I Beg Your F***ing Pardon?
Posted on December 23, 2013
People can say the strangest things to bereaved parents. Here’s my list of the Top 10 I’ve had so far. There is plenty of gratuitous language, so please skip it if you’re easily offended. It’s supposed to be funny.
Grief and humour are a dangerous combination. There’s nothing funny about what happened to my son. Jokes at his expense are strictly off limits but I can see the funny side of some of the situations that arise out of it. Humour has been hugely cathartic for me, especially when it’s thoroughly inappropriate.
The grief of child loss is so self-absorbing that it’s easy to forget how difficult it is for those around you. Very few people know what to do and most struggle for the right words. Sometimes they will say something incredibly insensitive but there’s no point being angry because they are just trying to say something, anything, to show they care and I am grateful for it. I also know that I have said some pretty stupid things in similar situations in the past, before I found out for myself what it’s like to be on the receiving end.
Nevertheless, some of the comments are tragically hilarious. They have made me want to cry, laugh, hug and punch the perpetrator all at the same time. I want to share some of the ‘best’ of these with you, accompanied by what goes on in my head. You may well recognise yourself. In which case I’m sorry but, if I can deal with losing my son, I’m sure you can handle a little bit of mickey taking.
I mean no malice and hope that other bereaved parents will find some solace in the humour. I will, however, apologise in advance for the expletives, which need to be there for accuracy. Imagine Samuel L. Jackson quoting Ezekiel in Pulp Fiction because that’s what it feels like in my head. If you’re easily offended by bad language please don’t read any further.
My Top 10
I was at a party and bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. He knew Edward had died but I didn’t expect him to mention it because I know how difficult it is, especially for relative strangers. However, I’ve also learnt that it’s still better to say something upfront to get rid of the elephant in the room. As long as I keep my composure and smile a bit it helps alleviate the tension and makes others feel more comfortable, which is important. So I did my bit and he responded with the perfectly respectable “I’m so sorry for your loss” routine but, like so many, found himself uncomfortable with the ensuing silence. I could tell he was desperately trying to find the right words but what came out of his mouth next was an absolute peach.
#1 “Well, at least it wasn’t a surprise.”
I beg your fucking pardon?
It’s always been in my nature to make a wisecrack so when I get an opportunity like this the urge is almost irresistible. I want to smash it for six, preferably with the person’s head attached, accompanied by demonic laughter. But it’s not fair on someone who probably thinks they’re handling a difficult situation quite well.
My reaction is usually twofold – the first is what goes on in my head and the second what actually comes out of my mouth. For everyone’s sake, they need to be different. On this occasion, my instinctive response was “Yes, you moronic fuckwit, that made it so much fucking easier. We all have to die sometime, so why not when you’re 4 fucking years old?”
Of course I didn’t say it, because I don’t really mean it, but I find it cathartic to think it. What did I say instead? A calm and understated “Yes, well I suppose there is that,” before sinking my glass of wine, moving on and chuckling away to myself.
So, here’s the rest of my list of the Top Ten Things (Not) to Say to a Grieving Parent and my immediate reaction. Thankfully, even though it has been very tempting, I have not yet said any of these, so I still have some friends.
#2: “I know it’s hard but you need to move on, and get on with your life.”
No I fucking don’t. You need to shut the fuck up. Come back and tell me the same fucking thing if your child dies. Until then, kindly fuck the fuck off.
#3: “I feel your pain.”
No you fucking don’t, but if you want to get some idea of how much it hurts come a bit closer and I’ll gouge your fucking eyes out with my cocktail stick. Now times it by a thousand and you still won’t be close to feeling my fucking pain, you delusional patronising fuckwit.
#4: “We know how you must feel. It’s like when our child was ill/broke a leg/fell off a bike etc. We were so worried.”
Our child is dead, you lump of batshit. Unless yours is too shut the fuck up. It was nothing fucking like it. At all.
(Of all the comments, this is the only one that needs some explanation. I would never belittle the serious illness of another child or dismiss the anxiety of a parent. I am merely referring to those who somehow think that non-life threatening accidents and illnesses are worth comparing to the death of your child. Because of Edward, I have got to know many parents who have been to the brink with their kids, and this is in no way aimed at them.)
#5: Anything that starts with “I know it’s not the same but…..”
You’re right, it’s not the fucking same so don’t fucking say it. Nothing good comes out of a sentence which starts with those words, so do us all a favour and shut the fuck up.
#6: “Are you actually doing anything to raise money in Edward’s memory rather than just asking for donations instead of flowers at his funeral. Shouldn’t you be running a marathon or something?”
I tell you what, fuckchops, why don’t I run a marathon and you lose a child? We’ll soon see which one is fucking easier. I could climb Everest ten fucking times with the yeti on my back and lose my balls to frostbite and it would still be fucking easier. Get a fucking life. And make a fucking donation whilst you’re at it.
#7: “He’s not in any pain now.”
That’s because he’s dead, you fucktard. He can’t feel a fucking thing. Do you want a badge for stating the fucking obvious?
#8: “At least you have two other children.”
Oh yes, of fucking course. That’s why we had three, just in case we lost one. If only I’d known I would have had three more to make it even fucking easier. In fact, did I even lose a child? I’ve got so many I didn’t fucking notice.
#9: “It’s what he would have wanted.”
He was four years old you fuck muppet. He wanted food, fun, protection and love, not world fucking peace and enlightenment.
And finally, my personal favourite. If you have said this to me and are still alive you have no idea how lucky you are. Really.
#10: “God took him for a reason.”
The fuck he did. Do you honestly expect me to be comforted by a rationale that gives a pervert like Jimmy Savile eighty years and my innocent son just four? Fuck off. He moves in mysterious ways, you say? Well, why don’t I fucking well set you on fire? Would that be mysterious enough for you?
And I’ve just thought of number #11, a pre-emptive strike against anyone who feels that the irreverence and profanity I have just used somehow diminishes my profound grief and despair at the loss of my child, or makes you think less of me.
#11: “We know you’re suffering, but there’s really no need to be so rude.”
Fuck off, you c*nt.
Such are the thoughts that cross my mind when somebody comes up with one of these beauties. There are plenty more, like the people who ask me how I lost so much weight over the summer. It’s called the ‘Dude, My Son’s Dead and I’ve Given Up Living Diet’. You should try it, lard arse.
Invariably I just mutter something courteous but it gives me a perverse sense of pleasure to think that one day I might just say what I’m thinking.
I want to make it perfectly clear that, no matter what I have just written above, I am extremely appreciative of the love and support that has been shown to us by everyone, no matter how they have expressed it. I write these words with respect and as a truthful reflection of humour during the saddest and most desperate period of my life. I am not judging anyone, just letting off steam. None of this is flippant. These are humorous observations made by a broken heart.
I also want to acknowledge how difficult it is to talk to a bereaved parent and that despite my irreverence I appreciate any words that you have said to us. Almost anything is better than nothing, which is the worst thing you can do.
There is a picture of Edward behind my desk, so I often feel that he ‘sees’ what I write, and I want him to be proud of my defiance, because that’s what this is. I refuse to let this pain defeat me, and humour is just one of the weapons I have to help me survive. He put up with so much during his short life, with the greatest courage. Grief can throw whatever it wants at me but I will not back down.
Now please look after yourselves and your families. I mean it, from the bottom of my heart. Nothing I have written here dilutes what I have learnt from my beautiful son about love. It’s all that matters, and even if you think I’m swearing at you (I probably am), I still love you. Love and peace, people, love and peace.
(You can read about Edward’s story here – http://hlhsdiary.com/wp/)