Since moving to New York I have starting volunteering for a bereavement charity (The COPE Foundation, for anyone who is interested). I chose to work with them because I wanted to volunteer for an organization that was important to me, and their work with families who have lost children is something that is very important to me. As someone who lost a sibling I am aware of how few and far between support groups there are for that particular demographic. I was 10 when it happened and no one knew what to do with our family. No one wanted to deal with us because “our situation” made everyone uncomfortable. We ended up finding a charity (Winston’s Wish) 3.5 hours from our home that focused on families who had lost a child.
The reason I am sharing this background is because the message has stuck with me. When asked if I have siblings I say no, not because it would upset me to talk about it but because I don’t want to upset the other person or make them feel awkward. This seems to be a common theme among families who have lost a child. That type of loss is especially uncomfortable for everyone because it feels as though it goes against the natural order; it reminds people that we are human and that our lives could change in an instant. When you share something like this with someone they immediately think of their family and realize that those people they assumed would out-live them might not and that is a horrifying thought. Believe me, it is a terrible experience and it does alter the way you view life and the lives of those around you. However, what I have found most troublesome is people’s reactions.
People don’t want to know – and I mean actively don’t want to know. I have heard stories of individuals being chastised for sharing information about their deceased child “why did you have to tell me?!”. This isn’t something unique to loss. While we as a population may have a morbid fascination for traumatic experiences we do not want them anywhere close to home. Many people become actively angered when they here a person they know sharing a traumatic experience, they call them “attention-seeking” and ask them to stop. The problem seems to be that we don’t want to believe these things could happen to us, and if they happen to someone we know then that reminds us that life isn’t perfect and bad things do happen.
One thing is certain, though: if you find yourself becoming upset or uncomfortable when someone talks about a traumatic experience ask yourself why. Are you really mad at the person sharing it? Do you think they are talking about their dead loved one to upset you?
I understand why people become upset and uncomfortable at the sharing of a traumatic experience but I don’t think that should be a reason not to talk about it.
What do you think? Do you ever find yourself holding back information not because it will effect you but because you do not want to make others upset or uncomfortable? How would you react if people talked more openly about their traumas?