Things People Said

10653480_669402076492065_849963025814540724_nWell-intentioned words can seem dreadfully inappropriate at times of grief. The phrase “Celebration of Life” at my children’s funeral upset me greatly. They barely had lives. What was there to celebrate?
I don’t believe anyone was deliberately cruel or even insensitive following my children’s tragic deaths but some nevertheless said things that caused unbelievable pain.


With my two children gone, my once lively home felt empty and unbearably sad, So three weeks after the funeral I returned to work. As an Operations Coordinator, my job demanded focus and quick decisions but I found it impossible to concentrate. The fast pace and pressure never let up but neither did the intense sense of loss. Somehow I struggled through two full years before I finally gave in and took time off work. When an insurance Company representative called to question me about the reason, I replied I was out of sorts since the death of my children. She asked me the date of the accident. When I told her, she responded, “That was two years ago. You should be over it by now!”


Some time after the accident one of the women at a family function was talking about her teen-aged boys and their girl friends. She turned to me and said I was lucky that Anne was no longer here, so I wouldn’t have to worry about her getting pregnant. I was too shocked to respond. It was another sister-in-law who made her realize how painful those words were for me. A woman I used to sometimes walk with was having problems with her teenage daughter. She told me the same thing, how I was fortunate that I wouldn’t have to go through that with my children. I did not walk with her again.


The driver responsible for my children’s deaths was found not guilty after long, excruciating court proceedings. The whole “justice” process left me unbelievably angry. I purposely did not renew my license sticker for six years. In my rage I justified this by maintaining I wouldn’t obey laws that let people get away with killing children. When I vented, friends and family members sometimes argued that I would suffer still more if I got caught and charged. Exchanges on those topics, on car insurance, licensing and traffic laws did little to dampen my anger but I learned to keep my protests mostly to myself.


However, I drove a truck for the next 23 years and would tell people, if someone comes into my lane, I am not moving.

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4 Comments

  1. Those words, although well-intentioned, were inappropriate. I also experienced similar words after the stillbirth of my daughter. So often people would say, “… but you can have another baby”. (Truth was, I was not blessed with another baby.) I got so tired of hearing that line, I lost my cool one day and said to this poor woman, “You’re right, I can have another baby. And when I think of it, if your husband died today, why you could get another husband tomorrow. Thanks for those consoling words.” Her eyes widened and she became speechless and I believe she understood at that moment how it is not possible to replace people as her consoling words suggested. As time passed and the fury of my grief subsided, I felt bad about lashing out at that woman. She did mean well, but needed education on how to better console a grieving parent, and I could have done so in a kinder way. I’m sure both of us were wiser after that unfortunate encounter.

    The fury of grief can hang like a thick cloud over bereaved parents and sometimes that cloud creates a storm!

    Thanks for sharing your unimaginable story Hélène. You are inspirational and I look forward to reading more!

  2. As a family member, we understood your pain because of our loss. We knew it would take time to heal. We hurt for you and wanted you to find some kind of peace. I still have moments that are tender for all of the children we have lost. I give myself permission to cry and that is a big one for me. We have to give ourselves permission to feel the pain, then find that peace in ourselves. I believe that my daughter who was her twin has a guardian angel that protects her every day.

  3. One year after my twenty-one year old son Michel died in a car accident I lost my two and a half year old grand-daughter Renee (Michel’s daughter) due to heart problems.After her second open heart surgery she passed away.A few months later i was in a grocery store and a woman who I knew really well came up to me and said”God must not love you very much,first your son and now your grand-daughter” I was so hurt and shocked,i ran out of the store and cried all the way home.i will NEVER forget this.

