How do you talk to a grieving person?

You may have noticed the blog has gone fairly quiet recently. For the last year I (Charlotte) have been caring for my mum who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in June 2018. She lost her hard fought battle in July 2019.

I am not sure there are ever adequate words to describe what it feels like to lose your mum. The woman who physically created you and brought you into the world. The woman who you have never known existence without. Mum and I rarely ever fell out, and never once had a serious argument in my 30yrs. We were thick as thieves all my teen and adult life. I lost my mum, my best friend, my confidant, my travel partner and my role model. My world collapsed when we got the terminal diagnosis. It froze the many times the Doctors told us it was the end and to say goodbye. And when it was those final horrible end of life days my world truly felt as it if it stopped.

Such big emotions, such huge loss, such unimaginable pain and indescribable sadness. It is no wonder that so many people just don’t know how to talk to you or approach you. I don’t speak for everyone that has lost a parent (obviously) but from my experience here are the top things people have told me has worried them with regards to talking to me in the recent weeks after both the diagnosis and the death;

1 – If I bring it up it only upsets or reminds them – I have heard people say this is why they don’t want to bring it up. I think about Mum all the time, I can almost guarantee that you won’t be reminding me, it is already on my mind. I am also unlikely to suddenly get upset if I have already been thinking of her throughout the day.

Also, by never bringing it up it is likely the person feels you no longer care, or that they have exceeded their socially accepted grieving time. It was pointed out to me by someone else who lost a parent how after the funeral suddenly all concern and check ins from their friends stopped. It seemed after the funeral they were suddenly supposed to be “ok”.

The funeral is not the end, it is the beginning. There are all the firsts that come after the funeral without them (first Birthday, first Christmas, first Mothers Day etc.). There are also all the normal days in life where you still grieve and think about them constantly.

2 – I won’t know the right thing to say – There is no right thing to say. This also doesn’t necessarily need to be a time for wisdom or advice. It is primarily a time for empathy and compassion, and that usually involved far more listening than speaking.

3 – I don’t know if I can be “normal” around you – Losing a loved one is perhaps the biggest thing in your world – but it doesn’t need to be your world 24/7 – life does in fact go on, and a laugh and gossip is sometimes the best medicine. I would rather talk about how the Starbucks lady messed up your cappuccino than not talk at all. In fact, I would probably like to moan at someone about my coffee order being messed up too rather than always have to have a deep and meaningful conversation…

The overall theme of the above is probably this – just be there.

I am so eternally grateful for the people who have been there for me, this last year since the diagnosis and also in the weeks following Mum’s passing. Some close family and friends, and some unexpected colleagues and friends. Every message, every check in, every unexpected hug – all of them have kept me going.

With that, let me sign off with a list I wrote for my mum at 14 years old that she had laminated and carried with her to all of her jobs;

Reasons why my mum is the best

1. She is kind

2. She is smart

3. She is thoughtful

4. She puts others before herself

5. She is confident

6. She is loving

7. She is funny

8. She is witty

9. She is mine

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