In 2012, Joe Biden spoke to the families of soldiers about grief. He said, “There will come a day – I promise you, and your parents as well – when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye,” Biden says. “It will happen.”
Now, I don’t care what your political affiliation is or how you feel about Biden – but that statement right there – that statement is an incredibly accurate truth. On this second anniversary of Dad’s death, I am able to smile when I think of him, his jokes, his laughter… I choose to remember the good things. Do I still cry? Absolutely. But am I now able to find joy? I am. Has the gaping wound in my heart started to heal – so I can speak more often about that scar, the permanent mark that my dad left on my heart, instead of feeling the constant sting of an open wound? Definitely.
I already know that today’s post is going to be one of my highest traffic posts of the year – because people want to know how our family is doing (or because they are hella nosy and want more details of Dad’s death… which really don’t matter at all… the details are, he’s gone – it was unexpected – it was traumatic for all those left behind – and if you didn’t care enough to be around and offer your support while he busted his tush to recover from a traumatic brain injury… well, then you pretty much suck and don’t deserve to be privy to any details that we will never ever share with you – so stop being a creeper).
So, now that I’m fired up from that little rant – I know exactly what message I want to share with you. THE FAMILY MEMBERS OF THE DECEIVED ARE NOT YOUR FRIGGIN’ THERAPISTS. We have friends and family all over the country – and many of these folks were not able to make it to Dad’s service to pay their respects – so when we do finally get the opportunity to see these folks, a few words of sympathy are typically exchanged.
Let’s just throw this out on the table right now… paying your respects is awkward. There is no right thing to say… but for the love of all that is holy – there are plenty of things you should NOT EVER EVER EVER say to the family who has endured a loss.
In our situation, Dad died of suicide – something many people don’t understand. That’s fine – if you want to talk about suicide and mental health with an open mind – let’s do it! I would love to have the opportunity to educate you on the topic – I think talking about mental health is super important and the only way we will be able to work toward eliminating the stigma associate with mental illnesses and suicide. I’m totally game!
HOWEVER – I’m not your ding dang therapist… and you better not open your mouth without seriously thinking about what is going to come out. I could seriously write an entire book about all the stupid sh*t people have said to us.
“Oh, but wasn’t he excited to meet his grandson?” Oh – you mean my baby that was born 12 days after he died? Yeah – he was beyond excited to be Pap to Munchie… but mental health doesn’t discriminate and is illogical.
“I mean, what was he thinking? Why would he do that?” Did you seriously just point these questions toward his daughter? He did it because his benefits had been suspended and he had stopped receiving the care he needed. Much like – if someone with cancer had their benefits suspended and they stopped receiving treatment. Their disease would take over and they, too, would die. Mental illness requires the appropriate treatment.
“My life is hard and wake up every morning and decide to be happy. So, he should have just gotten over it and been happy.” Yes, and people with cancer should just pretend it isn’t there and they will magically be healed. I’m so happy you understand medical science.
“Suicide is the ultimate sin because you can’t repent.” Commence throat punch… because I literally have no words that your ignorant, narrow, uneducated, insensitive mind would even be worthy of.
Honestly, if you don’t know what to say… just say you were really sorry to hear about my dad’s passing… and if you knew him, feel free to tell me a funny story about him, share a memory, or let me know what you are going to do to keep his legacy alive. For all your other outlandish comments, please… go find yourself a therapist… because my family and I certainly aren’t the ones to analyze your psyche and help you hash out your issues, questions, etc surrounding the death of my dad. There is a time and place for everything… and I suggest 3pm in your therapists office.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with mental health issues – you aren’t alone – you aren’t weak – you just need some help! I encourage you to call this number and talk to someone so you can find the care you need. Just three numbers to remember 2-1-1.
If you feel like I pulled one of the above “what not to say” comments directly from one of our conversations – then I urge you to read up on mental health, grief, and what to say to someone who is grieving.
I also HIGHLY encourage folks to watch this Biden speech. Again, I don’t care what your opinion of Biden are – the man makes some great points and after the death of his son, his message is more poignant.