There has been a tragedy in the past few days in the small community where I live that involves two young boys. The details of their deaths is not important because there is nothing we can do, but because of how people are, that is what they will focus on. They will, for a while, focus on the parents, watching them from a distance. They will send money, cards, food, prayers, thoughts. Some will be brave enough to hug them, allow them to weep in their arms, wiping snotty tears on their shoulder. This attention will last for a painfully short time. The same friends who went to the visitation will see them months later in the grocery store or maybe even at church and will not know what to say. The friends may even skirt down another aisle to avoid them. The well-meaning neighbors and friends don’t like to feel uncomfortable and they don’t want to see any more tears. They will say that they “don’t want to make the parent feel sad.” The parents are always going to feel sad. Where can they go where the daily, hourly, minute-by-minute reminders are not present?
The parents of the deceased have no where to go. They are drowning in grief that will, because of their own particular circumstances, be unique to their situation. And even those of us who have lost a child cannot comprehend exactly what those parents are experiencing. Living in a small town they are in a fish bowl.
Every card, call and extension of kindness will be appreciated, but nothing is going to fix this.The days will pass. The pain will soften, but there is no guarantee how long that will take. The weight of the grief will lighten now and then. It will be hard if not impossible to sleep. It will make them question their faith, especially when well-meaning people say things that are meant to be soothing yet add to the pain. They will blame themselves. While trying to distract themselves they will notice scenes in TV shows and movies that they never paid attention to before that now serve as a painful reminder.
There are things that they were doing the day the tragedy happened that they might purposely avoid doing again. They might put the clothes away that they wore that day, and never wear them again. They will wonder what to pray because all the prayers they had uttered before, thanking God for their children, now seem to have been negated.
And I am speaking only for myself really. There are a hundred other things that the parents who have lost children could include here. There is no guide book or how-to guide. It is horrific and unfair.
The path of the grieving parent is one I wish no parent would have to take. Those who have lost children to covid, regardless of their age, I am so sorry. I honor you and your love.
Those who have lost children to violence, accidents, cancer and all other brutal causes. I am so sorry, I honor your love.
To those in Ukraine and Russia whose beautiful young people are dying in war, I ache when I see your faces. I am so sorry and I honor your love.
For those of us who have lost a child, we feel a blow when we hear of or see that another child has died. It reawakens our own grief and sometimes without meaning to, we relive our own days of shock and deep depression.
If you know the parents of the boys, now gone, here is my suggestion; save some of your energy for later. Six months from now, they are going to need you. Muster up your courage (because it will take it) to sit with them, walk with them, talk with them. Allow them to talk. Do not be afraid to mention their children by name. Share good memories. It will bring tears but tears don’t hurt anyone. Listen to them even if it means hearing them repeat the same thing over and over. When you have given them some time, you are free to leave the grief behind. It is not a part of your everyday life as it is theirs.
They are not going to remember who brought the coconut cake that ended up spoiling because they could not eat anything. I understand that you are grieving too. It is different for you though. And thank you for the cards, the thoughts the prayers on their behalf. I have a big box of cards collecting dust that sits in a room with some of the things I saved from my son. I read them when they came in, but I have never read them since.
But every night before I go to sleep I think of him and every morning I wish I could talk to him. The feelings pass more quickly. I get on with my day. The world started wearing masks in 2020. I have worn one for more than ten years.
I wish I could say that in six months the parents will be “better”. It will be at about six months that the initial shock will wear off and a deeper, heavier grief will set in. If you can bear to be with them then please give them consideration, time and continue, if you are a praying person, pray. Pray for their strength and pray for clarity.
I do not believe that God allows such tragedies to happen so that he can have another angel. It that is true, why did he allow us such a short time with someone he did not intend for us to keep? It seems so cruel. Death comes to all. I do believe he gathers us back to himself. And I picture him weeping with us in our loss, even at the moment of the death, because if he knows all, he knows of our mutual love. I hope one day he gathers us all into his everlasting arms.
I am so sorry for the loss of the two boys, the loss to their family and for this community. I honor the love and devotion their family had to one another. I hope if you are their personal friend that you have the strength to let them lean on you in the days ahead.