It’s a Foreign Language…
- Posted on: Jun 25 2013
There is no such thing as closure. We never close this part of our life, the part of losing a child. It molds us forever.
*Beyond Tears: Living After Losing a Child
You learn so much when you speak with other bereaved parents. Every single one of them is going through the same pain, but different. The same obstacles, but different. The same highs, the same lows, but different. The fact is everyone grieves differently. Husbands grieve differently than wives, and couples who lost their child grieve differently from other couples. However, there is one common bond… only grieving parents speak our language. If you haven’t lost a child, although you can be a great support, a great friend, and a great help, you don’t speak our language. I learned that people need to be educated… “taught” in a way what it is we as grieving parents need. That makes so much sense, because if you don’t speak our language, you don’t understand what we’re going through. So how could you possibly know what we need?
A grieving parent doesn’t wear their pain on the outside – there is no marking, nothing that says to people “oh, she’s a bereaved mother”. Actually, most people wouldn’t be able to pick a grieving parent out in a crowd, as we put on our mask, and go through our day. We can function, smile, go to events, and be happy. However at any given moment, any given day, you can bet that all of our brain cells are focused on our angel child. We are thinking of them all the time, 24/7, and our hearts are always broken. We function and do things with our surviving children, and they keep us going, but we are never the same person we were before we lost our child.
Speaking our child’s name does not remind us that they are gone. You are not going to bring us down by mentioning it. Actually, quite the opposite, you will be showing us that he is on your mind, and it is comforting for a grieving parent to know you are thinking of our child. As a parent it is our job to protect our children. As a bereaved parent, it is our job to protect our child’s memory. We feel that by talking about our children, we are keeping their memory alive. We may cry when we talk about our child, but don’t avoid us, or avoid talking to us about them because you don’t want to “make” us cry. You are not making us cry. The fact that our child is gone makes us cry.
We may not want to do things the way we used to. Even as close friends and family, your lives have been very affected by the death of our child. You too are grieving a loss of your relationship to our child. However, he is OUR child. No one else on earth can feel his loss like we do. We may not want to celebrate holidays the way we used to. We may not place any importance on traditions anymore. It’s not that we don’t want to celebrate, often we do, especially for our surviving children. It’s just that nobody feels their absence in a room more than we do. Being with our whole family, makes that absence even stronger.
Here are some pointers for friends and family of bereaved parents:
• Don’t try to find magic words that will take away the pain. There aren’t any. A hug, a touch, and the simple words “I’m sorry” can offer the most comfort.
• Don’t be afraid to cry. Those tears are a healthy release both for both you and the family, and a tribute to the child who died.
• Listen to what the parents and siblings have to say. Let them express their anger, their questions, the pain, and the disbelief they may be experiencing. Don’t discourage them from talking about their feelings. Remember that siblings are often considered the “forgotten mourners” and need to have their grief validated, too.
• Be there. Don’t say “call me if there is anything I can do.” That call will probably never come. Think of what the family needs to have done and offer to do specific tasks.
• As time passes, remember the child by sending a card to the family or calling on special days. A bereaved parent’s worst fear is that their child will be forgotten.
One of the most important points friends should remember, is that there is no set timetable for grieving. Some people believe healing starts the moment the family arrives home from the funeral. Bereaved parents and siblings are transformed into different people who will never be the same as they were. Grief doesn’t end in a week or a year, and it may never end.
Thank you, Compassionate Friends, for helping us see that we are not alone. Bereavement therapy is not a cure, it is a lifelong journey. We are grateful for the friends and family who do try to understand and support us… and we appreciate those who understand that we will never be the same people we were before we lost our Tanner.
Sending love and hugs to all the bereaved parents we know, and to those we don’t know.
Tagged with: bereaved parents, brain tumor, broken heart, compassionate friends, grief, grieving parents, kids cancer, new normal, pediatric cancer advocacy, pediatric cancer awareness, the lexiebean foundation
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