Guest Author - Neville Sexton
It was suggested to me this week that I write an article about the ill-advised comments which are frequently made, by well-meaning people, to parents who’ve lost a child. These comments, although obviously not intended to provoke disgust or cause hurt, do exactly that. I’m not exactly sure what goes through the minds of those people who come out with them – as I’m guessing they don’t actually mean to be hurtful or disrespectful – but the result is a parent left feeling utterly astonished, deeply annoyed and ever so sad.
In my own experience I’ve certainly crossed paths with a few ‘well-meaning’ people who’ve either cut me down or riled me with their insensitive comments. In the earlier stages of my own grief, very soon after Craig had passed, a number of comments were made to me that left me shaking my head in disbelief. People who would say, “Ah sure aren’t you lucky...you’ve your own personal little angel in heaven looking down on you now.” YES, YES! I’M SO LUCKY AREN’T I. MY ONLY CHILD IS DEAD! GONE FOREVER! LUCKY ME EH?..is what I felt like shouting back, but of course never did. One spectacularly perfect example of an ill-considered comment occurred to me one day, again not long after Craig had passed: A guy came to my house to measure up for some French doors I wanted to get fitted. In speaking with him, it came about that I told him that my 6yr old son had passed away only recently. His immediate reply of, “Ah sure maybe you’ll win the lottery this weekend,” said with a cheeky smile and a wink left me speechless. I absolutely wanted to throw him out the door. I carried that scene and those words around in my head for the rest of that day. How he could equate financial gain to the loss of a child was beyond my understanding.
A colleague of mine, who suggested this article, shared her incredibly painful experiences. Comments such as:
"At least you have two other kids."
"I'm glad my kids are healthy and I don't have to go through that."
"You and your husband have a bad gene pool and shouldn't have gotten married."
The capability of our fellow humans to be so insensitive towards us, especially at such a sensitive time, is extraordinary. I always greeted such insensitivity with a mixture of initial disbelief followed by a – I know they mean well – resolution in my own mind. Wisdom tells us: “It’s not what happens to us, but how we react to it, that defines us.” I came to an acceptance, soon after Craig’s departure, that all manner of hurtful things would be said and done to me as I walked my path of grief and life. I would inevitably find myself in similar situations as outlined above. The only ‘power’ I’d ever have would be the power over my own mind – in dealing with anything that was thrown at me. Nothing could hurt me if I decided it couldn’t. I decided to define my own happiness and peace of mind by MY OWN STANDARDS and not by any externals – people, situations etc. This is the only real way to protect yourself. This empowers you and you alone with full control over your life.
So now, I look past the surface of those insensitive comments, to the good will that was so well hidden. And for those comments which seem to be just plain rude and devoid of any good will, I simply dismiss them out of hand as the comments of a person who is themself lost in life, and who will no doubt have so much to answer for when their time comes.
Life is about experience. We can meet the hurdles head on and choose to either get entangled and caught up with them or move around them and keep going forward. It’s the choice we make that makes us...