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!
It’s difficult to explain, but I’ll use a personal example and maybe this phrase will make more sense to you.
When my sister Carmella died at age 13, I had no clue that she was terminally ill. My parents knew this, but I don’t think they really believed it. Do we ever really and truly believe our child is going to die?
About six months of so after my sister died, I found myself filling with an anger like I had never felt before. I couldn’t verbalize exactly how this anger felt, but I could tell it was consuming me. I was angry! I think it’s fair to say at one point I was angry with the entire world because my sister died, and most of all I was angry with her!
“How could you leave me?” “How could you go without saying good-bye?” “You must have known you were going to die, and you didn’t tell me!” “Look what happened to us as a family! Because you’re not here, we don’t even feel like a family any more!”
I didn’t “say” those words to anyone (except God), but I sure did feel them. In fact, there were times that I screamed those words as I lifted my head up to the heavens crying so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath! “How could you? How could you leave? I didn’t want you to leave!!!” Innocent anger aimed at the one who had died.
If we’re honest, many of us have experienced this same kind of anger. If a child died due to an accident such as a drowning or a four-wheeler accident, or a car accident — something that we warned our child about time and time again — in our thoughts we’ve probably lashed out crying and said, “Why? Why didn’t you listen to me? Why did you have to speed? Why did you have to drink and drive? Why did you have to drag race? Why did you walk over to the deep end of the pool when mommy told you a thousand times never to go there?”
You know what I’m saying, I’m sure. We get angry — at first it seems like our anger is directed at our child, but deep down we know our anger is directed at the terrible fact that our child died.
“My child died due to an accident.” Those are such difficult words to say. We also express this anger when there has been an illness. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner that you were sick? I could have gotten you help and you’d still be alive!” “Why didn’t you take your medicine? If you had, the seizure would never have happened, and you’d still be here!” On and on it goes. Child-directed anger spoken from a bleeding, wounded heart of love.
We don’t know how to handle the fact that our child died so we get angry — angry at everyone and everything, including our child.
It took me years and years to get past the “angry at my sister” part of grief. I was way too afraid to tell my mom and dad how I felt for fear of them misjudging me. What I didn’t know at the time was they were feeling this same type of anger because they didn’t know how else to handle this much pain either.
When I was about thirty and had become a mom myself, I remember rocking one of my children and thinking, “If you ever left me I don’t think I could forgive you.” Whoa! Where did that thought come from? I thought long and hard about that as the tears fell down my face onto the little innocent one I was holding.
What I really was thinking was, “If you die I will become so broken that I don’t know if I’ll ever find a way to live. I will be so lost that I don’t know if I’ll ever find my way again.”
In our grief, it’s normal to feel angry. Very angry. Why? Because life hurts and a natural response to pain is often anger. The only thing is there’s a problem when we hold on to anger. It never helps. Built up anger only magnifies our pain. At some point, we need to release — let go of the anger. And when we do, the tears will fall like a torrential rain. More so than we could ever imagine.
It took me many years to understand that my anger was not really directed at my sister. My anger was directed at the fact that my sister died. I didn’t want her to leave. I still wish with ever fiber in me that she had not died. When she died, a large part of my family died, and we truly were never the same again.
If my sister had been given the choice, she most assuredly would have chosen life. But, that wasn’t in the plan for her. Her life ended at 13 years and 132 days. Far, far too brief.
Your comments on this part of grief are encouraged. Sometimes I think we’re too afraid to say how we really feel because of being judged, of being made to feel like we have no faith in God, or of being made to feel like we’re crazy for having thoughts and feelings that nobody talks about.
It’s time to open the lid to grief and let the anger out. It’s time to talk and share and encourage each other as we stumble and fall and stumble some more on this path called child loss. There’s no map. There is no leader to show us the way. We each have to find our way out of the dark pit of grief. I’m convinced that as we share our thoughts we will help encourage one another.
My love to each one. We are a family — not by choice — but by circumstance. And, I’m so thankful for each and every one of you who visits this blog. I appreciate hearing from you! As we share, we grow and learn together!
PS If you don’t have a copy of the book, “Silent Grief”, you can order it now by clicking on the photo in the sidebar. In the book I’ve shared many more thoughts like this — the ones that aren’t always talked about openly. As one grieving parent said, “When I first read Silent Grief, five years after my teenage son died, I felt relief and reassurance that I was not a freak. My feelings were real, they were valid, and they were survivable.”