There will come a time in everyone’s life that they will loose someone they love. It is the cycle of life, uncontrollable and probably the hardest thing that most people will ever experience. Grief is not talked about in society because it makes people feel bad. It is something that happens but society does not want to acknowledge its lasting affect. The terms, “move-on, get-over-it” are echoed from friends, family and employers. It is even being addressed by the psychiatric community in some cases as “mental illness”.
Why does society view grief as if it does not exist? Is it because it occurs every day? Something that happens that often must not be so bad, or in the least can be resolved in a short period of time. Perhaps, that is the problem. Society does not want to recognize that which can have a life long affect on the emotions and being of a person. The best way to deal with sorrow is to push it aside and pretend it does not exist. Put on your happy face and go about your business each day and you can even convince yourself that grief can be put to sleep.
There are different types of grief. We can be prepared for the death of a loved one through a long term illness or an elderly parent or grandparent. We can feel that death is a relief to the sufferer and “let them go”. No matter how we accept the death of a loved one, nothing prepares us for a life without them.
Website boards are full of memorials left for loved ones. Poems are written every day in memory of someone dear. The perspective that a person can quench their grief by ignoring it has been proven wrong many times over. The shelves are full of self-help books on releasing grief.
There are circumstances that can complicate grief. Sudden death and even the manner of death can cause extraordinary pain. Murder in particular has elements associated with it that most people never have to deal with such as, an arrest and trial that can take many months and even years to be settled. Hearing gruesome details of a loved ones demise can ring forever in a persons’ head. Nightmares of horrible crime scenes are a reality for victim’s families.
Grief like no other comes by way of loosing a child. It does not even need to be mentioned that the loss of child is beyond any comprehension for a parent. No one wants to think or talk about it, but that is not realistic.
According to the National MCH Child Death Review the mortality rate in 2006 for children under the age of 19 was over 530,000. In addition, most people under the age of 50 that die leave a parent behind. Does it matter how old a child is? Ask a grieving parent that lost their child at any age and the answer is no.
There is a shearing pain that rips through the heart when a parent is given the news about the death of their child. The soul just screams a blatant NO, and from that moment that parent is never the same person.
No program, no medicine, no therapy can cure a grieving parent. They are forever bereaved parents. People like to fix things. Family members and friends might think they need to do something that will cheer-up a grieving parent. Part of it is because they too grieve and they do not want to see their loved one so hurt. Time changes that in many cases and intolerance sets in. Complaints are heard from those closest to the situation like; “Grieving parents talk about their child too much, They have too many pictures displayed in their home, and They never got rid of things and erected a shrine.”
The question is when is the right time to put away a beloved child? When is it right for a parent to move on and remove all signs that their child ever lived? When should a parent stop talking about their child because it makes other people uncomfortable?
Try asking these questions instead; why does a grieving parent keep their child’s things where they can see them? Why does a parent talk about their child so much? Why did that grieving parent create a memorial garden for their child? The answer is simple-love.
For a grieving parent their child’s life continues in their heart. As long as that child remains there, he is still alive. It brings great joy to a parent to hear their child’s name spoken. Why? It means that they are not forgotten. The greatest fear is that their child will be forgotten by family and friends. Monuments are built to great men- that is ok. Monuments are built to honor people-that is ok. Monuments are built to remember-that is ok, but let a grieving parent build the same for their child, and something is wrong with them.
Describing the loss of a child is an impossible task because there are no words for it. The pain will be with a parent the rest of their life. They have lost a part of their life and living even one more day is a challenge. Everything becomes before and after their child. When they look at a picture they date it before or after. Moving into a new year is another year without them. Many thoughts in their daily lives bring them back to their child. It can not be avoided. It is not something that try to do, it just happens. It may become less as years roll away, but it never goes away. Professionals treat grieving parents for depression and post traumatic stress syndrome. It may be adequate to label the symptoms of grief in such a way, but it does not cure it.
The best thing someone can do for a grieving parent is to let them know they remember their child. Call them on the holidays; call them on birthdays and yes, the death anniversary. Give them pictures and relate memories that you have of their child. Donate to a charity in their child’s name. Most important, hug them, love them and cry with them.
Self help organizations have proven to be beneficial for grieving parents. One organization is the Compassionate Friends. It is a worldwide organization that started in the 1960s in England when a chaplain introduced two grieving families. It has since grown to include 50 chapters in the world and over 600 chapters in the United States. Other organizations are Healing Hearts for Bereaved Parents, Share Organization and Miss Foundation.
It is hard enough for a parent to loose a child, but when family and friends avoid them because they do not know how to handle the grief, it adds another loss to their already broken heart.
Grief Watch: Support Croup Listing
The Compassionate Friends
The National MCH Center for Child Death Review
(c) 2014 Vickie Van Antwerp