Speaking about Grief

Last week I was given the opportunity for a 2nd yr to speak to approximately 200 1st year medical students about the loss of our daughter and the emotional, physical, and spiritual journey through our grief. I worked for the department for 8 yrs before losing Sydney and was the one to organize and arrange the speaker for this particular lecture. It’s unbelievable to me that I’m now the speaker. The purpose is to give the students an opportunity to hear, see, and ask questions in hopes of educating them on what a grieving person might go through or need. I of course do not have all the answers, but it is something I believe I have been called to use my voice for..I don’t speak for myself, but instead because of myself..as I’ve walked through my grief I’m continually reminded about all the things I could’ve done to help others but didn’t because I didn’t know what to do..My heart was overflowing with a desire to help, but yet I’m guilty of every single thing that I now know only adds to the pain..It breaks my heart as I continually think I wish I had known..A grieving person rarely reaches out, and by the time they do they are in bad shape..knowing ahead of time could help you help someone in the future. I hope no one ever takes my post personally..they are not to point fingers but instead written for the person whose heart is overflowing with a desire to help but just doesn’t know how..I was amazed at the desire these medical students had to learn what they needed so they would be able to help their future patients. I thought I would share just a few of their questions into my thoughts and emotions:

What statements should we avoid?

A lot of times uplifting encouraging statements can be very upsetting to someone grieving..all meant for good however losing a child affects the way we think..so having ppl quote Jeremiah 29:11 this is what I heard..God’s purpose in taking away my child was so that I could now prosper and have a better life..Truth that scripture was meant for someone going into battle and My life will NEVER be better or prosper more without her..Everything happens for a reason it’s part of God’s plan..what I heard..God’s plan was for my daughter to die in a car accident and me to be broken beyond repair… TRUTH regarding the wreck Sydney was a passenger in.. Everything does happen for a reason but sometimes its because we are human have free will, and make bad decisions…Her work was finished..what I heard..if I hadn’t taken her to church and she hadn’t believed and obediently served The Lord she would still be here because her work wouldn’t be finished she‘d still be lost…the TRUTH God does not wait until you are saved or finished..People die and go to hell everyday..She was only 16 her work is completely UNFINISHED. It is now up to us to help her finish it..I could go on but I think this gives a good example of how irrational our thinking is and how we relate whats being said to the pain and loss we are currently experiencing

You seem to have a good grasp on your grief when did you start feeling better?

I DON’T feel better..my heart hurts just as much today as it did the day I found out..I actually miss her more as each day passes so that continually gets worse not better..I wake up everyday and before I even open my eyes I’m already thinking about her, missing her, and acheing for her..the only explanation I can give for my grasp on my grief..is the fact I have chosen to face it, not ignore it, talk about it, and accept it on a DAILY basis..you can’t run from ignore or hide from grief..It sits there waiting and growing I’ve learned that facing it DAILY keeps the wave of emotions from overwhelming me or downing me as the wave crashes onto me. I acknowledge my daughter the blessing she is and the pain losing her has caused me EVERY SINGLE DAY.

How is your son doing, does he talk to you about her, and has he ever said what hurts or helps him?

This question was so special to me because it let me know they recognized him and realized he too lost and hurt and they cared enough to ask about him. My answer: Cameron is doing ok. He refuses to talk about pain or hurt, but does talk about his sister and how awesome she was. He feels we shouldn’t be sad because she is where she wanted to be where we all want to be and she’s happy. I believe this is a perfect example of “childlike faith” he has the ability to not see what he actually lost but see the gift she gained however even with such a positive thought process he has expressed to me a few things..he misses her friends..Now he doesn’t want them to come over and sit and “talk about it” he won’t talk about feelings EVER..but to just have someone around that knew her still caring and loving him is priceless..(a special thanks to the very few who have continued) Only 2 of his friends knew her he spent most of his time around her and her friends..his friends were never really around her..He also expressed that he just wants to be able to talk about his sister just like other people talk about theirs..When most people talk about their older siblings it’s not about what they are going to do tomorrow but what they’ve done before..for example when I say ya me and my brother used to fight on vacations and Cameron says ya my sister would always sing and dance every time we were in the car…Cameron says the minute he talks about his sister..everyone turns around looks at him and you can hear a pin drop..he hasn’t made it uncomfortable however everyone else did and now he feels like he upset people by talking about or remembering his sister..When I asked him what he missed most about her he said EVERYTHING!

How should I approach a patient who’s lost a child before becoming my patient? Should I acknowledge their child? is it okay to ask them to share with me about them or is that wrong?

If you get nothing else from my post please get this…YOU ARE NOT GOING TO REMIND ME THAT MY CHILD IS GONE…I know this every second of everyday and I mean that literally…EVERY SECOND..Of course acknowledge the loss..it never goes away..NEVER..so it’s a part a them and their past medical/emotional history, but if you want to make them love you and want them to be your patient forever…ask them to tell you a little about them, what they did that made you smile, or what you miss most about them..then say I know you haven’t moved on, because that’s impossible so please tell me what do you do to keep your child’s memory alive..Some of my best days are days I get to share Sydney with people that never knew her..After this lecture 200 more people KNOW Sydney..they saw pictures of her, and heard the stories that went with them..they learned something because of her..they cried because of her and most importantly they SMILED and LAUGHED because of her..She continues to touch people but most important she continues to LIVE because I was willing to share her.

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