At first it was really difficult for me to respond. I didn't know what the hell to do either! And there's really nothing you can say either. It happened, it hurts like hell, we're so numb that we don't even register half of what's going on, there's nothing anyone can say.
Having said that, it was nice to know people were around. We received at least 100 cards, and just knowing that people 'had us in their thoughts' was strangely comforting.
What did help
We were overwhelmed by the support we received from people (as was mentioned in this Canberra Times article). It has always been hard for me to ask for help (even harder for Anthony I think), so I never knew the answer to 'what can I do?'.
Some people took matters into their own hands, and these were the things we found most helpful:
- Meals: a couple of people made, bought or organised meals for us. Cooking was the last thing I wanted to do, and it was important to keep eating nutritious (or comforting) foods. A couple of friends also made us cakes and slices, which were handy to have around, as there were always people dropping in.
- Groceries: Anthony's brothers were the best at this. They would come over with a bag of groceries (simple things to cook like pasta or stuff to feed the people that were visiting), or were happy to pop out for milk or toilet paper or anything we had run out of.
- Chores: Now many of you know I'm not the world's best housekeeper, so not only did I have to deal with the embarrassment of having people come into my dirty, messy house, but I also had to deal with them cleaning bits of it. But it was helpful to have someone do the dishes or fold the washing. I was even less inclined to do it than normal.
- Entertaining Oliver: Some of our friends and family took Oliver for outings. This was great for him because he got some "normal time", but also good for us because we had some time for talking/grieving without having to 'put on a brave face' for him.
- Messages: People kept leaving little messages for me on Facebook, or sending emails. These were great as I didn't have to talk to anyone if I didn't want to, but I didn't feel isolated.
But what do we talk about??
I have a feeling (and it may be paranoia) that a few people avoided (or are still avoiding) us because they just don't know what to talk about. That's OK, I understand it would be difficult, and I'm not offended or particularly upset about it). The answer to that is everything. It was great to hear about things other than what was going on at our place, but it was also great to talk about Sam and what was happening too. The thing with that is, I guess, that we were able to guide the conversation around those topics. I don't mind answering questions or talking about Sam. In fact I'd rather that than sit with someone who looks uncomfortable and obviously wants to ask a question. So it was nice to sit with people and have real conversations that covered everything, including memories of Sam and stuff about his death, but also including other topics.
The sticky subject of money
We received financial support (in the form of donations) from lots of people. This was perhaps the hardest part for me, but also the most helpful.
Few of us plan for funeral expenses, but saving for your child's funeral is not something that ever crosses your mind. We're not broke, but we do have a fairly low income comparatively, and this expense was overwhelming.
When the funeral director suggested we ask for donations to cover expenses, I was a little worried. I am a proud person, and as I have already mentioned, I don't like asking for help. An appeal so public seemed horrific!
But he assured us that many people do it, and the people I have spoken to since say that it was actually a good way for them to feel like they were helping us. And it did really help to not have to worry about money when we had much bigger issues facing us.
So thank you again to all those people that helped us in any way. I am still writing thank you cards (I know some people have said 'it's not necessary' but it's important for me to do it), and hope that I don't forget anyone.