“Comparing the pain of our grief does no one any good. However, I think it is important to validate the fact that parents who have lost a child through death, have a weight that is extremely heavy…heavier than most will experience in this life.”
That is a quote from my newly released book Come Grieve Through Our Eyes: How to Give Comfort and Support to Bereaved Parents by Taking a Glimpse Into Our Hidden Dark World of Grief. I would like to use this blog to share with you a few short portions from this book.
The subject of death itself can be heavy, and the death of one’s child, no matter the age, is considered by most experts to be one of, if not the heaviest and darkest grief to be faced. I am not calling attention to this information to diminish the grief of other forms of loss. This is an area that probably causes the most tension with those who have not lost a child, but have experienced a significant loss in their lives.
As a parent who has experienced this horrific event, I found myself trying to think of a word to describe what I felt, and the only thing that came to me is death—the pain of my own death. A part of us dies along with our child.
This got me thinking. A widow or widower is someone who has lost their spouse; an orphan is someone who has lost their parents. Since it is acknowledged that losing a child is the worst event a person can go through in life, then why isn’t there a word for us?
I have thought and prayed long and hard on this. One day I sat down and listed all the words possible for parents, grief, bereaved, children, etc. to see what I could put together as a word for a grieving or bereaved parent.
That is how I made the word being introduced in this book: PAREAVOR. A pareavor is a parent who has lost a child through death. How did I come up with this?
“Pa” comes from the word parent: a person who is a father or mother; a person who has a child (Merriam-Webster)
“Reave” comes from the word bereave. The meaning of the actual word “reave” (which the word bereave comes from) is: to plunder or rob, to deprive one of, to seize, to carry or tear away (Merriam-Webster).
“Or”: indicating a person who does something (Wiktionary)
This sounds like a pretty good description of what happens when a child dies, no matter the age of the child. So a “pareavor” is a parent who has been deprived of their child who was seized and torn away from them through death.
You will find pareavor being used throughout the book. It might feel a bit awkward at first, but I believe it won’t take long for it to become a natural word that makes sense and you will understand its usefulness and need. (It is definitely easier than constantly saying, “a person who has lost their child”, or “a grieving parent”, or “a bereaved parent.” Pareavors. That is who we are.
How Does it Feel to Lose a Child?
Some people (myself included) describe the death of a child like an amputation. The daughter we lost at age 29 lived 26 of those years with only one leg. It was amputated when she was only three years old, due to bone cancer. So we have experience with what living with an amputation is like.
You have to learn how to live and function with a part of you missing. It can be done. But unless you have had to learn how to live day-to-day with an amputation, you don’t realize or understand the many things in life it affects.
For example, there was the issue of our daughter’s shoes. She had a prosthesis, which helped her live a more normal life growing up. Her right foot would grow, but the left foot stayed the same size until she outgrew the actual leg and a new one had to be made. What size shoe do you buy when your child literally has two different size feet, since one grows and the other does not? How badly will it make her stumble, having one shoe a size too big on one foot?
To go swimming, she would have to take off her fake leg and hop on her one real leg to get into the pool as quickly as possible, in order to keep from being stared at so much. Her towel would be used to cover up her fake leg lying on the ground or lounge chair. And when she was done, she would hop quickly on her one leg from the pool back to her fake leg (which was scary to watch, knowing how slippery those surfaces could be) dry off her stump, and put her leg on without calling too much attention to herself.
These are just a couple of examples of how different our lives were, raising a child with an amputation.
Yes, an amputation is a good description to help people understand what it is like to lose a child through death. But there is another one that actually seems even better to me.
It is like a hole in the heart that cannot heal. This is the closest true description of child loss that I have heard. It affects everything you do in the very core of your being. I don’t even know how to elaborate on this. Just take whatever that means to you, and then intensify it about 100 times.
So how does it feel to lose a child? All of us who have been hurled into a life-long membership in this unwanted club hope and pray you never have to find out.
Does Time Heal Our Pain?
“Time does not heal the pain of child loss. Time simply puts distance between our initial shock and pain, and where we are now. Time adds fear to the bereaved parent’s life; fear that we will forget our child’s voice, forget our child’s smell, forget the details of our child’s face, forget what it felt like to hold our child. No, time does not heal the pain of child loss. Our healing will come when we see our child again in heaven, and so we cling tightly to that hope as we pass through the long, dark valley of time.” – Anonymous
Time alone does not heal our shattered hearts. It’s not time that heals, but what you do in that time. In the cemetery where Becca is buried, there is a section of babies and infants that were born in the 70’s and 80’s. Almost half of those graves continue to have fresh decorations, 40 years later.
Time…I hated the thought of hitting the 5 year mark, the 10 year mark…and would feel a stabbing pain that could take my breath away at the thought of being 20 years “away” from Becca. How will I be able to live, getting farther and farther away from her? (Something many other bereaved parents say and feel as well.)
God so graciously showed me something about my thought in this area of “time,” to change my perspective. I am not getting farther away from Becca, I am getting closer to her. Each day I remain on this earth is a day I am closer to my own departure, which means I am actually getting closer to her, not farther away!
Perspective can change everything. But it cannot be “forced” on a person. It can only be gently presented as a thought, allowing those in deep grief to take it and make the change in how they see it.
Come Grieve Through Our Eyes has had a strong favorable response, from both those who have lost a child (and now have a tool to put in the hands of those around them) and those who want insight to know how to be there for someone who has lost a child.
Please pass this information along to anyone you know who might also benefit from this book.
To find out more about Come Grieve Through Our Eyes: How to Give Comfort and Support to Bereaved Parents by Taking a Glimpse Into Our Hidden Dark World of Grief, click here.
We also have a ministry for pareavors: GPS Hope (Grieving Parents Sharing Hope) and can be found at www.gpshope.org.