This post was sent to me by a fellow grieving dad from the UK. It’s an interesting post from the standpoint that I was able to connect “what others may be thinking” to my own experience. For me personally, about a year before my first loss, a friend of mine lost a baby a birth due to cord strangulation. I remember leaving the funeral home and looking at my wife and ask her “Do you think they really feel that much pain since they really didn’t know the child?”. My ignorant question was answered about a year later when I lost my sweet Katie. The answer was of course, yes. Sometimes as humans we are quick to judge others before we have a chance to understand their position. You see, I have worked hard to reserve judgement/comment on others until I have walked in their shoes, and even then, it’s not my place to judge. Thanks Graeme for giving me a reminder and sharing your story with all of us.
“What Others May Be Thinking”
by Graeme Skinner, UK
After a burglary I can go out and buy a new TV to replace the stolen one, with a new for old household insurance policy, leaving me mostly with a nasty feeling of being violated. Someone has had the cheek to break into my sanctuary and take what is mine. I know that if I had left the door open then I would carry at least some of the blame, even if grudgingly.
Bereavement is a form of robbery. My life has been broken into and messed up in a big way. When death robbed me, nothing could have prepared me for the unleashing of a cocktail of feelings that followed. Shaken, stirred and spilt all over the floor. This time there was no policy to cover the loss. On top of that the feelings were complicated by a so called ‘shameful death’. I can only speak from my own experience of losing our son to heroin, aged 21. There is a street in a city I once saw called “Needless Alley”, that phrase comes to mind. “Heroin, whatever took you down that road, son?” I ask, for the first I knew of heroin in his life was to receive the night-time phone call to say he had died. “He died of shame”, we were told by a caring friend, and she was right. Jim had been found in possession of heroin by the police, and it seems he took it to cope with the shame. It took his life.
Suddenly I thought that others may be thinking bad of me as a parent in the same way I had, at least subconsciously, thought of similar families before heroin had kicked my door down and became a squatter in my life. Even if others were kind enough to reassure me that they didn’t think anything of the sort, in reality I knew what the real landscape looked like. In seminars I have led, I ask for word associations that come to mind when people think about heroin users. Phrases like, “Scum, loser, thief…” come tumbling out. Even if those who know me don’t think it, the fact is that drugs stigma and shame are thickly spread through our societies worldwide.
This feeling of stigma and shame seemed to be heightened for me as a church pastor. My response? To talk about it. We find ourselves sitting on the ‘mourning bench’ with many others who also want to hide from the associated stigma of a shameful death. My wife wrote a book about how she faced into the cold wind of the loss of a child with the associated stigma; ‘See You Soon; a mother’s story of drugs, grief and hope’ by Philippa Skinner. It’s pretty much what this dad would have written, although not so well. Our hope is that talking about the issues and sharing together will be of some comfort.
The loss of my son Bernie was the worst thing that has happened in a long life. I feel the sympathy and mutual support of all the dads on this site, and I wish you all peace and strength. Whenever the ‘big sadness’ comes over, I try to remember his good humour and all the pleasant times. His mother dog, Lady, that was with him every day for fifteen years, is my main concern. She is just so sad. I hope she goes before I do.
These words have helped me:
God looked around his garden
And He found an empty place.
Then He looked down upon the earth,
And saw your tired face.
He put His arms around you,
And lifted you to rest.
God’s garden must be beautiful,
He always takes the best.
He saw the road was getting rough,
And the hills were hard to climb,
So He closed your weary eyelids,
And whispered “Peace be thine.”
It broke our hearts to lose you.
But you didn’t go alone,
For part of us went with you,
The day God called you home.
I wanted to let you know that I’ve added a link to an article about Phillipa’s book and to your website to the site that I’ve been curating in memory of my son, Graham, who was killed 33 weeks ago.
I’m so very sorry for your loss of Jim.
Thank you so much. Graeme Skinner
I wanted to throw this out there as i am sure all of us who have lost have experinced this ..but I would like to expand on this…as the years go by our friendships change and friends fall by the wayside because they don’t want to ot don’t understand your “different or basket case” self that has emerged…heres the question….do you cultivate rekindle a friend or a close family member if they abandoned you during your worst most lowest point?? these “friends” weren’t there for you…when they come back do you “cheerily ” just continue as if nothing happened?? do we tell them what we think?? or what?? here’s my gut feeling of what to do…i can’t continie a close friendship like we once were if they couldn’t be there for me in my lowest point…i realize now who my true friends are ..this is where i wasn’t prepared for at all
like to hear your responses out there
Every situation is different – so there can be no rules. But how about possibilities? Maybe, once the situation is honestly spoken about, the old friendship can be deeper and different… Graeme Skinner
I think of my bereavement as a, although different, continuation of my deep love for my daughter. We only grieve deeply that which we loved deeply. How long they were here or how they left is minimal to the fact that we loved them deeply…and always will. If your on facebook, please friend me Graeme.
Praying Psalm 147:3 over you and your family,
Thanks for your words Steve.
Been on your website – we are brothers indeed.
Best you link to my twitter@SeeYouSoon8 or facebook via http://seeyousoon.me.uk/index.php
I do not judge you or your son for the way he passed, Graeme. Ditto for you, Micky. Anyone who cannot look through the cause to see the depth of the loss….no matter how it comes to be…are sorry souls who truly aren’t worthy of our time. It doesn’t matter how they go…what matters is that they are gone.
you are in my thoughts….
Thanks Pat… for your understanding. Graeme Skinner
I too have asked myself many times what people must be thinking of me as a parent, and are they calling my son a loser? He wasn’t…he was my son who had issues. He gave up …trying became too hard….and he gave in to the spell of peer pressure and heroin….once….thats all it took.
Thanks for sharing this Micky. One mistake or many, I have spoken to many individuals and family members suffering from others addictions. What ever way we look at it, drugs are evil. Many you find strength in your vulnerability. It is so important we make sure peoople see our sons for who they are not for the drugs that stand in the way. Graeme Skinner
I read your story and am very sorry for your loss. Irrespective of whatever stigma there may, or may not be, you are one of us. And you are right.. we have been robbed. While I am sure that none of us completely understand what the others are going through we all understand that feeling.
Thanks Steve. Yes we are all different, and recognising that helps so much. We are also walking together and that helps too. Unique and Universal Graeme Skinner