The new year is now upon us. For most people, anything that is new evokes a measure of excitement with possibilities, especially a new year.
But for those who have had to face the darkness of the death of their child, new can bring almost a panicked feeling, as if we are leaving our child behind. This especially applies to the new year for those who lost their child within the past year.
My daughter, Becca, died on October 12, 2011. I remember feeling almost terrified that I couldn’t stop 2012 from coming, which meant I would no longer be in the same year I last shared with my daughter. It felt like another level of shutting the door on her life that I just wasn’t going to let happen. I know I don’t have to explain it to those who have lost a child, and it really can’t be explained to those who have not.
Since that time, I have come to learn that the word new doesn’t have to fill our hearts with dread and sadness. But that doesn’t mean we don’t struggle going into a new year. And as we go along, some years can be harder than others, for no apparent reason.
I wanted to share some things that a new year brings to bereaved parents, so that we can know that it isn’t just us, but that the same things affect many of us who have had a child die. It also gives an opportunity for those around us to have a better understanding of what it means for a bereaved parent to go into a new year without our child.
1. We are reminded of our intense need for others to talk about our child
2. We find ourselves with a new resolve to not leave our child behind and to find ways to honor their life
3. We renew our desperate desire for feeling less pain and sadness in our grief
Talking About Our Child
Many people around us seem to think if they bring up our deceased child that it will remind us of our loss, resulting in pain and maybe even tears.
News flash: We are already thinking of our child, and we are still hurting deeply! So, if someone mentions our child, it does just the opposite; it is a gift we are being given that our child has not been forgotten.
The other side of that is not understanding why people get freaked out when we talk about our child. As a parent, just because our child isn’t around us, doesn’t mean we don’t talk about them. It is the same for those of us whose child has died. Our children have just traveled to a place further away than most children who might take a trip. And they won’t be returning to us here; we will be going to meet them some day. But they still exist, they are still deeply loved, and they will remain in our hearts and minds until we are with them again.
The Need to Honor the Life of Our Child
When our child dies, for the first couple of years at least, our hearts are fighting to accept what our minds know. That causes us to be almost fixated on their death, which people around us usually think is wrong and unhealthy.
But the only way we can get through the darkness of our suffocating grief is to lean into it, feeling the pain of it over and over again, as our heart and soul tries to convince our minds that it just isn’t true. The pain of accepting that the death of our child is a reality is just too painful to deal with, so it is an internal struggle that affects us in every area, including mentally and physically. The internal bleeding of our souls takes a long time to be stitched up, so we can begin what would be termed as the “healing process.” (Although we never really heal. It is more like a chronic pain that is always with us. We just learn how to manage it over the years.)
And in that process, we realize we don’t want their death to be what others remember about our child, but we want to find a way that honors the fact that our child lived. (If you would like some ideas on ways to do this, see below.)
Getting Past the Intense Pain and Darkness
Here is where we must be honest with ourselves in whether we want to get past this part of our grief. As we know, there are so many reasons (that won’t make sense to those who have not lost a child) that deep down, cause us to be afraid to take steps toward hope, light, and living a life of purpose and fulfillment. The two most common reasons are that we feel guilty for even wanting to enjoy life again, and we are afraid that we are leaving our child behind by moving forward.
And to help you with that, I would like to give some suggestions to move you in the direction of seeing things with a slightly different view.
1. We aren’t just facing a new year, but it is a new month. And a new month often brings new weather. And because it is January, it means we are moving toward spring! Those of us who are in the cold northern states truly appreciate this. Yes, I understand that winter has just begun, and I know how winter makes everything look so dead (depending on where we live), and it can really affect our mood. However, it is just a season, and new life always returns, no matter how harsh or how long the winter has been.
So, it is a wonderful reminder that no matter how long or how deep into darkness our grief has taken us, spring IS coming at some point, with new life and new hope.
2. A new year brings new opportunities. Some of you may not see that as a good thing, but it does bring new opportunities to do something different that will possibly take some of the sting away. If you know it is going to be difficult, ask yourself what you can do differently that will help. Maybe you can change the focus from dwelling on your painful loss to thinking about your child’s gain and do what you can to picture them in heaven and what it is like for them.
When you have to go to an event you are dreading, what can you do to bring your child with you and have others celebrate their life with you for a moment? (Here is a blog I wrote with specific ideas on how to do that.)
So, it does bring new opportunities to move toward a healing that allows you to learn how to live in hope, light, and even move toward having meaning and purpose again. You may think that is impossible, but those of us who thought it was impossible for us as well are here to encourage you.
3. Sometimes we dread going forward, because we feel like it is taking us further away from our child who has left this earth. I have shared this before, but it is worth repeating. God graciously pointed out to me once (when I was feeling that way) that I am not getting further away from Becca, but I am getting closer to her. Each day I am here brings me one day closer to being reunited with her again!
So, a new year brings us that much closer to seeing our children again. Hoorah!!!!
New is a word that can mean hope.
A new year can bring new hope, new light, new life and new possibilities.
How about you? Do you want to make 2019 a year where you move away from fear and move into peace and a greater measure of healing for your shattered heart? If so, then let’s do this together!
If you would like a list of ideas on how to honor the life of your child, just let us know and we will be happy to send it your way.
GPS Hope exists to walk with grieving parents through the suffocating darkness of child-loss to a place of hope, light and purpose.
We also support families, friends and coworkers who want to know how to support these parents both short and long-term.
- If you are a bereaved parent, we encourage you to connect with us on Facebook.
- If you are not a bereaved parent but want to support those who are, or want to follow us as we give hope to these precious parents, please connect with us at Friends of GPS Hope on Facebook.
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