A writer of a local movie production company wanted to speak to me about The Compassionate Friends, a grief support group for family members who have lost a child through death.

You know, I often receive all sorts of legitimate and stalkerish type of text messages . One time someone sent me this message “I want to be your passionate friend”

*sigh* Now you understand I need to be wary sometimes.

So anyway, the person texted back that we’re doing a movie about a family that lost a child. It would be helpful for me if I could immerse myself and capture what bereaved parents feel.

To immerse meant to attend our regular meeting. I told her it wasn’t possible because our meetings are confidential and only for bereaved family members. Even if I get permission, new members might not be open to the idea of a writer in our midst. I suggested I talk to her first before I decide to gather a group of bereaved parents for a special session.

If indeed this person is from the movie industry, I truly welcome this opportunity to educate the public on grief and family recovery. After all, grief education is a segment of The Compassionate Friend’s mission. We still live in a world where grief is a taboo topic.

I also want to see if this person is a legitimate writer. Even if she is legitimate, will their movie portray it as accurately as possible?

When it comes to developing the dramatic portion of the movie, the writer can conceive all possible scenarios of pain, anguish, desperation and all the undescribable emotions during the grief journey. The death of our child, or children, is a profound and enduring loss; so far as each of us can, we pick up the pieces of our shattered lives and try to make some sense of what has happened. When a child dies, no matter what their age or the cause of death, grief lasts far longer than society in general recognizes. The death of a child is an unacceptable tragedy and it can take a long time before one can regain any sense of normality in their life.

The problem really is not the dramatic portion but the dialogue of the characters.

So I thought of listing down a wish list of ideas.

Whether the movies, TV shows or new reporting, here is my wish list on grief education:

1. “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
Colin Murray Parkes

As well as deep sadness, we may feel anger, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, apathy and despair. Our preoccupation with thoughts of our dead child can make us think that we are going mad. Sometimes we engage in restless over-activity and suffer from exhaustion. Sleep and appetite patterns are disturbed. We may feel helpless, confused and out of control. All of these feelings are perfectly normal. Every bereaved parent goes through some, or even all, of these experiences at different times; some may be more troubling than others.

2. Words of Comfort

Newly bereaved are very sensitive and some Words of Comfort are not really comforting. Here are some examples to comfort the bereaved.

3. Grief and mourning does NOT progress in predictable, orderly stages

There is no timetable for grief and, initially, even survival seems impossible. Grief is not orderly or progressive. : it pours in with great turmoil, and is not predictable in its timing or intensity. It comes in waves and often feels utterly overwhelming. Gradually, however, the interval between the waves extends, and very slowly some of the grief and pain begins to abate.

4. Each Individual grieves in their own and unique way.

When the death of a family member occurs, everyone suffers at the loss and each in their own and unique way. Parents who lose a child have to deal with their own personal grief, the grief of their spouse, their combined grief as parents, the grief of their other children, as well as the grief of the grandparents, the extended family, friends and the world in general. Most parents end up giving more support to others than to themselves.

5. Grief and mourning are NOT the same thing

Perhaps you have noticed that people tend to use the words “grieving” and “mourning” interchangeably. There is an important distinction. Mourning is when you take the grief you have on the inside and express it outside of yourself. Another way of defining mourning is “grief gone public” or “the outward expression of grief.” Talking about the person who died, crying, expressing your thoughts and feelings through art or music and celebrating special anniversary dates that held meaning for the person who died are just a few examples of mourning.

6. Be careful with the words , “Moving on?” “Get Over it” . “Have some closure.”

Those are the most common words of concerned friends and family but most of us don’t want to hear it said that way. Qualify “Moving On”? It doesn’t mean forgetting the memories of the child. It means living a new normal, a life without our child but keeping the love in our hearts. It would be unrealistic to fully ““get over,” completely ““resolve” or ““let go” of your child. We are only humans who have suffered a traumatic loss of a child with whom we had a physical connection and now search for ways to continue that attachment in a spiritual sense.

Using the term “closure” trivializes grief; it says that we can easily put a lid on our feelings, wrap them up in a neat little package, and put them away and behind us, just as if our loved one never existed or mattered.

Our society often encourages prematurely moving away from grief instead of toward it. The result is that too many mourners either grieve in isolation or attempt to run away from their grief through various means.

7. Grief is inevitable; misery is optional.

It does no good to sit in a hole. It does no good for the loss of one to lead to the loss of two. What does do good is doing good. To decide to lead the second part of our life differently and better than one would have before…in our child’s name. One has the choice of getting bitter or better after the loss. One has the Choice To Be A Survivor ..Or A Victim.

8. Tears are not a sign of weakness.

Some people who care about you may, directly or indirectly, try to prevent your tears out of a desire to protect you (and them) from pain. You may hear comments like, “Tears won’t bring him back,” or “He wouldn’t want you to cry.” Yet crying is nature’s way of releasing internal tension in your body, and it allows you to communicate a need to be comforted.

9. Suicide is an illness, not a sin.

““Died of suicide” or ““died by suicide” are accurate, emotionally- neutral ways to explain a child’s death. Not commited suicide but rather died of suicide or death by suicide.

10 .Provide a safe place for them to tell their story

Grief support (like Compassionate Friends and Grief Share ) is a fairly new development in the Philippines but it is there for the bereaved families when they need help. Family and friends generally rally round at first to help us bereaved parents through our grief. However, as time passes, they may not be able to continue their support, or they think they have given sufficient comfort, and it is here that these grief support groups serves its unique purpose – to provide a safe place for parents to talk about their children, of their life and death.

I just want everyone to know that death is not the end of love.

About Noemi Lardizabal-Dado

You may contact Noemi (noemidado @ gmail.com) for speaking and consultancy services in the following areas: Parenting in the Digital Age (includes pro-active parenting on cyber-bullying and bullying) ; Social Business ; Reinventing One’s Life; and social media engagement. Our parenting workshop is called "Prep to Prime (P2P): Parenting in the Digital Age (An Un­Workshop)" P2P Un­Workshops are conducted by two golden women in their prime, Noemi and Jane, who have a century’s worth of experience between them. They are both accomplished professionals who chose to become homemakers. This 180­degree turn also put them on a different life course which includes blogging, social media engagement and citizen advocacy. They call their un­workshops Prep to Prime or P2P, for short, to emphasize the breadth of their parenting experience. They tackle different aspects and issues of parenting ­­ from managing pregnancies, prepping for the school years of children, dealing with househelp, managing the household budget, to maximizing one’s prime life and staying healthy through the senior years.

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