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Ask Amy: Recognition days are tough for grieving parents

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: With Mother's Day and Father’s Day approaching, I want to share my perspective.

My husband and I lost our only child. I know people are hesitant to wish me a happy Mother's Day because they don't know if it is appropriate, or whether it will cause pain. I am still a mother, but my child isn't here anymore.

It's so devastating that there isn't even a word to define a parent who has lost a child.

Yes, please wish me a happy Mother's Day. After all, once a mother, always a mother.

– A Mother's Heart

Dear A Mother’s Heart: For insight, I reached out to The Compassionate Friends (compassionatefriends.org), the national organization that has helped many grieving families to connect with one another, learn from one another, and to feel less alone as they walk the path no parent ever wants to take.

Shari O’Loughlin, CEO of The Compassionate Friends, experienced the loss of her own beloved son, Connor. She told me, “Many parents who have experienced the death of their only child (or all their children) appreciate the acknowledgment of their parenthood on these special days. Their love and feelings of being a parent don't just disappear after their loss.

“Acknowledging the child they cherished and their journey of parenthood can feel supportive. Continuing bonds are experienced by many parents regardless of the age of their child who died. They are a normal part of healthy grieving. We don't ‘move on’ from our child who died, but rather we move forward with them in a different way."

“Sometimes people say nothing because they are afraid of causing hurt. But saying nothing frequently makes bereaved parents feel even more isolated and alone."

“Friends and family members can approach parents by asking an open-ended question: ‘How is Mother’s Day for you?’, giving a parent the opportunity to describe it in their own words and in their own way.

“And then – even if they don’t know how to respond, they can say, ‘I don’t have the words, but I want you to know that I’m thinking about you, and that I care.’

“Here’s what NOT to do: Don’t say, ‘At least…. (you can have more kids; or — you had him in your life for a while…’). Any sentence starting with ‘At least’ tends to diminish the reality of the experience for parents who have lost children.

“Use the child’s name and let the parent know something you remember or loved about her child,” O’Loughlin adds. “Our children's existence impacted this world. They had identities and relationships, leaving a legacy from their lives. Using their name signifies to parents that they will never be forgotten, and is often one of the best gifts you can give them.”

Dear Amy: I work in a large building that rents individual office spaces to various individuals and small companies.

While each office is its own space and has a door, the walls are paper-thin.

This week someone moved into an office next to mine, and she talks on speaker with the other party she is speaking to.

I can hear everything, and it is apparent that she is either a psychiatrist or a therapist.

 

I'm hearing sensitive information, the name of the city the person resides in, etc., and am privy to discussions about depression and medication.

If I was this woman's patient, I would not be happy.

Should I say something?

– JL

Dear JL: You should bring this up to your office neighbor, immediately. She is new to the building, and likely doesn’t realize how thin the walls are, perhaps because she doesn’t overhear you.

This person might be conducting Zoom sessions (as many therapists are). She needs to know that you are overhearing everything that both parties are saying. At the very least, immediately she should use headphones so you can’t overhear her clients.

Privacy is absolutely vital in a therapeutic setting.

Therapists I have seen over the years go to great lengths to soundproof their individual offices, as well as sometimes using “sound masking” or “white noise” machines in their waiting rooms.

Dear Amy: I appreciated your gracious apology to readers and to Yoko Ono, for a recent reference to her in your column as “breaking up the Beatles.”

You did not offer a lame: “Sorry if you were upset” excuse but owned it fully.

Well done.

– A Fan

Dear Fan: Many readers responded similarly to my apology. It’s a little strange to get credit for essentially messing up – but I am grateful.

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(You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

 

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