I am publishing my response to this comment as a post in the hope that it is read by those who need it. Please feel free to ask if you wish to help someone who has lost a loved one, and are not sure what to say. I will do my best to help.
Question: I totally understand that you now and you before will not be same. My aunt is in same situation sans she does not think that logically on the process of grieving and she is surrounded by many people who wants her to be ‘normal’ specially because she has another child to look after.
IHM: There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but having support, not being judged and not being ‘expected’ to behave in any manner can make it easier.
Crying, not crying, eating, not eating, talking, not talking, not wanting to meet anyone, wanting to be surrounded by sensitive listeners are all fine.
It’s very difficult to be logical when you are going through something as illogical as a child’s death. Many people who are asking a grieving parent to be logical might also say, ‘If this happened to me I would go mad.’
The loss is too big for a parent to remain the same.
Question: This upsets my Aunt and she feels guilty for not being there fully for her second child. How is your son? Do you talk with each other about Tejaswee? How does he cope with the vacuum in his life?
IHM: We talk about Tejaswee and how we are dealing with our loss, in the initial months my son showed me You Tube videos on the existence of soul and trailers of movies about death of a sibling (Cloud St Peter, The Lovely Bones, others). But if one of us does not want to talk, we respect that.
We read books about grief, we maintained journals of what we were feeling, but many times we didn’t read what the other had written because even that was painful.
Children also grieve.
I realise we are not the way we were, parents change towards surviving children, we have become less hassled by things which might bother other parents, the feeling now being that we really don’t know what happens tomorrow. He is encouraged to do what he enjoys doing…
We have phases of being fully there, and then being overwhelmed by grief. With time, we are being there for him more and more… but it definitely took time. I don’t think grieving can be hastened, think of it like a horrible illness, because the pain is severe and disabling. So, instead of asking the parents to ‘focus on the positive’ or to ‘focus on the surviving children’, the biggest support relatives can give is help them care for their surviving children (the way they would have if both the parents had been physically ill). This is what helped us through.
I remember telling my sister in law that our son lost his parents along with his sister. He has changed unbelievably, he used to be the baby of the house, generally clowning and irritating her, so much that she made videos of him rapping to annoy her, while she is trying to study…
My brother in law took over his studies almost entirely; my sister in law told our cook that even if she made khichdi for us (we couldn’t eat anything, so we drank a khichdi kind of gruel in tea cups, for many months) she must make complete meals for him. We had moved close to where they live, and she sent over anything special cooked at their place, in case we’d like to have some too.
No pressure or blame, but accepting that we were in too much pain to see anything else. The parents do realise they are not able to be the kind of parents they would like to be their other children, it’s better to realise that in time they would be able to care for them, but not like they did in the past, it would be a different normal.
In our case, it’s a more easy going parenting now, more flexibility, more acceptance… The parents would benefit from reassurance that until they feel upto it, they have support from relatives/friends (same as in case of severe physical illness). It’s cruel to ask them to focus on their surviving children when they are in so much pain that they can’t. Like, would we ask an accident victim screaming in pain to think about the good things in his/her life? Child loss is much worse. You can’t think beyond your loss, and those who are going through it want the pain to stop. Memory might be affected, physical health problems and faster aging might happen.
We couldn’t attend weddings or functions in the family, but always, one of his cousins picked and dropped our son; my sister in law suggested we shop for him and came along to help us do that (this was many months later). The 13th day after Tejaswee’s death, was raksha bandhan, his feelings were nowhere in my mind, only the horror of Tejaswee’s death was, but Tejaswee’s friend tied him rakhee, and a cousin took him out.
The only way to help is to be there for them, in the way they need you to be there.
Don’t ask them to focus on the positive. They will eventually, when they can, there is no other way to survive, but it can’t be hastened.
Don’t tell them they have other children to think of, they know that anyway.
Avoid giving advice or judgement. Don’t compare them to other grieving parents you have seen.
They may talk about the death, repeating the same things.
Some parents like to talk about their child (I do) some can’t bear to talk about their child.
The one time I couldn’t bear to be alone was after my daughter died, but it’s fine if someone does want to be left alone.
Respect their wishes. Know that they have no control over how they are feeling. They are going through the worst thing that could happen to them.