Friday, 18 April 2014

What not to say to a bereaved student - plus what you can say and do to help them.

As somebody who lost both parents while I was still at school I am not ashamed to say that it was only the help of other people – those people who were prepared to share my stress and sadness and figuratively or actually hold my hand - that got me through the last 4 years.

Please don’t say, “It was God’s will” or “You must think positive thoughts” or “I’ve no idea how you must be feeling” or “They are in a better place now” or “Everything happens for a reason”.

What you can say is “Would you like to talk about your Mum and Dad”. Or you could give me a hug or invite me round for tea or do your very best not to look uncomfortable if I suddenly start crying in the middle of a lesson.

I have had a small handful of deliberately hurtful and quite a lot of thoughtless things said and done to me and I’m sorry but I cannot find it in me to forgive and forget all of them.

In no particular order –

There are the people at the funeral who went on and on to everyone who would listen about how upset they were at my Mum and Dad being killed.
There the people, mainly Mum and Dad’s former friends, who still avoid me.
There are the people who look shifty and uncomfortable when I say my Mum and Dad’s names.
The teacher who said “I will never understand when people go on and on about things like this for years” when I was clearly upset on the anniversary of the accident.

I also get people saying "I hope you are feeling better now". Actually I haven’t had a cold or toothache. My Mum and Dad died and I will never feel better about my parents dying so please don't say that.  

The awful thing is, is that even in the most desperate of circumstances, school work needed to be done, food needed to be brought, lawns needed to be mown and clothes needed to be washed and ironed. When you can hardly manage to get out of the bed someone coming over to do a chore or to drive you to school means a lot.

The best people – and I will love them all and I will be grateful to them for ever – are those who ask me questions about Mum and Dad. What were they like, what funny things did they do or what characteristics of theirs have I inherited? 

Sooner or later we all have to deal with death. It might be a parent or a sibling or a close friend but eventually the Grim Reaper will come knocking on your door. How you cope with it will be up to you and those you chose to have around you during the dark days. Those people who currently cross the road to avoid having to speak to a bereaved person or who act as if the deceased person never existed are in line for the most horrible of surprises when grief and mourning happens first-hand to them!

1 comment:

  1. My daddy died this month and I'm a student at UConn. I have had a lot of these things said to me. Thank you for posting this. Glad I'm not alone in getting irritated when I hear some of these things