Things not to say to people who are grieving

Losing a loved one changes your world completely. It makes even the strongest people an emotional wreck. I have dealt with grief a couple of times in my life. That’s the trouble with age – as you grow old, you lose loved ones. You lose grandparents, uncles, aunties, good friends and over time you begin to realize just how fickle life is. Two losses have stood out for me: the death of my dad and that of my baby.

I lost my baby on 3rd November 2013 and I have realized that my life will never be the same again. This loss will linger forever. Even when I get other children, there will always be the 1st born I lost. I have 2 great friends who are due in March 2014, just like I would have been. Their children will always be a reminder of just how old Leila would have been.

grief1I’m not sharing my story to seem strong. I’m not strong – not at all. There is no one who is strong enough for loss. Grief is hard on all of us. I’m sharing my story to show you what other women who have lost children feel. The permanence of their grief. As we talk about the things we should never tell people who are grieving, I want to show you just how they feel.

Over these few months, people have told me many things – some very encouraging words and some awfully insensitive things. The only thing that has comforted me is that most of these people are my friends and I know they mean well, they probably don’t know what to tell me. I have now learned stuff I will never again tell people who are grieving – people going through any kind of loss. Some of these things we tell people are Biblical clichés that mean well but at that moment they are very hurtful.

In December I joined a support group on Facebook for mothers who have lost children – its called Parents with angels in heaven. It is such an amazing group: women share their stories and greatly encourage one another. We celebrate with those who later get children after a loss and it is incredible.  I asked the other mothers in the group to share insensitive stuff they have been told. Here are some of them:

That baby was not yours. You will get another one –Tracy Adhiambo

I was told that my 1yr old daughter was very beautiful, she wouldn’t survive because angehangaisha wanaume (she would stress men) – Esther Githae

I was told my womb had so many eggs that I would give birth until I get tired – Sue Njoki

I hated being asked why I didn’t have an insurance cover that could cater for hospitals like Agakhan and Nairobi Hospital. Not everyone can afford these places – Rispa Shirohgrief4

When I went for an ultrasound scan, the doctor told me “Your baby is dead” in such an unkind tone. He then handed me the scan documents and told me they were my property. Up to now those words still echo in my ears and I get so sad. – Suzzy

I lost 2 pregnancies in a span of one year and the second time people told me that I was rushing to have a baby, kwani kuna compe(like it’s a competition)? When I got pregnant again I never told guys including my family because I was so hurt. – Doris Njuki

I was told that God takes away babies with imperfections early so I should be grateful. And someone actually came out right and asked if it’s something I did! – Angeline Achoka

Some of these comments are downright ridiculous…how do you tell people who are hurting stuff like that? How do you blame them for what happened? How dare you belittle their grief-wondering why they are crying even after this long?

grief2One of the worst things we were told was “You guys are young; you will have many more kids” Here’s the thing, when I’m grieving; I want that one, not the others that will come!

Don’t give people clichés like, “It was God’s will”, “all things work for good” “God had a reason” etc… At that time, I knew that all those things are true but I didn’t want to hear them. Never tell someone “I know how you feel” unless you absolutely do. David, a close friend of ours told me recently “When I lost my mom, I hated people telling me they know how I feel yet they could pick up the phone and call their mom”grief3

Next time a friend is grieving because of a loss, if you don’t have something to say, be quiet. Just be there for them, make them laugh (if they are ready), give them a hug. Don’t say things you don’t mean. And people, no clichés!

Share and drop a comment 🙂

If you have examples of hurtful things people have told you, write it in the comment section and let us enlighten each other.

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I never got the man I wanted: The List – Part 1

In the last post, I never got the man I wanted; we talked about the ridiculous things we sometimes have on our list for a future spouse. It would be wrong for me to criticize something without offering a solution. Today’s piece is that solution – so, what should you have in your list? What should you consider in a future partner?

Before we proceed I want us to get a few things straight:

  1. Put your feelings aside – this has nothing to do with how you feel about that person, this is about facts. If people behaved well just because we love them, the world would be a beautiful place but sadly that’s not the case. Be sober. If you feel your emotions are getting in the way, ask trusted friends to give you their honest opinion.list
  2. You cannot change any person – change is slow and deliberate and can only come from within. You need to ask yourself, “I’m I able to live with him even if he never changes?”
  3. Issues you see now while in a relationship only get worse in marriage – if he treats you the way he does when you two are so in love, how do you think he will treat you when you’re married and the feelings are no longer there?
  4. The person you are dating is going to be the father or mother of your children – as you judge this man or woman, don’t just think about yourself, consider what kind of parent they will be.
  5. See things for what they really are – don’t sugar coat, don’t make excuses for them. If it’s bad, then it’s bad.
  6. Differentiate between skills that can be learned and character problems. For instance, I have a friend whose ex-boyfriend could never come for dates on time. He even missed seeing her off at the airport yet she was leaving for a year! I asked her, “Does he get late for work or for appointments with clients?” No. Here’s my point: If this guy was late for everything – work, dates etc, then it’s a punctuality thing and that is something he can learn. If he’s only late for your events, then it stops being a punctuality issue, and it now tells you where he ranks your relationship.

dealbreakers1Now that we’ve got those things out-of-the-way, let’s look at what our list ought to have. They should be key things that we cannot negotiate on; you can call them deal breakers if you want.

