A point of frustration for many bereaved parents after child loss is feeling like we are being judged for still missing our children.
There are some people around us who think we should be “moving on” or be “over it” by now, as if the death of our child is like a bad cold. Yes, the death of our child was an event, a moment in time. But that moment has disfigured us for the rest of our lives.
Having one’s child die is more than something bad that happened a few weeks ago, or months ago, or even years ago. The death of our child is a continual occurrence. Every morning when we wake up, at some point the realization hits us that our child is no longer here and will not be part of our day. It can feel like they died all over again.
Every event can feel like another death of our child.
- Getting rid of a car that our child rode in can be agonizing because we will no longer have that car which attaches us to those memories.
- There are meals we can no longer make (or eat) because it is too painful to be reminded that our child is not there to share their favorite food with us.
- Seeing a pair of shoes displayed in a store can send us bolting to the car in tears, realizing that we will never again buy our child another pair for a sport they were in or for special occasions.
- Hearing a certain song come on the radio can force us to the side of the road, unable to drive because we can’t see through our tears, even after we quickly turned it off.
- Any and every event we attend (or are even invited to) is a reminder of who is missing. It can feel brutal seeing others who are our child’s age hitting life’s milestones that we will never get to experience with our child.
The death of one’s child is considered by most professionals to be one of the most (if not the most) traumatic event a person can deal with in life. Many parents also deal with PTSD, based on the circumstances of their child’s death.
I don’t think anyone can deny that it is a traumatic experience to walk behind your child’s casket and bury them, or to bring your child home as ashes in an urn. And for those parents who found their child’s body, or many other possible scenarios, they can also have PTSD.
Most of us are not stuck in our grief because we refuse to move on with our lives without our child. We are “stuck” because of being surrounded by constant reminders of our child who should be here as part of our everyday lives, but instead there is silence and a constant emptiness.
We do eventually learn to cope, but we don’t “get over it.”
If someone has an amputation, first they must heal, both physically and emotionally, from having that body part cut off; and the emotional healing takes much longer than the physical.
Then they must learn how to function and do everything differently with that part of them missing. Even when that happens, they are reminded multiple times a day that a body part has been cut off, because of how they are forced to live differently, in a way that helps them adapt to the loss.
Some days it is easy, some days it is a struggle to stay positive, and other days it hits them full force (almost like it just took place), no matter how long ago the amputation happened.
How do I know this? Our daughter, Becca, had her left leg amputated at only three years old because of cancer, so we had a front row seat to an amputee living day-to-day life.
As a bereaved parent, we have had our child amputated from us, and everything that an amputee must go through, we do as well. However, the emotional pain is multiplied and much more intense losing an entire person who is part of you, than losing something that is physically part of you, like a leg or an arm.
Several years ago, when I was working on one of my books, I was accused by someone that I was writing it as a way to continue dragging up the past instead of going forward. Wow! First, I was writing the book to give hope to others who found themselves in the same suffocating pit that I had been thrown into, letting them know we can find our way out. Secondly, it was not dragging up the past; it was helping me learn how to cope with living in the present and in the future without my daughter.
Studies have shown that for those who have lost a child, anything under five years is considered fresh grief. So, I am not surprised when a bereaved parent does not believe they will ever have a life worth living again. I know I didn’t believe it.
However, we do eventually get stronger as we learn how to carry the grief in a way that does not feel like a heavy darkness every minute of the day. We will never get over our loss as if it never happened. That is impossible. But we can and will get over to the other side of the darkness, able to live a life of meaning and purpose again. This is not in spite of our child’s death, but because of his or her life.
This blog was taken from the Grieving Parents Sharing Hope podcast episode 194, which has more shared on this topic. You can listen here on YouTube. To listen directly on the GPS Hope website click here or find the Grieving Parents Sharing Hope podcast on your favorite listening app.
NOTE: Some of this was taken from Laura’s book Come Grieve Through Our Eyes: How to Give Comfort and Support to Bereaved Parents. To find out more about this book, along with Laura’s other books click here.
Expressions of Hope is provided by Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope). The founders, Dave and Laura Diehl, travel full time in their Hope Mobile (a 38-foot motor home) to be more easily available for speaking and ministry requests, and bringing intimate weekend retreats to bereaved parents. Laura is also a singer/songwriter and the author of multiple award-winning books.
If you would like more information about bringing Dave and Laura to you for an event, please send an email to email@example.com.
If you are interested in bringing GPS Hope to your area for a weekend retreat click here.
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