Saturday, January 3, 2015

When Concern becomes Judging Interference

Recently I experienced a situation that has sent me through a huge gamut of emotions. It came at as 2014 came to a close and left me questioning the choices I've made over the last 6 years. 
In the end I knew that raising my kids the way we have is something I don't now, nor do I think I ever will, regret. I am proud of who each of them are because of the empathy and compassion our journey has taken us on. However it really has left me thinking about the things ‘well intended’ people say and day, why they do it and how to tell who really is sincere. 
Feeling judged is not something new to me.  I think I might be a bit more oversensitive to it as I have spent much of my life feeling like I don’t measure up in some way or another. 
But this was different.  Because this time someone was questioning an area of my life that I know, with 100% certainty, that I have grown from in a positive manner and was also an area I would never wish on anyone….and yet I know I am a better person because of it. 
I am guessing for some the unsaid subject here is obvious but for others maybe not so.  Without recapping the entire thing, I will say that some fairly harsh words were shared via text to me regarding how I ‘act’ around my children regarding the life and death of Cole.  Words like “ not healthy to be keep Cole 'alive´ with photos, charms” and “the constant talk of Cole and the 'twins' is not doing anyone any good” along with advice such as ‘grieve inwardly and keep him alive in your heart forever, but his memory needs to remain there” were just some of the many things that were said to me.  And maybe if it stopped there it might not have been so, well hurtful, but when things like saying one of our kids has a difficult 'prognosis' because Cole is actively discussed and idolized in our home (more info on this later) or worse yet, directly saying that when Cameron gets a little older that our ‘keeping Cole alive with photos and constant discussion’ may make him miss his twin brother and become deeply disturbed because he feels he is responsible for Cole not being alive and that he doesn't feel complete without him”….well that is just taking it beyond anything I could ever imagine that someone who is concerned would say and becomes entirely a judgement of how I have lived each and every day of my life for the last 6 years.  It’s beyond caring and borders on cruel (and that is toning it down from what was said and shows how little time that she spends with us or has talked to us about what happened as she doesn't realize that we could never paint a picture like that for Cameron since he was actually giving all he could to Cole, not taking anything from him and therefore didn't have any part in 'killing his twin brother')
But I really, truly wanted to give this person the benefit of the doubt.  I mean she really spends very little time with us so if the brief window she sees paints this picture then there must be a problem.  Except when I talked to those who do spend time with us often, who do know my children and have seen them ‘in action’, who have heard us talk about Cole with love, with hope, with peace and love and in a positive light…when those people told me that they have always admired how we include our children in all aspects of life and death, how we show our kids what life is real, crap happens and then life must go on and we must grow from our trials and that Cole’s little life mattered then I know that the ‘real’ people, the true friends and almost family they are ones painting the true picture of my life.
But again, I still wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt and I wanted desperately to understand why anyone would express things in such a way.  Was it out of concern and an offering of advice? Was it judging?
Through some research today into the definitions of ‘advising someone’ vs ‘judging someone’ it is my opinion that to be advised requires a search for answers, as in someone has asked for advice or indicated a desire to have advice shared, (whether or not we act upon it). Whereas judging someone is to have fault cast upon us, (whether or not we've earned it).
And since I didn't ask for advice nor indicate I felt I needed any but certainly had lots of fault for  'openly discussing and worshipping Cole in my home' at the sake of children's mental health then I guess this is a definite case of judging.
And the more and more I looked into this, the more reading I did and the more praying I did, the more I realized just how unfair it is to judge anyone.

Matthew 7:1-5 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

I know that the person that shared this with me felt she was sharing her concerns for my children’s well being but in the end she really was just passing judgement on what she felt was ‘a huge life blunder’.  I am guilty of this in her life too I am sure.  Thankfully I never chose to share this.  Was it because I didn’t feel I had the right or because I lacked the courage? I am not sure.  Mostly, I think, I realized that I had not walked a mile in her shoes, I had not lived in her home, spent enough time with her and her family etc to even feel I had a right to make a decision.  Obviously this sentiment wasn’t shared.
I did share this experience with many other twin loss mommies and almost every single one of them was outraged that anyone would feel inclined to say such things to someone who had lost a child.  Though I felt an immediate rush of support, just as I did when I shared it with friends here, I realized that I wasn’t alone, that many other people had experienced the same ignorant, ill founded ‘advice’….or judging. 
People don’t seem to understand that it isn’t their job to ‘interfere’ or ‘meddle’.  It isn’t their job to tell us how to grieve.  Most of all it isn’t their job to tell us how to live after loss.  I say it that way because I don’t feel like I am grieving, I don’t feel daily sadness, I don’t feel a huge sense of loss, don’t act depressed and don’t live with shrines and reminders of all we lost in any room in my home (there are no photos of Cole or even representations of Cole and Cameron together posted anywhere in my home)   The only job that the family and friends of those who’ve experienced loss have is to love them, unconditionally, genuinely and sincerely. 

