Following the loss of a child, we become familiar with the term “new normal.” We read it in books, and we hear the term in grief classes we attend, from our Pastor, and many times we hear the words “new normal” from our doctor. When I became a bereaved mom, the words “new normal” were words I held onto tightly. Why? Because any kind of normal following the loss of a child would feel good! When child loss take place, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — that feels normal anymore!
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 how much you miss our child!” The father remains silent with a puzzled look on his face.
How are we going to do it? How will we get through this holiday called Christmas when child loss has occurred? Our hearts are broken. We feel so desolate and alone. We don’t have the energy to face the day, and yet……….we know we want to do something other than cry the entire day. We feel a special need to do something to bring our child back into this holiday. But, how? How do we do this?
Child loss is traumatic. I will always remember the phone call I received saying, “They tried. They tried for over an hour, but they couldn’t save him.” I was in bed at the time I received that life-changing call, and I can remember letting out moans that didn’t sound human. I’ve tried to hide that moment in the recesses of my mind, but I can’t. That’s just how trauma works. Every time the phone rings in the evening, I jump. My body tenses, and I begin screaming out, “Please, God! Please don’t let this happen again!”
Every bereaved parent has a burning question that needs to be answered. That question is, “When does healing take place after child loss?.” The pain following the loss of a child is so intense, so all-consuming, so life changing, that we are constantly searching for the answer to healing. It is human instinct to do everything possible as quickly as possible to get rid of pain. We long to feel healthy and whole. We long to be able to be joyful in our living. We want nothing more than to be able to smile and enjoy life to its fullest.
When my baby boy was born still twenty-five years ago, the grief that I felt was impossible to explain to others. There were days when I could not move from my bed. Eventually, the grief seemed to soften a bit, and life felt “okay” for a time. Then year two came along, and I was knocked flat with crippling grief, only this time it was much worse and I couldn’t figure out why I had this much grief hitting me so hard again. Just recently my adult son Mike died very unexpectedly, and my heart was ripped apart. Shattered. Empty. Lost. Feeling so alone. And, knowing what is ahead in this…
For a long time, I had the misconception that the stronger my faith, the less problems I would have. I also believed with all of my heart that the stronger my faith, the more good things would come into my life. I sincerely (and wrongly) believed that if I had a super strong faith, I lived in somewhat of a protective bubble that would keep the bad stuff away.
Have you ever noticed how much people clam up and will not mention a child’s name when child loss has taken place? To bereaved parents, this is one of the biggest hurts of all. What we need — what we’re wanting so desperately — is to know that our child has not been forgotten! Hearing our child’s name spoken is the sweetest name we can ever hear!
I am a bereaved mom. And, that is a very, very, very difficult statement for me to say. Why? Because that one sentence makes child loss in my life “real.” I have suffered the pain of six miscarriages, one stillborn baby boy, and now most recently the sudden, unexpected death of my firstborn son. My heart is broken. My grief cannot be described in words — only in feelings. And, I know with complete certainty that my life has been changed forever.
I grew up going to Sunday School and reading the Bible and hearing stories about how great heaven was — no tears, no sickness, no night. It sure did sound good to me, but it didn’t sound real. In fact, a lot of nights I’d lay in bed and worry about dying. I wondered if there really was a place called heaven or if it was just a made-up story — a fairytale told to make kids be good at night and fall asleep quicker. “Dream of how happy heaven will be. Just close your eyes and think about heaven. You’ll fall asleep before you know it.” When my thirteen-year-old sister…