I participate in an online chat with ” the Compassionate Friends”. We live in a small town and there is not a chapter here. There is a chat open every night for grieving parents to meet and talk online. You have to register for safety’s sake through their organization. There are unscrupulous people who would like to access our group to prey on the grieving. Sick idea, right?
In talking with people in the group I realize that our grief is so much the same, yet we as individuals handle it so differently at times. I will not reveal any secrets here or anything unexpected for that matter. Here are some of the things I have found.
There seems to be some differences in grief experienced depending on the age of the child when they died.
There seems to be some differences in the grief experienced depending on the way the child died.
Most parents experience some form of guilt.
There is no set time, no real boundaries for how long a parent will grieve at a certain level.
Shock seems to be something everyone experiences initially. Shock serves as a numbing agent right after the child has died. Once it wears off there are different levels of pain and grief that come.
No one, regardless of the amount of time that has passed can really “accept” that their child is gone.
Every parent I have been in contact with states that this is the worst grief experience they have ever had in their life, trumping loss of parents and spouse.
Many look for signs to help them feel comforted that their child is really alright now. This can take the form of things in nature or what “non-grieving” others would term coincidence. Regardless of what it is or how it comes it holds value in comforting the grieving parent.
Some parents turn from their faith, others turn to it.
There is often a need to eventually build monuments, sponsor remembrances or fund research in honor of the child.
Connecting with other children in the family can be very difficult during the first years after the death of a child. Whether it be from the need for self-preservation it all seems to stem from fear. The reality of one child’s death is a stark reality that causes a parent to want to protect themselves from further pain.
Some feel anger all the time. Some have anger that comes and goes.
Some seek counseling.
Some consider moving to a new location.
Focus is brought to birthdays, the anniversary of the death date and other “normal” family holidays.
Some cease celebrating family holidays in the way they used to celebrate them.
Most say that things “change” with time but cannot describe how. “Softer” is often the word of choice.
Many have trouble sleeping.
Many have panic attacks.
Many feel like they are loosing their mind at times because they forget simple things, misplace things and panic.
A simple sound smell or sight can send a parent spiraling back to the day of their child’s death. Legs feel heavy or the body feels like a wet blanket has been laid on them to try and bear as they struggle to walk or function.
Most feel guilt when they finally have a “good day.” Though what constitutes good varies widely. For some it is simply being able to get out of bed.
Family members not in the inner circle affected by the death may become impatient, offer advice or avoid the grieving family.
Most grieving parents recognize at some point that they have constructed a mask of sorts to wear in public to keep others from saying anything at all.
Most grieving parents want to talk about their child and find it is the death experience they repeat most often. They want to talk about the person but get stuck on the death as they try to figure out why it happened. They may not want to share the person (the child) as time passes because they feel like it is too personal and they want to keep it all in.
Some have trouble parting with the child’s personal possessions.
In talking about their child most parents talk about how “they” feel. How it has affected them and there are no real words that adequately express the pain, grief and emptiness they are left with.
The other stressors of life that continue to happens sometimes seem utterly overwhelming and unfair that they have to be dealt with. “Haven’t we had enough already?”
We prefer to hear that you are sorry for our loss. We think the better place for them to be would to be here with us, happy and healthy – so saying that they are in a better place, however well meant is something we do not want to hear.
If we are people of faith we do not want to hear that it was God‘s will, or that it was their time. You cannot prove either idea so please don’t present it. We speculate enough for everyone who might, not knowing anything better to say, toss out some hackneyed saying.
Most parents cycle back through almost all of what I have talked about so far, again and again.
None of us want to feel this way. But like a deck of cards these things get shuffled and dealt to the grieving parent on a daily basis. Yes somedays we choose to discard some of the cards from our hand and some days we sit – weeping over all of them.
To those who are in the trenches with their loss none of this information is new. For me to state it all again is a mental exercise – an inventory to assess that indeed my observations are real.
I really don’t know if this helps at all.
The one person I would really like to discuss all my observations with is no longer here to talk to. That in point of fact, is the most painful realization of all.