  4. Over the years I have been shocked, bewildered, and angered to no end over the insensitive, stupid and moronic things people have said to me over nearly thirteen years. When my youngest son Joel died in 2004 at the age of 18, I took two months off of work. I’m a registered nurse, at the time I was working in the intensive care unit I was a day shift nurse, but when I went back I thought I would start slow and just take a few night shifts since there were less people (doctors, techs, family members) to deal with at night than during the day and I could hide my tears and sadness easier. My very first shift the Team lead RN tells me she is going to be kind and only give me one patient for the shift (normally we have 2 patients). As I start to get report from the day shift RN I realize my patient is 18 years old, and we will be withdrawing life support after the brain scan proves no activity and it happens his “injury” is the same as what my son died of. As I start to create a fuss the Team Lead nurse tells me I’m the best nurse for the assignment because I have “experience” with a soon to be dead teenager and I will be the best support for the family. Wtf??? Since when did being a mother of a dead child become a “job skill” in nursing!!!!
    Over the years, I’ve heard many gems like “at least he didn’t suffer”, “only the good die young”, “God only takes the good ones”, “God needed another angel”, “at least you have another child”, “you are still young enough to have another…with the help of a fertility clinic” and my all time favorite “he’s in a better place now”.
    Over the years the painful comments stopped, because when people asked me how many children I have….I said one. I felt like I dishonored my son by saying that…as though he never existed. But it probably kept me out of jail as I was ready to throat punch the next stupid comment that came out of someone’s mouth. Over the next 12 years its been rough, like you said ‘time doesn’t heal…it just dulls it a bit”. I lost alot of fear. I learned to fly airplanes, jump out of perfectly good airplanes (skydiving), unprofessionally raced Porsches on the track. Then I also gained alot of fear and became a helicopter mom to my older son. I kept my cell on 24/7. At high volume. If I missed one of his calls or I could not get ahold of him…I would go into panic mode and drive to his house and look for him until I found him. I know that probably annoyed him at times, but he put up with it. He knew he had to fill the shoes of two sons.
    My greatest fear was losing Him, my only other child.
    That fear came true this October 11. My son had hardware placed in his shoulder four years ago because of a dislocated shoulder and fractured humerus from a seizure. The hardware failed and needed to be removed. Three days after the surgery he was in the back yard talking to his dad and helping him water the plants and vines and he suddenly just dropped dead. No warning, no signs, no symptoms. Alive one minute, suddenly dead the next. No amount of CPR and life saving measures could save him or bring him back.
    So here I am. A little over 10 weeks later after he died. I called the Medical Examiner again a couple days ago for the thousandth time for an answer…still nothing. Why did my healthy 33 year old son without any medical issues just suddenly die? Did he go into cardiac arrest? Did he throw a clot from the surgery? Did he have some hidden lethal arrhythmic event? Did a damn bee sting him? Nothing…they can tell me nothing. And that scares me!!! What if they tell me “undetermined”? I’ve had a few bereaved parents tell me that is what came back on their child. That diagnosis will drive me crazy for the rest of my life. Then what if they do tell me what happened? I’m going to emotionally beat the crap out of myself because I missed something. I didn’t see a symptom or maybe I dismissed a complaint prior to surgery or after. If I had acted on it he would still be here.
    So anyway….the stupid comments started back up. But this time it wasn’t friends and strangers, well one stranger. It was mostly my own family. I posted very little on Facebook other than my son’s sudden death and his funeral arrangements. The funeral home “assigned” this pastor for a fee of $300 to officiate my son’s funeral. He called me five days before the funeral to introduce himself. He apologized for the noise in the background because he was at a wedding in California. Probably after hearing the dead silence on my end of the phone…, he said ‘Ill send you an email and got off the phone. Seriously, was there a reason he needed to call me while he was at the wedding? Not before or after. Then his email said: ” I would like the funeral to be fun, light, informative, and touching”. His actual quotes. Are you F…g kidding me? I’m not burying my 85 year old grandpa!!!! This is my son, my child cut down in the prime of his life. There is nothing fun, light or celebratory about this event!!! This is SAD!!! SAD!! SAD!!!
    I asked my younger brother to be one of the pallbearers. He asked if my son’s father was also going to be a pallbearer. I said of course. He said I dont like him so if he’s going to be a pallbearer I cant. I told him its my son’s father’s right to be a pallbearer,(no questions) but me asking my younger brother, it should be considered an honor. He refused saying he didn’t want to be within 100 feet of my son’s father, yet he sat 3 feet behind him at the graveside service. My older brother was a pallbearer without asking.
    My sister was worse in her own way. She said she could not come to the wake and funeral as she did not want to have to buy two outfits. I told her she did not have to buy anything. She can come in a tee shirt, yoga pants and flip flops…this is Arizona. What she wears isn’t important, being there is. She only came to the funeral. When she showed up 30 minutes late, she asked why was the casket open….that it should be closed because Ray looks like an old dehydrated raisin. I reminded her the only reason my son is in that casket is “BECAUSE HE IS DEAD”!!!! He’s not asleep, he’s not in a coma, he didn’t die an hour ago, he’s been dead for 11 days, full autopsy, embalmed, and refrigerator temperature. If you cant handle it, dont look or leave!!! The casket stays open. By the way sister, you had no problems with my son’s Joel’s open casket almost 13 years ago. So on her FB page she has all these post about how she doesnt know how she is going to survive going through the wake (which she didtnt attend) and funeral and thank God for all the support of her friends….yada..yada .yada. It was quite the dramatic display. My simple painful posts paled in comparison to hers. After the funeral I was “invited” to go to a new Burger place down the road. Her treat. While we were there my sister was talking to her friends about Halloween costumes and such, which I was barely paying any attention to….and then my sister asked “do you want to go to a Halloween Party”? I said “no.”. This was Oct 22. I wrongfully assumed she was talking about something next week or actually on Oct 31, I had no interest anyway. But I found out she was actually talking about that evening. The next day when I was on FB I saw her photo of her and her friend in this slutty skimpy sailor skirt outfit stating they were in the need of sailors and a boat. This was posted four hours after my son’s funeral right above her post of my son’s obituary.
    Back to the insensitive things people say. I went to visit my anti-pallbearer brother and my mom. My brother told me you been through this before you need to get over it. Joel died when he was 18, you should be glad you had Ray for 33 years. My mom told me I need to get a dog.

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