1 Thessalonians 4:11

 And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,

Now that is not to say that there aren’t times that intervention is necessary. I researched many psychology websites in preparation for this blog to see what ‘professionals’ had to say about what is healthy and what is not.  This is what I learned….
Crying, mourning, talking about loved ones, having mementos, doing things to honour them/remember them, celebrating them, expressing how you feel, taking as much time as it takes etc….those are all normal and healthy ways to grieve and to live after loss.
Ignoring, denying, never talking about it, handling it alone, rushing through it, becoming anxious or depressed, hoarding, engaging in risky behaviour (drinking and drugs are the obvious here but there are lots of others), becoming a victim or an abuser, becoming controlling, over or under eating etc…those are all very unhealthy ways to live after loss 

And since I was researching I decided to look into what the experts say for siblings…

Involve your children - find ways to let your children participate in things as much as possible, such as the planning of activities for a funeral or other memorial events, making up a photo board or a memory scrapbook.
Encourage memories - encourage ways to help them remember the who has died – and to celebrate their life. This can be an ongoing part of their lives, as they will always feel a bond or link with them – even after years. Their grief journey will slowly help them to realise their sibling has gone forever, but finding ways to remember them will help continue the special and precious relationship they have together. Studies show bereaved children are significantly helped in this way.
Now I am sure that there are some people who think that because Cole was never ‘known’ by his siblings that they have no memories to cherish, no relationship to hold on to.  Well unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.  My sons were so excited that their mommy was having twins. They are very aware that Cameron has a twin brother who looks exactly like him. It’s pretty hard to ignore what stares you in the face each day. 
I also came across this and I knew this is exactly what happens in the homes of everyone child who has lost a sibling….

Be aware that it is not unusual for a child’s grief to resurface, or even to surface for the first time, a considerable time after the death. This happens as they journey through
happened many months or years later. Be patient and understanding of this and answer them honestly. At any stage, if you feel concern about any particularly extreme reactions or behaviour changes you have noticed, contact your doctor, nurse or health centre, a counsellor, a social or community worker, a youth worker, or local family support agency.

And thankfully we are getting help for one of our kiddos who is struggling with a few issues…some relate to this loss and journey but some are very much genetic and learned behaviours.  But in case anyone wonders what I shared that started this whole thing in the first place…well sadly but understandably to some anyway, one of our sons has expressed that he feels that his baby brother died but that his sibling got a baby brother in Cameron.  This saddens me and yet I also know that he could very easily feel the same way if Cameron wasn’t a twin…when you have 3 living kiddos someone is bound to feel left out. 

Anyway, I think what this whole thing has taught me is that no one has a right to judge another person’s grief, loss or coping process.  If it becomes a situation that is life threatening to anyone then for sure, get involved, get help.  It has also taught me that, though I have never expressed my judgement of this person and how she has lived her life to her, I have to others and I have no right to do that.  I don’t even have a right to judge to just myself.  As natural as it is, it is neither helpful nor right and is something that God is not ok with.  The whole ‘people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ comes to mind but even more so this comes to mind…

John 8:7

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

So what should you do if you are in a situation like this… LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!  Spend time with this person.  Don’t make a hasty decision or judgement. Talk to them, let them share their loved one with you and see how they really are doing. Listen to them and try to understand why they share their loved one the way they do and maybe even how they see how it affects their family.  You might be surprised.  Maybe they do need your help, maybe some sort of intervention, some type of counselling etc is needed.  But be cautious how you share your concerns and be very certain you know what you are talking about. A brief glimpse into their lives does not qualify you to make any observations or decisions.  And unless you are really close to the person and have the kind of relationship with them that entitles you to even have an opinion on their daily life…well shut the heck up!
Realize that you are not them, that you have not walked in their shoes (nor carried two babies in their womb). ..and even if you have had a similar experience, every person is different and will handle things differently.  Remember this is their family and they have a right to raise them the way they feel is best.  Who are you to decide what should or should not be said or done? You aren’t living in their home, you didn’t carry those children in your womb, you don’t see how they interact with each other every day. 

And above all, stop judging.  I know that not all who read this can appreciate that I turn to the bible for advice but this one speaks loud and clear to me..
 1 Corinthians 4:3-5
 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

God is the only one who can judge, who can pass judgement.  He knows the reason why things happen the way they do.  He knows what is in the hearts of everyone and will bring it to light, expose it.  For me, I truly believe God wants me to use Cole as a vessel to help others and that the faith I have found because of loss is to be shared.  I am not to hide Cole away in my heart but rather to share what losing him has taught me. He is to be a part of my family...because he is a part of my family. 

I can’t reiterate enough, no matter how concerned you may be, no matter what you feel should be done different, be careful and tread lightly when you do approach situations that could be so easily construed as judging…. Otherwise you may find yourself having forever ruined a relationship. 

1 comment:

  1. I am glad you shared this! I also love the information at the end of the post. The more people we can educate, the better!