Why is it that so many people think they know “exactly how you feel” when child loss occurs? If I had a nickel for every time somebody told me they knew exactly how I felt after I lost my child, I’d have a stack of nickels a mile high.
Truthfully, nobody knows exactly how a grieving parent, grandparent, or sibling feels after the death of a child. I understand that people mean well, but it’s time they understand that those words shouldn’t be spoken — ever — following the loss of a child!
So, what do you say to a parent who is grieving the loss of their child? Do you mention the child’s name? Do you quote Bible scriptures and tell them everything happens for a reason and to accept this and go on? What do you say when a child loss occurs?
Have you ever wondered about the answer to this question: “What is the one thing that, if given the chance to change, you would change in your life?”
I think about this all of the time as I play different scenarios in my head. If this would happen, then that would be the result. “If I had not been born into a poor family, then this is how my life would be now.” “If I hadn’t been born terribly shy, then I could have gone on to be a super motivating public speaker.” “If I didn’t have such a large nose (that always bothered me — I have a larger than life Italian nose!) then I wouldn’t have been so shy, and I would have mingled more with people, and would have gone further in my career.” “If I hadn’t had an alcoholic mother, she might still be alive and maybe our relationship would have been better.”
And, on and on it goes……..
However, after thinking about all of the “what ifs”, the same answer always comes up at the top of the list. If I could change one thing in my life………
When our lives are touched by the loss of a child, many things happen to us that change us from the inside out. Aside from life-long pain and grief, other changes occur that we’re often afraid to mention for fear of thinking we’re the only one or that we might be wrongly judged.
Fear. The fear that accompanies child loss is overwhelming.
We fear all kinds of things — fear of the future, fear of today, fear of never being able to smile again, fear of not having enough strength and hope to go on in this life, but most of all we fear something that we’re almost hesitant to say for fear of it happening.
Note: This was written one year and three months before the death of my adult son. Little did I know how much more my grief would increase in just a few months! Since the original writing, I have written two books, Child Loss – the Heartbreak and the Hope and Hope 365.
Not a day goes by without someone making comments to me that are questioning the validity of the intensity of pain a parent feels when child loss occurs. I understand that people are trying to “get it” when it comes to losing a child, but some comments are beyond my realm of thinking.
“I loved my dog just like a child. I slept with my dog. We were companions forever. And, when my dog died, I didn’t think life could go on. But, you know what? I knew I had to move on. I got a new dog and I couldn’t be happier.”
Or this one: “When my best friend moved out of town it was just like a death. I didn’t have one other friend around, and I was so lonely I thought I was going to die.”
How about this one that I got told just a few days ago? “My mom died a few months ago. She was 86, and it took us by such surprise. I never expected this to happen.”
Before I begin this blog post, please know that this is a subject that is often not mentioned. Almost never. Yet, I feel it’s something that we need to address if we’re ever going to come to terms with our child’s death and find some semblance of peace.
I’ll use a personal experience as my reference, but ask that if you can find the strength and the words that you’ll comment at the end of the blog so that we can have some honest discussion about a very closed topic pertaining to child loss.
Let me explain what I mean by “forgiving the child that died.”
When a child dies, it feels like the life has been sucked right out of us. We struggle for months (sometimes years) to find purpose in living again. Most times, we say we’re living for others……….and we get angry. We fill up with angry grief!
When my sister Carmella died at age thirteen my parents were already separated. Her illness had taken a toll on the marriage. And, I’ll be quite honest with you by saying that it felt like our family was shipwrecked. Our faith in God was shattered. Friends seemed scarce. Family seemed even more scarce. And, my mom and dad shut down and stopped communicating with each other.
The end result of this strain and stress was a divorce. They both parted ways following my sister’s death leaving our family even more broken than it already was. Why? Why do so many marriages fall apart following the death of a child?
We’ll take some time to go over three or four reasons in this post, and you can add your own, if you’d like. It seems like 50% is the number that most authorities go with — half of the marriages survive following the death of a child, and half do not. Half is a significant number worth discussing!