I recently heard of a woman who lost her child to a terminal illness. She found out when he was around 9 years old, that he was sick, and he would not have many years left to live. Does it make it easier when you already know that your child’s life expectancy is shorter than normal? I doubt it. Only a mother who has lost a child can truly understand what another mother is going through as she grieves and mourns. For the friends around her who only want to help and want to ease the hurt, what can they do? How can any human action or human intervention soften the dagger in your heart that appears when your child dies?
Being a mother myself, every time I think about a child dying, I want to cry. I literally have to hold back the tears. I can’t even imagine the hurt and grief that this mother is feeling right now. I’m sure her friends want to do some thing for her, but what? Sending flowers or plants doesn’t seem like enough. You can pray for them, but another thing you can do is…listen. Be there for them if they need you. Understand that they will go through an array of emotions, most of which you will not understand. Do not be judgmental and tell them that they should “be over it by now”. They will never get over it. Emotions can move from grief, to fear, to resentment, to anger or to a host of other emotions.
Parents feel conflicting emotions. On the one hand, they want the pain of grief to end, but on the other hand, they want to hold on to the memory of the child who died. They are afraid to let go of the grief for fear of letting go of the child. Individual parents may grieve differently. Some may cry often, while others may just want to spend time alone.
How do we move beyond the death of a child? I have never experienced this devastating tragedy, nor am I an expert, but I believe there are no rules or “proper etiquette” for grieving. You have to find a way to get through…not over…your grief. Get strength from your spirituality or your religious beliefs…pray. Give yourself permission to cry…permission to be angry. Allow yourself to grieve and mourn because to grieve and mourn is to heal. Healing does not mean forgetting. Do what feels right for you. Don’t worry about how other people think you should be handling the situation. It’s a journey…and I imagine a long, arduous journey. It’s important that you verbalize your feelings. Talk about it or write about it in a journal. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be your first step towards healing. Start with just 5 minutes a day…then 10. The next thing you know, you are on your way through the storm. These are just some of the things to help you continue to live after the death of a child. You have to find a way to keep living…even when you don’t feel like it. Healing is around the bend. What do you think? Let’s talk about it. -dcf