The most significant event in my life and that of my immediate family, was May 24, 1987. This was the day that our beloved baby brother, Ferenc Tibor Végh, who was only 16 years old, was taken from us in a car accident. It shocked all of us and took each of us in varied turns. None of us have ever quite gotten over it and I doubt anyone else, who faces such an ordeal has been able to either. You do move on because you have to but the way you carry the memory depends on your ability to persevere through the obstacles life places on you. None of us are meant to live in Shangri-la. We all have tests of “faith,” or will. Our level of emotional intelligence will have us either survive or give up.
You have to survive though, you have to realize this because there are others who will come into your family over the years. We have added 5 nieces and nephews and now have four grandchildren and two more on the way. It is important that your descendants know about the person who has passed. That you keep this loved one’s memory alive by teaching them who he was and what he meant to your family. If you don’t, than their life meant nothing. If you don’t grow as a person than you have lost everything and your family has lost more than a child.
No child hopes that their family will fall apart and never find an ability to repair itself. That is not the values you raised your children on and they would hope you would continue instilling these principles. A positive and healthy family legacy must continue, even in the face of your darkest moments. And if your family has not been healthy and has been negative, it is times like these where you can become better people, to honor the memory of your loved one. Remembering in a happy way, is the best way to go forward.
It has been 27 years since the passing of my brother. I have kept his photo in my front room this entire time. Anytime someone sees it, they ask who he was and then I am able to tell a story about his life. At first it brought many tears and many questions when I saw it there in front of me on a daily basis. Now it brings a smile to my face as I think about what a good child he was. It reminds me to be a good person for him. It also reminds me that life is not one to take for granted. Any day your life could change for the good or the bad.
Suggestions for family and friends, when it has just happened:
1. If you know someone who has just lost a child, surround them with support. Make sure they have food, transportation, offer to help make the arrangements.
2. Keep in touch with them as much as possible throughout the days and weeks ahead. Watch out for signs of not getting better emotionally. Do they talk about death or joining their loved on? Make sure to give them suicide hotline numbers, call their spiritual leader and ask for help or to share with them your concerns. Create a family/friend check-in schedule so that they are never alone. If no spiritual leader is involved, talk to the head of the family and let them know your concerns. You can contact a hotline as well and ask for help. In a worse case scenario, you can always call the police and ask that they check up on the family. (not 911 unless it is an emergency)
3. Stop by unannounced with food or a favorite dessert or something to drink. During the mourning process people can easily dehydrate from their emotions. If they are on medication to sleep, this can also make them lose track of time or needs. Check the medicine bottle to make sure they are using the required dosage. It will have the date it was purchased and the quantity in it. People will say they want to be left alone but they shouldn’t be. Even if you just stay long enough to see how things are. If the kitchen has not been cleaned, start washing the dishes. You can mow the grass, bring in the mail, take out the trash. Tell them you will give them their space but you are just going to help out with some odds and ends, so they don’t need to worry about it. (Leave the child’s room alone though).
4. Stop by for things you normally did together – hobbies, watching sports, taking other kids to school/activities, work-out routines. It is important that people get out of their house when they are ready. Nature is the best healing method, next to animals. Go for a walk with a family member. Ask them if they’d like to go somewhere. Maybe there is a horse ranch nearby that would allow the public to visit.
5. As time passes, don’t tell them they should get over it or to “move on.” Everyone grieves in their own timeline. Sometimes people are getting stronger but they still talk about it and they need to. Tears are healthy as it lets the emotions loose and eases somatic distress in the long run.
6. As the months progress, continue to keep in touch for at least a year. Back off as you see that things seem to be returning to a daily routine but still keep in communication as much as you can. A house can seem normal but it isn’t. Over time, people will clean their houses to cope or do outside chores but their minds are not necessarily strong yet.
7. Don’t give advice unless it is to say, do the best you can or some other positive message.
8. Don’t push religion on the family!!!! They are going through enough as it is. If they ask because they have been brought to question life, answer but don’t offer.
9. If a person speaks of seeing their loved one, even when they are very religious, don’t see this as a bad thing. This can be the most comforting to families – having dreams of the loved one or seeing them and talking to them. I have spoken to people who still get visited (on occasion) by the loved one 30 years later. If they don’t get a visit or a dream, don’t be discouraged by this either. Even Harry Houdini never came back to visit his wife and they made a pact that they would.
Friendship and family, when you love and support them unconditionally, help get people through these times and will make your relationship with them even stronger.