Nobody ever plans on child loss becoming part of their life, yet the sad fact is that every day children die and parents are left grieving the loss of their child. This journey of grief is not an easy one. In fact, this is the most difficult path a parent will ever walk. The journey is long, lasting a lifetime. There’s no way to get off of this road. It is now the road that must be traveled every day for as long as a parent of child loss remains alive.
My life has been turned upside down and inside out by child loss and like so many others I was naïve enough to think it wouldn’t happen. Yet, it did. My son was snatched away without warning and now there are only memories to fill the huge hole that has been left in the center of my heart and soul.
I don’t remember much about holidays as a kid, but I do remember the first Father’s Day in our home after my young sister Carmella died. My dad was never the touchy-feely type of dad. In fact, getting a hug from him was a very rare thing. I can remember two times when I got a hug from him. He hugged me at my wedding, and he hugged me when I was pregnant with my first child.
This particular Father’s Day was going to be rough. As a kid of sixteen I knew it. I saw how terrible Mother’s Day was for my mom, so I was already bracing myself for what the day would be like for my dad. As kids we were taught that home-made things were always better than store bought. I know part of the reason was we were dirt poor. The other reason is that it’s true. Gifts from the heart mean so much more than something you can go buy at a store.
When child loss occurs, there is often chaos within the family unit. Nobody knows what to do or say. Everybody knows that each person is suffering. But, no words are spoken. Why? How do you even begin to communicate within a family when everybody is in shock and grief? This radical miscommunication often leads to the breakdown of a family and that’s just what we want to guard against.
If you have suffered the loss of a child, then you know that men and women grieve very differently. This difference between the way we grieve has caused much additional pain to a couple already feeling alone, lost, and often without hope. So many times, a woman will shout out in despair to the father of her child saying, “You don’t care about this loss! You don’t show any emotions at all. I need you to hold me, to cry with me, and to tell me howmuch you miss our child!” The father remains silent with a puzzled look on his face.
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!