Each of us has a special day that changes one’s life.
Mine was 12 years ago Oct. 31 when my daughter passed away while at college.
Grieving the loss of a child is a unique and lifelong process. I write this for parents who have lost a child and for others who don’t know how to address that loss.
Our English language is surprisingly limited when it comes to this.
You might have experienced a deep loss of a very special dog, a grandparent or a dear friend, but please do not say you understand a person’s grief because you lost a dog or grandparent.
Please never say, “I know how you feel.” A simple “I’m sorry” or hug is wonderful. We struggle when you say, “Everything happens for a reason,” “It was God’s will” or “she/he is in a better place – at the side of God.” This might make you feel better, but understand that spiritual thoughts can be very different.
For some people, it can be uncomfortable deciding what to say, so they say nothing or shy away.
Those who try to swallow or hide their grief to the rest of the world still appreciate the acknowledgment internally. Know that the smallest gesture helps. A simple “I’m sorry” has depth.
If you can’t face the grieving parent, send a note. Sometimes, it is just a simple acknowledgement by email, perhaps a smile on Facebook, a special picture or a thought.
Believe me, it doesn’t take much. The most important thing is that the loved one is never forgotten, and I am sorry if you never got to know them.
Take time to check on the family after the memorial and funeral are done.
Often, all the hovering and promised support seems to stop once the services are over even though that is usually when family members are just beginning to come out of shock.
The world stopped for that family and they question how the rest of the world can continue to go on like nothing happened.
No, I never said thoughts were rational.
Someone once told me that the family who has lost a child is like a wind chime and is forever changed.
There will be music, but it will never again be the same.
Families may move to get away from their pain or to an area where they can feel closer to their lost child.
Marriages can dissolve because of grieving, guilt or frustration, or the loss can pull the family closer together.
Often, men grieve differently than women after the loss of the child.
A parent can only imagine the life their child would have had or who they would become: those missed celebrations, trials and tribulations that are only available in our thoughts.
With special days or holidays come dreams about where she/he would be, how old they would be, how would they look and sound.
It isn’t surprising that some put that child forever on a pedestal.
Regardless, every parent or sibling wants to know that their child is forever remembered. Understand that not a day goes by when the child is not thought of. Nor can that child ever be replaced. The love for each child is forever – please don’t expect us to “get over it” or have “another one.”
To say “It has been X years, isn’t it time they got on with life?” is naïve.
Grief never makes sense. Five stages occur in various orders and with no time limits – anger, denial, acceptance, bargaining and depression.
Another commonality is how to answer the simple question, “How many children do you have?” To answer it one way diminishes a special life. To answer it the other way can be uncomfortable in certain settings or it can make the person uncomfortable. It can become a complete conversation stopper.
To those who have lost a child or sibling, I am sincerely sorry.
Our dearest Abi.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461. Wendy Rice is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.