What We Need You to Understand
We first learn about rules within our own family dynamics. Society has evolved through rules and laws to maintain order. Whether we have a religious set of tenets we abide by or as citizens of a country, we have an inherent belief that all is well if we obey the rules we’ve been given, for the most part.
Loss of life is expected to occur in a certain order. Grandparents before parents and parents before children makes sense.
Growing old makes sense. If you are old enough to remember celebrity George Burns, then you have an idea of someone who defied the odds and lived to 100 years. I remember watching him on tv with a cigar always clamped between his teeth.
Child loss is out of sync with all natural or manmade laws and rules. This is not a celebrated event. Society doesn’t even appear to educate people on the realities of child loss grief.
Here is a list of the fears and realities that grieving parents live with daily:
- Fear their child will be forgotten by others
- They dread the look of boredom or eye rolling when they mention their child’s name
- The avoidance of family, friends. and work associates because they are uncomfortable with ‘your’ loss
- Repeating the same memories again and again
- Why others don’t understand you just can’t ‘move on’
- Something is wrong with you
- You’ve lost your mind
- You are stuck
- You want attention (NO)
- Your child is gone. Why can’t you let go?
- Fear of other peoples insensitive or ignorant comments
- Did you just say, “God needed another angel?”
- “You can have more children” (I still love this child)
- “You have other children that need you” (I need them too, but that doesn’t change my need for my heavenly child)
- “Life goes on. Get over it” (Yes, I was told that within one month of my own loss)
- “It just seems like he’s on vacation. I haven’t really noticed.”
- Loving your departed child more than your living children (not true even if it appears this way)
- How do I survive something I don’t comprehend?
- I just want my child back (bargaining and pleas)
- Why did I lose my child?
- I will forget my child
- His/her face
- What did I do wrong? Guilt isn’t logical
- I will forget my child
How You Can Help
- Give a grieving parent a genuine interest in listening about their grief, fears, stories
- Ask a grieving parent to tell you about their child
- Don’t expect someone to overcome a challenge you haven’t experienced directly
- Try to understand this is a journey that tests the heart and soul beyond anyone’s comprehension
- Do not compare any other loss to child loss
- You lost a pet
- You lost your grandparent
- All losses are unique and incomparable
- You don’t know what you don’t know
- Acknowledgement and honesty are appreciated
- Encourage parents to joining a grieving group (online or in the community) or therapy (with personal knowledge)
- I have to continue to live even though I don’t know how
- Trauma affects the brain, mind, body, and emotions
- Health issues such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and CFS (Chronic Fatugue Syndrome) are real
- Trust is lost
- Cortisol floods the brain, affecting cognition, memory, and focus
- Health and mental issues may be temporary or permanent
- If others know your pain, they will be more willing to share their experience with you
- There are no timetables for grief and healing
Child loss occurs to parents from miscarriage to mid-life. Age is irrelevant if you are a parent. The expectations and dreams are demolished with child loss for all surviving parents and grandparents. If you are related to a person or know someone suffering from child loss, you can help. They are living with a pain that has sucked the life force out of them.
There are many harsh realities in life, but kindness and compassion only require patience and consideration. You can’t put yourself in another persons shoes because they will not fit. Your shoes only fit you.
One of the greatest gift you can give a greying parent is your time and attention. Listen to a favourite memory or dream as if it’s the first time you’ve heard them describe those precious moments. You will be helping someone heal, even if its for a few minutes.
Every person has a story to tell. Some have a gift of making you laugh. Others make you cry. All are valuable lessons if we listen with an open heart.