When our child passes through this life ahead of us, the pain is more than can be put into words. But as life around us goes on, we eventually (and I use that word very loosely) learn how to function with that piece of our heart missing.
But every event that should be worth celebrating, is now bittersweet.
Getting together for the holidays will forever be bittersweet. Yes, we can be grateful and enjoy those who are gathered there. and even have moments of fun and laughter when we are all together, but whether we say it or not, in our hearts there is an undercurrent of pain, knowing we aren’t really all together. For instance, as we watch the next generation of cousins enjoying each other, we are blatantly reminded that our child is not there with them. No matter how much we love our family and are happy to be together, we hurt because our child will always be missing. Bittersweet.
Graduations, school dances, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, birthday parties, weddings, baby showers…all of these and many more celebration events and milestones can be overshadowed with a reminder of who is not there and be bittersweet.
Our middle son will be the only one of the siblings who had all five of them present at his wedding. The other four will be missing their sister, both at the event, and in the family wedding photos. Bittersweet.
Almost one year to the day of Becca’s death, we had the blessing of a new little granddaughter coming into this world. She was given the name of Becca as a second middle name. Very bittersweet. And since then we’ve had three more grandchildren born into our family. Every day a grandchild makes his or her entrance into the world is miraculously wonderful, but we can’t help but also feel the deep sting that someone important is missing, as Becca is not there as a newly proud aunt. Bittersweet.
What I have found is that the sweeter the moment in life, the opposite is also true; the deeper the sting is in our hearts because our child isn’t with us to share that moment.
Is there anything we can do to ease that sting?
When those grief waves come, I will be one of the first ones to tell you it is important to lean into it, allowing yourself to feel the pain, like a valve allowing the pressure of grief to be released. And the fresher the loss, the more painful pressure there is that needs to go somewhere. In fact, it may be one constant release for weeks and months.
But we all come to a point somewhere down this road, where we get to make a choice. Am I going to keep that painful loss in the forefront of my life, leaning into the bitterness of my earthly loss, or am I going to find ways to lean into the sweetness of life that is still all around me?
If you are ready to move further away from the bitter, here are three suggestions to help lean into the sweet, during those bittersweet events.
- When I feel the heaviness of grief trying to come in, I will pause and think of my beautiful Becca in heaven, dancing on two legs, with Jesus. She is in the greatest celebration of all (which means she is not really missing out on much here compared to what she is experiencing). I will remind myself that this earth is not my permanent home. “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). I tell myself that at some point, life on this earth won’t matter, and we will all be united for eternity. What a glorious day that will be!
Focusing on my child’s gain, and the fact that this world is not permanent, allows me to lean away from the bitter and into the sweetness of the moment.
- It helps when the family makes sure the memory of our child is kept alive at these events. Since I have written about this before, I won’t go into it here. One is Three Ways To Help a Bereaved Parent During the Holidays and another is Five Suggestions for Bereaved Parents Who Have Been Told, “You Should Be Over This By Now” (specifically point number 4).
- Connect with other pareavors (bereaved parents) who can let you know that all of those crazy thoughts and emotions you have (that make you think you are a horrible person) are NORMAL for a parent who has lost a child.
Below are some actual quotes from grieving parents that you might be able to relate to.
It has been three years, and when I hear of the ones around me talking about doing or seeing things with their family, it still just sends me into a roller coaster.
The hardest days I’ve lived with in the past almost five years (besides the initial shock and despair) following my daughter’s murder? When her younger siblings caught up to, and then passed her in age.
Does anyone else find it hard to be happy for someone who is expecting when your heart is permanently broken??
When people ask how I am doing I just say fine, because the very few times I’ve broken down and told the truth they didn’t want to hear it!! So unless it’s a really bad day and I can’t hold the tears back, I just lie and say I’m fine!!
I can’t remember people’s names… I keep thinking that I have dementia… so many have given up on us because we don’t follow through with invitations, answer every phone call and text…
But, be sure the pareavors you connect to are not ones who are stuck and tell you that you will be also, but those who will light your path with hope that it is possible to get through this, such as the following:
I have lost 3 children to death too soon. I realized the more I wished for the day to be over, and praying the next day would be better, that I am letting my days slip away. We are not promised tomorrow so I must learn how to live … It’s our personal choice as life stops for no one.
…I remember feeling guilty the first day I didn’t feel crushing heartbreak. But then I remembered that my daughter was laughter and life and light. I began to find ways to fill my days with those…
…it has been 9 yrs since my oldest son passed in a wreck, and today I laugh again. You will laugh again, you will smile again, you will feel joy again… it’s a very black journey for most of us, but we do get thru it. It’s different for everyone, we all react differently to things, but this is one thing the most of us moms agree on, we could not have gotten thru it without each other’s help and shoulders to cry on; the wisdom of the mothers who had gone thru it before us.
…She has been gone now for longer than she lived. My life has not stood still; my grief did not hold its shape like concrete. It is a process through which we move, and we return to joy of a different kind, laced with gratitude for what we’ve had and what we still have… Choose to heal, and you will. Intend it! Then follow the path, step by step, until you’re there.
This whole bittersweet thing is part of our lives now, whether we want it to be or not. I love how this parent describes it:
Losing a child splits you in two. You are never whole again and that’s ok. You are like a great oak tree, and the loss of a child is like lightning that strikes the oak, splitting and burning the bark, leaving the strong tree still alive but damaged forever. The tree doesn’t die, it can’t; it’s needed to go on and provide life for so many others who love it and depend on the tree. Going on with your life, honors your child. You keep their memory alive…
When we do choose to move toward a measure of healing, desiring to bring laughter and joy into our lives once again, it is hard work. It is a battle. It can be exhausting. Choosing to focus on the blessings we have, and leaning into the sweet, instead of the bitter, can be extremely difficult.
But it can be done, and it is so very worth it! Here at Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope) we pray that you choose life, and to connect with us to walk with you on that journey.
The quotes in this blog were taken from Come Grieve Through My Eyes: How to Give Comfort and Support to Bereaved Parents by Taking a Glimpse into Our Hidden World. Many bereaved parents have endorsed this book, saying how much it helped them to understand their own grief.
We would like to directly offer this book to our readers for half price! It is your choice for the eBook only $3, or a signed paperback copy only $5 (plus S/H). This is limited to one per person, but you can let your friends and family know about it, to get their own copy.
For the eBook (pdf version for only $3) click here.
Expressions of Hope is written by author, speaker and singer Laura Diehl. She and her husband, Dave, are the founders of Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope). Dave and Laura travel full time in their Hope Mobile (a 38-foot motor home) to be more easily available for speaking and ministry requests, including being invited to hold one-day GPS Hope & Healing conferences.
Laura is a national keynote speaker and has also been a workshop speaker for events such as The Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents USA national conferences, along with being a guest on radio shows, podcasts and other media channels such as webinars with Open to Hope.
If you would like more information about Laura as a speaker for your next event or want more information on hosting a GPS Hope & Healing conference, click here.
GPS Hope exists to walk with grieving parents through the suffocating darkness of child-loss, guiding them 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.
- Subscribe to Laura’s YouTube channel.