The Saturday message started out as a weekly letter between a few friends that met at the TAPS National seminar over a Memorial Day many years ago. This week the Saturday message will be posted on the TAPS blog as well as the TAPS Online community, and in the TAPS peer group sites. The love and support that comes through being a part of the TAPS family is wonderful. The questions that are asked apply to all survivors no matter the relationship to the deceased. Please feel free to just read the message; send in a question to Carol.Lane@taps.org that would be appropriate to all survivors; or send in a response to the question of the week, which is below. Some even send a link to a favorite song or write an original poem. All responses are welcome. The main focus of the message is to connect with others who have had an active military loss.
The question we’ll be discussing next week came from Pam: How do you respond when someone (usually someone you don't really know) says, "Thank you for your sacrifice." There have been some answers already on one of the sites, but I hope to have more so that we can read them next week.
Last week’s question was, “What do you say to someone who asks how you are doing?”
As for how I deal with this situation, when people ask how I'm doing, I now answer truthfully - it will always be tough, but I'm learning to get by - some good days and some bad. Thanks for asking. As for people who don't inquire or acknowledge my son's death, I have been very angry with them. There have been several instances when I have intentionally mentioned Austin to force a person to acknowledge his existence and my loss. However, yesterday I learned a valuable lesson on just this topic. When I was 15 years old, I was in an auto accident with 6 friends. While 6 of us walked away unhurt, our 7th friend was killed. I attended his funeral the following day. However, I had made no effort to see his Mother since the day of the funeral. The first year after Austin's death my mind was so filled with pain that I could think of no one else. But slowly, I began to recognize how much pain I was in, how important it was to me that Austin not be forgotten, and how I loved to talk with people about him. Thoughts of Stevie's Mother crept into my mind. I realized how she had needed to hear from all 6 of us through the years. I was not ashamed for not contacting her, because it was truly out of ignorance - not fully understanding the depth of her pain, or even knowing that I could do something to help. And just yesterday I took the opportunity to make things right. I was passing through my hometown and unexpectedly dropped in to visit with Stevie's Mom, with a small rose plant for Mother's Day. When she answered the door she knew immediately who I was. I apologized for being 45 years late, but told her I was here to let her know I cared, how much I loved Stevie, and that he had been in my thoughts for 45 years. She had been told of my loss by mutual friends. Last night I received an e-mail from her thanking me for the visit and wishing me a Happy Mother's Day.
The reason for my lengthy response is that I now know, from my own experience, that there are people who don't contact me or acknowledge the death of my dear child out of pure ignorance. My neglect of Stevie's Mom was not because I did not care about her or Stevie, but because I had no idea of the depth of her loss or that I could in any way be a healing factor in her tragic journey. I will now compassionately approach the subject of my son to people I need to talk with about him, and simply ignore the others. And instead of assuming the worst about friends' neglect, I will chalk it up to the same ignorance I suffered. In turn, there will be one less resentment in my life, which unfortunately is so full of resentment and pain today. I'm grateful for the lesson I learned yesterday and the beautiful experience I shared with Stevie's Mom - a baby step in my own healing process.
As to how to answer the question "How are you doing?" Boy have I heard that one a lot! At first there were times that I felt like striking back with a sharp remark but I didn't I just would say something like - "As good as can be expected under the circumstance." or I'd say "I just take it one day at a time. That's all I can do." I remember feeling angered at times when someone used to ask that question and felt that it was a rather stupid question to ask. After all how would they feel if they lost their child? I know the question is asked out of love and concern but I guess it's hard to come up with the right question to ask! It's been almost 20 months since I lost my Blake and am stilled asked that question every week by someone or other! I just let people know that I'm doing better than I was this time a year ago.
I usually answer the "How are you doing?" question with, "Just taking it day by day". Which is true. Day by day is the only way to deal with grief. Some days are better than others.
Most of the time I say "OK". One time at church a friend from the NYPD asked me - I said "OK", then, "wait - I'm doing lousy". I think we just don't want them to pull away if we're too truthful.
How are you doing? It all depends on who asks. I have to admit, a stranger just asked that one day and got an earful. I was having a very hard time that day. I hope they forgive me ... Anyway, I have to agree with Bob, sometimes the answer to the merely social question is o.k. or taking it one day at a time or something similar. With friends, I am more comfortable truly answering the question. Sometimes the answer is that I feel very tender and tentative today or perhaps I am having a great/good day. Sometimes, I just tear up and can't answer at all. I guess that two things get in the mix - the who and the how I am truly feeling.
When people ask how I am doing. I don't think they really want to know -just a social norm. BUT sometimes they get a surprise and I tell them.Mostly I answer, O.K. so far today.. or not worth a &%$^. I had friends (notice the “had”) that never acknowledged my loss. It is so painful to lose so much at once. I felt like I lost my son Jeffrey, my other two children due to grief as well as my fake friends. Yet, I also find myself feeling guilty - because I have behaved this way in the past. A couple of years ago, a casual friend's daughter was murdered. When I saw him, I had no clue what to say, so I chose to say nothing. So a part of me understands where some are coming from. That same weekend, I began feeling bad so I sent an email and expressed my condolences.
I get very upset when people say things like I don't know how you add standing or doing anything as if they think you are not suffering every second. I'm sure they don't really mean anything offensive but I feel as if they are insinuating that their pain would be so great they couldn't go on so how am I?
The famous "how are you doing". If I heard that one more time the week it happened and the funeral I was going to lose it on someone! I keep the "how do you think I am doing my son is gone" to myself and usually just change the subject. Sometimes I would like to honestly answer the question and say "not so good" and see what people say. It depends on if the person is close to me or not so much. People that are close to me don't say that and people that have lost a child don't say it that way. I still don't handle that question very well.
How do you answer the question, “How are you doing?” following the death of a loved one. Usually I thought this was the dumbest question anyone could ask me after my brother's death, but it kept being asked no matter how I felt or even when I didn't feel like answering it. I usually was blunt and honest about how I felt. I would tell them I felt crappy if it was one of those brother days I call them where he is on my mind, or I wake up crying. If I am smiling then I am having a good day or one of brother joke days I would call it. He was always picking on me, but if he was not picking on me, then I knew something was wrong. I know people are just trying to show that they are concerned or care when they ask how we are doing and even if we are pissed off at the world cause our loved one is gone. We still take the consideration to answer them as nicely as we can muster at the time. Everyone wants us to be honest, some days I felt like crawling under a rock and hiding from the world, or wish I was dead too, but my chores on Earth are not done yet, so I must keep going even when I don't see the reason too. Believe me one second at a time is all we can muster some days after we lose a loved one, we don't want to get out of bed, or see anyone, or do anything. To me we will do what we want when we are ready, and not before we are ready to take those steps. Those steps do not come like everyone; they are different for every one of us who have lost someone. Some have someone to turn to talk to, or a shoulder to cry on or lean on, then there are some like me, who just wish to be left alone to deal with it in my own manner where I can handle it. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, why did they ask me that? Do they really care or just being polite?
From Mary K:
Usually the answer is "thanks for asking. Under the circumstances, we are doing as well as can be expected." That usually lets the other person breathe a sigh of relief and either talk about what happened to Josh or go on to a new subject.
I would say I'm OK. But my life will never be the same as it was before Steven's death. My life has changed forever and I will try to make it a good life in honor of my son.