Instead of handing us a brochure describing the five stages of grief when we leave the hospital without our child- our baby, we should be assigned a "Grieving Mother's Assistant (GMA)." I haven't exactly figured out who would be in charge of paying these individuals. Sadly, since any mother may someday have the potential need for a GMA, perhaps everyone should just take turns- similar to jury duty.
The mission of said "Grieving Mother Assistants" would be to protect the mother from the seemingly unaware, insensitive and highly irritating public. When these mother's experience certain amounts of stress, triggers or anything unexpected, they can react in a variety of ways- many of which are potentially harmful to those in the surrounding community. The public may be largely unaware of the mother's grief and potential triggers, therefore the situation needs to be handled with extreme care. Normally, intense training would be required for such a volatile and sensitive situation. However, each mother is different, as is her grief, so unfortunately, most of the training will have to be completed on the job.
Duties of "GMAs" would include:
1. The Call Ahead: Calling all restaurants, stores, coffee shops, malls, doctor’s offices, etc before the mother arrives to ensure all children similar to the same age and sex of her Angel are removed from view. This includes any equipment that belongs to said children (i.e. strollers, diapers bags, hair bows, bottles, etc.). These children and their things are likely to cause an increase in sadness for the mother. Also, all bad parents (I don't care what anyone says- there are bad parents out there) should be removed. Any parent complaining about their child, spending more time playing with their damn cell phone than talking to their child or parent dragging their upset child around by their arm is included. These parents are likely to induce a fit of rage in the grieving mother. While the mother may be able to stay composed during her stay at the restaurant or store, she will surely have increased stress later- which could be displayed in a variety of ways, many of which could be harmful or uncomfortable for other people. All employees should be informed of mother’s state of mind and instructed not to make meaningless small talk or to ask “How’s your day going so far?” or “Doing anything fun this weekend?” unless they are prepared for the truth- which they probably can’t handle.
2. Prescreening of TV shows, movies, facebook, email and Prelistening to radio: These things are disasters waiting to happen. At any moment, a picture or video may pop up that reminds the mother that her child is not with her and never will be again. Haunting memories may surface after seeing certain medical or police shows- even the news should be previewed. Facebook and email are full of happy people with happy, healthy, alive babies and children. Everyone has smiling faces and chubby, adorable babies. While the mothers are painfully aware that life continues to go on, they don't need to necessarily be reminded of it. The radio- this can get a little tricky... while the mother may find comfort in a certain song one day, the next day it may cause uncontrollable sobbing. Extreme caution should be taken in song previewing.
3. Mail screening: All diaper coupons, Parenting magazines, Babies R Us ads & Target Baby ads should be immediately placed in the garage can- on the bottom is preferable. All mail from the hospital, funeral home & insurance company should be examined for potentially hurtful mistakes or explanations. Anything that needs to be acknowledged or completed by the mother should be presented at an appropriate time. For example, if an Explanation of Benefits arrives from the insurance company the day before Christmas showing all the services the child received and their cost, the document should be put away until after the holiday. Which brings us to...
4. Holiday Management: Depending on the time year that the child passes, the newly grieving mother could be immediately bombarded with holidays. It is the duty of the GMA to prescreen all holiday requests and pass along only the necessary ones to the mother. The Assistant should attempt to cancel any upcoming holiday. If this is not possible, the following should be done to ensure the mother experiences as little stress as possible. It should be made clear that the mother is incapable of making decisions- those should be taken care of by others. Also, it should be known that the mother cannot be given any sort of responsibility- she just doesn't care enough to follow through. It should be explained to others that the mother is in no way required to enjoy the holiday or it's required activities and the mother is exempt for any tradition, no questions asked. All gift purchases, wrapping, card sending should be done by the Assistant.
5. Household Duties: This is includes laundry (yes, that means putting away too), cleaning (and not half-assed), grocery shopping, meal planning, preparing & clean-up, bill paying. Also to include, returning of phone calls, emails & letters (yes, this means the 14 million thank you notes that need to be completed). Arrangements for any home maintenance need to be handled by GMA. GMA must double check with mother before touching or moving anything that belongs to the Angel, or reminds the mother of her Angel. Depending on the mother and her mood of the day, she may have different feelings regarding these items. GMA must also find a home for the many vases and Tupperware containers now in the mother's possession.
6. Mediator: The mother very possibly has a low threshold and tolerance for bullshit. Therefore, it is necessary for the GMA to run interference as soon as a problem is sensed. This may require a lot of negotiation skill on the part of the GMA. The GMA must be quick and convincing in order to make sure no one interferes with whatever activity the mother is trying to complete. It must be understood that doing anything besides laying in bed requires a great amount of motivation and energy from the mother, therefore, her task must be free of all road blocks. This includes D-Bags at Walgreens that won't print pictures of the Angel without a release but don't tell you until you go to pick them up, idiots in charge of replacing mold covered kitchen flooring, stupid pharmacy techs that forget to put labels on Epi-pens (making them invalid at a ECFE school) and online grocery store companies that incorrectly report allergy information. In order to ensure the GMA is capable of this responsibility, they should be able to predict the future.
7. Counseling: The grieving mother may want to talk. Talk about her baby, her pain, her happy memories, her sad & terrifying memories. She may want someone to complain to or scream at. The GMA should be prepared to hear conflicting and hypocritical feelings as well as repetitive stories. Also, the GMA should be careful to not say idiotic things like, “The Angel is in a better place,” “at least Angel isn’t suffering anymore,” or “when do you think you’ll feel up to ____.” While the mother may take some comfort in these statements at some point, there is no telling when this time will be. These statements do not acknowledge the mother’s overwhelming grief and do not assure mother- of anything…
Other GMA requirements include:
- Creativity: Not only will creativity be required to handle the variety of stressful situations a grieving mother experiences, but the mother may want ways to memorialize her Angel. However, because the mother is no longer able to think or function like a normal adult, they may be incapable of this process. The ability to make scrapbooks, blankets or anything honoring the Angel would be greatly appreciated.
- Possession of backpack or extremely large fanny pack (fanny pack preferred for amusement of mother): GMA must have the ability to provide mother with any of the following at a moment’s notice- Kleenex, picture or video of Angel, songs to comfort mother (see #2), Advil, wine, Valium, Chocolate, an object belonging to Angel (stuffed animal, blanket), large sunglasses to cover big bags under eyes, food (mother mostly likely isn't eating- forced feedings may become necessary), bail money (there is not telling when the mother may lose it), earplugs, etc.
- Ability to engineer time machine: the mother will most certainly want to return to the time before GMA was necessary; a time when their Angel was still there to hold, smell and kiss. A time when they looked forward to getting out of bed because their baby was still there to love on. A time when life made sense.
Should a GMA not be available to mother at the time she leaves the hospital or is permanently separated from her child, do not allow mother to leave hospital carrying only a plastic bag with some information on grief and photographers that will take beautiful, amazing pictures of the last time your family was together (especially when the mother repeatedly asked for said photographer and was told numerous times, said photographer did not exist…). Do not place the child’s belongings- all that the mother has left of the child she grew under her heart for nine months- in a plastic bag. This is sad, pathetic and slightly disrespectful to the precious beautiful life that was just lost.
Should a GMA not be available to a mother when she arrives home and is forced into the reality of her “new life” please provide, at the minimum, a shirt that reads, “My baby died. Do exactly what I want, when I want it, and no one gets hurt- or gets hurt too badly.”
Is this too much to ask?! I really don’t think so….