idea why anyone would think this considering how incredibly candid I am online and in person. But the idea is out there and I don't love it.

Here's being insensitive: "Hai, I hate to tell you this because of your dysfunctional womb and you can't have babies and your repeated attempts to adopt are lame but I'm pregnant nana nana booboo."

Over protective: "Heyyyyy, I know this might be haaaard, and I'm so sorryyyy, but we just found out we're pregnant and we're so sorry and are you okay??? We just wanted to tell you before you found out on facebook and were taken by surprise and spent the night wailing at the Lord."

Normal, sensitive human being: "Hey, I wanted to share some news. We just found out we're having a baby. We're going to announce it on Facebook and wanted you to know first!"

Of course, one and two are exaggerations. I also know everyone is different and some people might be more fragile or simply in a different stage of grief so I only speak for myself. I don't want my friends to walk on eggshells around me. I have made an effort to be open and honest about the triumphs and the valleys. I do my best to create an atmosphere of comfort at home, in social media, and here on the blog. Meet me halfway and don't protect me from the things I don't need protection from...with the caveat that the general rule here is, like we say in self defense, don't be a jerk. That one rule of thumb saves a lot of trouble across a LOT of spectrums!

And, by the way, this post isn't directed at any one person. I've been meaning to write this one for a long, long time. Years, in fact. My hope is that this is an encouragement to any friends who've ever been afraid to tell me anything. I also hope this encourages those who are still in the "fake it 'til you make it" stage of being happy for people. There's still a twinge of envy and a smidge of bitterness that varies from situation to situation but, eventually, the ability to celebrate with those we love does come back. My prayers are with you as you navigate this part of the journey.

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