With the death of our child comes such intense darkness. Most of us lose our desire to live. We know it sounds crazy, especially those of us who have other children, spouses we love deeply, careers we enjoy, and so on. But we just feel so lost and helpless when our child leaves this earth. There are no words to adequately describe the depth of our pain and darkness, confusion and turmoil.
We must go through the grieving and mourning process. We cannot go around it. And it always takes so much longer than we want it to, or think it will. I remember two years in saying, “I just want to stop hurting so bad!”. Since that time, I have had several pareavors (bereaved parents) tell me the same thing.
There are two things that I have found which help with this process. I won’t say they necessarily speed it up, but they seem to ease the pain as we move forward to a place of hope and light again.
- Don’t isolate yourself. I am not talking about doing things like going to church, or family events. I am talking about spending time with other pareavors, who are further down this road than you are.
It took me almost three years before I spent time with other bereaved moms. At first, it was because I couldn’t find anyone in my area who had lost a child and was reaching out to those of us who had just recently faced the same devastation. Then, after a while, I didn’t want to. I was a mess, and I didn’t want to be in a group of people who were a mess like me! I didn’t want to sit around crying and boohooing with others about our children dying, feeling even worse when I left than when I arrived.
As I was coming up on the three-year anniversary of Becca’s death, I made myself go to a conference I heard about in a nearby state. It was a three-hour drive, and I had to arrive the night before. Sitting in my hotel room by myself, my hotel phone rang. It was Lynn Breeden, the host of the event, asking me if I wanted to join her and her team for dinner. I was scared. I was depressed. Everything in me screamed, “RUUUUUUN!” But I found myself saying yes, and heading downstairs.
I was immediately embraced with warmth and love and acceptance. I felt like a long-lost sister! I am tearing up right now, just thinking about it.
That weekend was a huge turning point in my taking steps toward healing. I discovered it was actually comforting to be around a group of people who were a mess like me. And we didn’t just sit around and cry. We shared our children with each other, we laughed, we heard words of hope and encouragement, and yes, there were tears. But when they came, I didn’t have to explain or make excuses. Everyone there completely understood.
All that to say, don’t be afraid to connect with other pareavors, especially those who can be a guide, walking with you out of your darkness and back into a place of hope and light again. And if there are no groups in your area, there are many ways to connect online with us or others who are doing just that.
- Find a cause. Don’t let the death of your child be wasted. What was something he or she strongly believed in? Can you do something to fight their cause of death to prevent others from going through what you are going through? Did they have a favorite sport or activity that you can get behind, raising and donating money or starting a scholarship fund in his or her name?
When Becca died, I tried to find books and online groups to help pull me out of the suffocating darkness, but so much of what was out there was despair and hopelessness, telling me that life would never be the same and never be worth living. I had a hard time with that.
While I knew my life would never be the same, I also knew I had the Seed of Hope living inside of me. He was not blindsided by her death like I was. Even though it made no sense to me and the pain was beyond what I even thought was possible, I knew He had to have a plan. I was determined to be like Jacob, wrestling with Him and not letting go until I could see some sort of a blessing from this horror!
And I did! One night I woke up in the middle of the night with a book title and ideas for chapters. I got up and wrote it down, and shortly after, started on my first book. One day at a conference, I ended up in a conversation with a New York publisher who asked me to send what I had his way, and five weeks later was offered a contract for When Tragedy Strikes: Rebuilding Your Life with Hope and Healing After the Death of Your Child. Once I started writing, it was like a dam inside of me burst, as I published five books in only thirteen months.
During this time, people I didn’t even know started reaching out to me to help them with the loss of their child (and a couple of friends who suffered losses shortly after us). I realized I did not want other parents to have the same struggle I had after Becca’s death, only finding darkness and hopelessness. So, Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope) was founded.
We recently had the blessing of spending some time with Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. He was so very gracious, and thanked us for reaching out in our pain to other grieving parents. We were also able to make him aware of the Parental Bereavement Leave Act in committee right now, which is a needed amendment to the FMLA, allowing twelve weeks of unpaid leave for grieving parents (like it does when a child is born or adopted).
I have been in complete awe that in only two short years, between my books and speaking, I have been able to touch literally thousands of grieving parents with hope, after the death of their child.
I can’t even begin to describe what all of this has done for me in the healing process! And I am convinced from the dozens of parents I have talked to directly, reaching out of your pain to help someone else will do the same for you.
As I shared in the beginning, we must all go through the grieving and mourning process. We cannot go around it. And it always takes so much longer than we want it to, or think it will. I want to encourage you, if you are like I was, crying out “I just want to stop hurting so bad!”, find a way to do these two things, and you will be on your way to making that happen.
I would love for you to meet my precious friend, Pastor Lynn Breeden, whom I mentioned above. She was one of the speakers at our recent online conference (Virtual Summit for Bereaved Parents). To watch the session “Does it Ever Get Better?” submit your name and email below, and we will send you a link to unlock this bonus session from our Virtual Summit.
Expressions of Hope is written by author and speaker Laura Diehl to bring hope, light and life to those struggling in darkness after a tragedy, especially bereaved parents. If you would like more information about Laura as an author or a speaker for your next event, click here.
GPS Hope exists to bring hope to parents who have suffered the death of a child, acknowledging their unique grief with support, connection and education for them and those around them.