Clara Hinton
Grief Speaker, Author, and Workshop Leader

"Are You Normal Yet?" -- A Mother's Response

4/19/2013 (Grief Relief)

This moving letter was sent to me by a mother whose son had died 18 months ago.  She got a call from a friend who wanted to go out with her, BUT the defining question was, “Are you normal yet?”  This is the response given by the mother.  Pay close attention to her words.  She shares a lot of wisdom for those parents who are grieving the loss of a child, as well as for those who want to know what to say to grieving parents.  Sincerely, Clara Hinton 


“I awoke this morning feeling so great.  It’s been a year and a half since my 18-year-old son died, and I can finally say that I’ve worked through the grief and I am back to normal.  Thank you to everyone that told me to take all the time I needed.  Time certainly does heal all wounds.  Now, maybe you can tolerate being my friend again as I am now the same person as I was before my son died.


And, you were right to tell me that Danny is in a better place, and that I must feel good knowing that he is not suffering any more.  I do hope your children go to that better place as soon as possible so you, too, can experience such comforting thoughts. 


And, thank you for telling me that you know just how I feel as many of you (my friends) have experienced loss.  Loss of parents, grandparents, and even pets.  At first I felt so alone and my pain so minimized by your words, but after time and getting over the initial year-long shock, I realize that the loss of a child is no more profound or devastating than that of your beloved pet.  Thank you for setting me straight and making me realize that loss is loss.  And, that someone who loves their pet dearly suffers the same devastation as that of a parent who loses a child.


On a couple of occasions over the past 18 months I have shared with some the overwhelming sadness in my heart, and all-over physical pain that can threaten at any given time to debilitate me.  I was criticized and told that these feelings were not okay.  I was informed that Danny didn’t want me to be in pain and that he would be very unhappy if he knew the extent of my suffering.  Thank you for that admonishment, as of course you do know better than I. 


I already suffer with the guilt of having failed to keep my son safe and healthy while he was alive.  I didn’t realize that I could continue to fail my child even after death.  I really appreciate the added guilt that I was perhaps making my son unhappy even in heaven. 


Oh, and as so many of you have pointed out, at least I have other children.  Yes, loving my other children and tending to their needs sure makes losing Danny so much easier to handle.  Whenever I expressed any upset at the hurtful, insensitive support, I was quickly told I should appreciate the fact that people mean well and that sometimes they just don’t know what to say.  Thank you for pointing this out.  I now realize that along with my heavy burden of grief, I must also make sure that I smile and say ‘thank you’ no matter what is said.  The grieving parent must not ever upset the well-intentioned by being honest!


I think it’s about time grieving parents tell the truth!!  We don’t need to be bullied into being okay with whatever is being said just because it is well-intentioned.  There is rampant grief illiteracy among the vast majority of people.  The only ones who can bring about change are the grieving parents, so let’s start by being honest about cruel, hurtful, minimizing platitudes.  We can do so kindly and tactfully.  I appreciate that you care and that you mean well.  Your support means a lot to me.  Your words, however, are painful to hear.  Let me share with you what would be helpful.


What grieving parents would appreciate:


  1.  Ask about our child – anything is fine.  Don’t act like he never existed.  Trust me, you may think you are reminding us of our pain, but you’re not.  Our pain is always there.
  2. Share a memory you have of my child. 
  3. Send me flowers on his birthday or his death day.  Those are hard, hard days.
  4. Grieve with us.  Listen to us.  And, most of all be willing to learn.  We don’t need advice.  Again – we do not need advice.  Just remember him.
  5. Know that I am forever changed, and accept that fact.  I will never be just like I was before.  This grief is different than any other.  We know because we have lost pets, parents, and grandparents, uncles, aunts, and even spouses and siblings. 


Our hope and our task are to learn to balance the pain and incorporate it into our lives.  In order to survive it at all, the grief must become part of who we are forever.”



Maureen McGowan

Bereaved Mother  


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