This is a longing of every parent, including those whose children have a mental illness. Sadly, many families of the mentally ill discover an inability of people to see past their child’s illness. In times of crisis, silence often replaces meals and flowers; misguided comments often cloak words of comfort.
Well-intended family members and friends don’t realize how much pain their awkwardness and verbal processing bring to hurting families. It should come as no surprise that the phrase, “We always knew something like this was going to happen,” is not comforting to anyone, regardless of how true it may be.
What parents and family members really desire is for you to see their child as you see other children. You want specifics?
Notice the good in their kid.
Do you look at children suffering with cancer and only talk about the negative symptoms you see the cancer producing? No, you look at these children and talk about how sad it is that cancer is hurting some great kids. It should be the same with children who suffer with mental illness. These children may deal with their hurt in awkward ways, but it doesn’t discredit their good traits.
I'd like you to read a message posted by my friend after her son's tragic death. Her pain-filled words will help you see the value of noticing the person behind the illness:
My heart is broken, I don’t know if it will ever be the same again. I am numb, I am shattered, I am not ready for this. I didn’t want to post anything, I wasn’t ready to share, but rumors are spreading. My son had many battles to fight and unfortunately he lost.
People that have never had to live with a mental illness cannot understand the choices that he made, they just judge. They can’t see the person behind the illness.
Brandon was an amazing person with a lot to give this world. He was the first one to defend the underdog. He was the most loyal friend anyone could ask for. He would do anything for anyone, no questions asked. He made a lot of wrong decisions, but he never quit trying to better himself. He could make a person laugh and find joy in any situation. Brandon has struggled for years, he is …was Bipolar. He hated taking the medications prescribed. He self-medicated which led to family strife, jail ,and homelessness but we never gave up hope that he could win the battle. Recently, he had moved back home and gone through rehab. We saw the old Brandon again; I let myself believe that I had my little boy with the cute smile back. Sam and Ciara had a chance to have a real relationship with their big brother.
Sadly, Brandon relapsed and we found him Wednesday morning. I want him to be remembered for the wonderful son, brother, cousin, nephew and friend that he was, not just an addict. He was so much more.