“To tell or not to tell?” is not the question.
“When and how to tell?” is the question.
Am I talking in riddles? – not really; all I am doing is expressing my dilemma. Nine and a half years along the line of loss, one thing which has not become markedly easier (as a bereaved parent) is how to introduce the topic of your lost child, when you are thrown into the company of a new group of people, whether in the workplace, or socially.
This year I have had two job changes. In the summer, I took what turned out to be a temporary assignment and within a couple of weeks, it was appropriate for me to share what happened to James with my new colleagues, largely because of a conversation about loss; it felt right at the time.
However, then I found there was a marked difference in how I was treated. Suddenly, people were treading on eggshells around me and there was a kind of sympathetic deference directed towards me which became quite uncomfortable.
I was not in post long enough to discover if this would have lessened over time.
I have now been in my new permanent job for a month, and here is the other side of the coin; ….not telling people *yet* means that James feels like ‘my guilty secret’ or taboo subject … and I feel awkward for not sharing him. But the difficulty lies in gauging when is a good time to share my story, and how then, am I going to cope with the well-meant responses of my colleagues?
I just know, that however gently and carefully I tell the story, it will cause a reactive response for which I need to be prepared. How to choose the right time to share?
In some ways, I must say it is quite liberating not to be pre-judged, or made allowances for, because I have this particular ‘tragic’ status. In the early days of grief I felt that my face shouted my loss, and now…. I have the confidence to know I am not visibly ‘marked’.
I am accepted simply as ‘Andrea’, not as ‘Andrea, that poor lady who lost her son’.
The sympathy is unavoidable but not helpful!
I do not generally ask for feedback to my blog but in this particular instance I would like to know how other bereaved parents manage to cross this particular hurdle…. how to decide the right time to impart something that you know others will find difficult… and how to deal with your own reaction?