Religion – this ranks way up there. She’s Muslim and you are Christian. Really? What are you going to teach your kids? You must be on the same page here because it will constantly show up in marriage. Christians, that verse in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that says do not be unequally yoked with non-believers is not for God, it is for your own good. I once dated a non-believer – many years before I met my hubby 🙂 We disagreed on everything major; he wanted sex before marriage *ahem*, he disliked the way I served in church… need I say more?

Money – how does he/she handle money? Where we spend our money says so much about who we are! Like they say in the movies when they’re trying to solve a crime, follow the money. *Peter and *Mary have been married for 2 years. Peter has a job but Mary never sees the money. Peter has debts all over the place – he even owes money to some of Mary’s friends! This guy doesn’t drink or even club. Where does the money go?

Deceit: not keeping their word – we always laugh when we hear someone in the bus lie on the phone about where they are, “I’m in town”. We think telling lies is such a small thing. I disagree. Deceit is a huge thing – because it is tightly tied to trust. If he lies about where he is now, will you believe him when you’re home alone at 11pm and he says he’s working late? How do you expect a man who can’t keep a small promise to keep his vows to you? And if he can lie to you through his teeth, imagine hdealbreakersow many times he will disappoint your children!

These are a few things we should consider when writing our list. There are many more, some of which we will discuss in our next post. If you’re in a relationship and you’re feeling unsure about some character issues your partner has, I say trust your instinct. If you have been seeing some of these red flags we’re talking about, then do something about it.

I never got the man I wanted

I have known my husband for 4 years now. I have spent close to half of that time married and in the same house with him. We have been through amazing times together and we have had our fair share of bad times. Through all this, I have come to one conclusion; I never got the man I wanted. No I didn’t. I got the man I needed.mr right 1

When I was growing up I had all things I wanted in a man. Many women have it too – we call it The List. We judge any man we meet against this list and we keep him or let him go depending on how he scores. There are different versions of this list but the idea is the same.

Here is the basic list for most women – items in order of importance 🙂

  1. Good looking
  2. Taller than me
  3. In a good stable job
  4. Makes lots of money
  5. Well educated – at least degree level
  6. Can cook gourmet meals
  7. Great sense of humor, good company
  8. Gentle, kind, caring, God-fearing etc.

When I got born again, God-fearing came to number 1 but the rest of the list remained the same. Throughout high school I walked around with this list in my head. As I got into my early 20s, God began to challenge me – not on the concept of the list but on the things in my list. I started to grow up.

mr right2Now that I’m married, I look back and see how absolutely ridiculous my list was – even after severally revising it over the years. I honestly think God has a great sense of humor. I visualize Him going through my list and roaring with laughter. He then calls Angel Gabriel and goes “Take a look at this!” Angel Gabriel laughs until he’s out of breath then shares it Michael who sighs with sympathy because he’s a polite guy. God starts striking items off the list and adding some of his own as the angels surrounding him shake their heads at my naiveté.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a list-you should actually have one! The question is what is in it? What do you deem important to you in a life partner? If you notice, the top 2 items in our list above are about appearance.

Character over looks – John Gathuku, the editor of Timazi Magazine (a Christian magazine for high school students) argues that you should not love someone based on their looks, after all they did nothing to look the way they do. Love them because of their character because that takes work.  He drives a very valid point. Things like patience, kindness, compassion take time and effort to develop. Those are the things we should be concerned about.

What-women-want-in-a-man

What-women-want-in-a-man

Let us ask ourselves some really important questions about the list above:

How possible is it to get all these in someone who’s below 30? Let’s be realistic. Most people in their mid-20s are in their 2nd to 3rd year of working, some even in their 1st year. That means they don’t make serious money – unless they’re selling drugs 🙂 My point is that this idea of getting a YOUNG man who’s got it together in their career, education and investment is completely unrealistic.

Do you have all those things yourself? Going by our previous point, chances are you don’t have it together too. In the rare occasion that he has all those, what are chances that he will want you if he has all that and you have nothing? I’ll leave you to answer that one.

What is the place of potential? There are hardworking guys out there who just need an opportunity to come their way to make it in life. Most of us don’t give them a second thought because they haven’t made it yet. Sad.

2013 was a tough year for us and it made me appreciate amazing things about my husband that I never knew.  We lost our baby when I was 20 weeks pregnant. I was terribly sick and I was admitted in Nairobi hospital. During the days I was there, my husband would come at 7am in the morning and leave at around 10pm. He catered to my every need, sought out the nurses to check on me when I was in pain. In short, he was awesome. God gave me a hardworking, honest, firm yet kind man who loves me dearly. I thank God for giving me mr right 3exactly what I needed – things that were not even on my list yet He knew they would help me.

We shall deal with the key things that ought to be in your list in another post. Today, look through the list and discard all those items that don’t add value to your relationship and pray that God shows you the things you  actually need.