Zoey and I loved shopping for groceries. I’d pick her up from daycare and head straight to Whole Foods next door. We would spend time exploring the various aisles selecting fresh fruits, veggies etc. and then head straight to the gelato bar. Here Zoey would relish her orange and vanilla gelato and I would get a cup of coffee to go.
So when she passed away last year I couldn’t bring myself to go grocery shopping at Whole Foods. We found another local grocery store near our place and started going there for most things we needed. We did this for nearly 6 months. I did miss the freshness of vegetables and fruits that were offered at Whole Foods, but really, who cared about what food we ate during those days. My son was just 25 days old when his sister passed away and all he needed for nutrition was mothers milk or formula.
But now he is year old and has started having table food. So a few months back, I did feel the need to venture out of my comfort zone. I typically pick a time when I know it will not be crowded , so the chance of meeting someone I know out there is minimal. I typically make it quick and just stick to my list of items to be bought. I don’t explore the store like I used to with my Zoey.
So the other day I had just finished shopping and was heading straight to checkout. I noticed someone who’s son went to same school as Zoey. As luck would have it, she was right behind me in the checkout line. She saw Anay and congratulated me on his arrival. I suppose she did not know about Zoey, so she innocently asked me which school my girl was going to. I had dreaded this question and was trying to answer without breaking down. I told her and saw her go pale with shock. She did say she was so sorry and how life was so unpredictable. Then she went on to add that how life seems unfair and how her older child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 3. She probably did not remember it, but I already knew this about her son. I really don’t know why she brought that up with me. I am not sure how she could compare her child’s health condition to me losing my child permanently. Maybe she was so shocked that she did not what else to say to me ? Anyhow ….I tried to smile and look straight ahead to pay for my stuff. I know that seeing your child suffer with juvenile diabetes is very hard for a parent. However I still wonder why she told me that again ? There have several times in the past 11 months, when I have met people who just don’t know what to say to me when they meet me.
This conversation with her, prompted me to write this post. I typically avoid writing about my negative experiences here because I want this blog to reflect positive attitude and hope that my daughter had till the end. But today I want to take a moment to jot down some dos and don’ts when communicating with a recently bereaved parent. I truly believe that people just don’t know how to deal with someone who has recently lost their child.
I have noticed that people don’t want to mention your child’s name during a conversation. I guess they feel they are protecting you. But most bereaved moms will tell you how they want to hear their child’s name over and over again. Because every time someone says her or his name, it’s like sweet music to our ears. Yes there is a chance we may cry , and crying is the new normal for us. I want to hear Zoey’s name every possible chance I get. If you have a special memory of the child, mention it to the us. If you happen to remember the child’s birthday, send a card or a thoughtful email to the parent. It will only make it so much more special to know that someone else has acknowledged your child’s life.
Do not compare the child’s condition with someone you know who has cancer or some other health condition. Because each cancer is different and especially with pediatric cancer, one is never sure of how a child responds to treatment. Some kids may respond favorably while others may not have that luck.
If you don’t know what to say, just hug. Because sometimes a hug is all it takes. There is typically nothing much left to say to a parent that has lost their child. A hug says you care and you are there for them.
I am going to end this blog post with something positive that happened recently at a good friend’s place. She had invited us for Navratri celebrations ( navratri is a indian festival) and my husband and I were dreading meeting other people there. Nevertheless we went and did have a decent time. She and her husband went out of their way to make us comfortable.
At the end when we were about to leave, she was handing out little favor bags for all the little kids that had come there. I was so surprised to see one for Zoey along with the one for Anay. She truly made my day and if you are reading this, you know who you are. Thank you and always know that we will remember that gesture forever. In the last 11 months a lot of people seemed to have walked out of our life. I am not complaining and I truly have no resentment towards them. It’s not easy to be around us, bereaved parents. I did not know a bereaved parent till I became one last year, so I completely get it.
However my daughter taught me to always look at the positive side of things and so today I will. I am thankful for the few friends and family that have insisted on staying in our lives. I will be thankful for all those complete strangers, acquaintances or long-lost school friends that have constantly checked in with us to see how we are doing. I sincerely thank all of you for your unconditional and unwavering love and support, without which we wouldn’t have made it through this year.
Zoey’s mom forever
My baby and me