Child loss is a loss like no other. One often misunderstood by many.
If you love a bereaved parent or know someone who does, remember that
even his or her “good” days are harder than you could ever imagine.
Compassion and love, not advice, are what’s needed. If you’d like an
inside look into why the loss of a child is a grief that lasts a
lifetime, here is what I’ve learned in my seven years of trekking
through the unimaginable.
1). Love never dies.
There will never come a day, hour, minute or second I stop loving or
thinking about my son. Just as parents of living children
unconditionally love their children always and forever, so do bereaved
parents. I want to say and hear his name just the same as non-bereaved
parents do. I want to speak about my deceased child as normally and
naturally as you speak of your living ones.
I love my child just as much as you love yours– the only difference
is mine lives in heaven and talking about about him is unfortunately
quite taboo in our culture. I hope to change that. Our culture isn’t so
great about hearing about children gone too soon, but that doesn’t stop
me from saying my son’s name and sharing his love and light everywhere I
go. Just because it might make you uncomfortable, doesn’t make him
matter any less. My son’s life was cut irreversibly short, but his love
lives on forever. And ever.
2). Bereaved parents share an unspeakable bond.
In my seven years navigating the world as a bereaved parent, I am
continually struck by the power of the bond between bereaved parents.
Strangers become kindreds in mere seconds– a look, a glance, a knowing
of the heart connects us, even if we’ve never met before. No matter our
circumstances, who we are, or how different we are, there is no greater
bond than the connection between parents who understand the agony of
enduring the death of a child. It’s a pain we suffer for a lifetime, and
unfortunately only those who have walked the path of child loss
understand the depth and breadth of both the pain and the love we carry.
3). I will grieve for a lifetime.
Period. The end. There is no “moving on,” or “getting over it.” There
is no bow, no fix, no solution to my heartache. There is no end to the
ways I will grieve and for how long I will grieve. There is no glue for
my broken heart, no exilir for my pain, no going back in time. For as
long as I breathe, I will grieve and ache and love my son with all my
heart and soul. There will never come a time when I won’t think about
who my son would be, what he would look like, and how he would be woven
perfectly into the tapestry of my family. I wish people could understand
that grief lasts forever because love lasts forever; that the loss of a
child is not one finite event, it is a continuous loss that unfolds
minute by minute over the course of a lifetime. Every missed birthday,
holiday, milestone; should-be back-to-school years and graduations;
weddings that will never be, grandchildren that should have been but
will never be born– an entire generation of people are irrevocably
This is why grief lasts forever. The ripple effect lasts forever. The bleeding never stops.
4). It’s a club I can never leave, but is full of the most shining souls I’ve ever known.
This crappy club called child loss is a club I never wanted to join,
and one I can never leave, yet is filled with some of the best people
I’ve ever known. And yet we all wish we could jump ship– that we could
have met another way– any
other way but this.
these shining souls are the most beautiful, compassionate, grounded,
loving, movers, shakers and healers I have ever had the honor of
knowing. They are life-changers, game-changers, relentless survivors and
thrivers. Warrior moms and dads who redefine the word brave.
Every day loss parents move mountains in honor of their children gone
too soon. They start movements, change laws, spearhead crusades of
tireless activism. Why? In the hope that even just one parent could be
spared from joining the club
. If you’ve ever wondered who some
of the greatest world changers are, hang out with a few bereaved parents
and watch how they live, see what they do in a day, a week, a lifetime.
Watch how they alchemize their grief into a force to be reckoned with,
watch how they turn tragedy into transformation, loss into legacy.
Love is the most powerful force on earth, and the love between a
bereaved parent and his/her child is a lifeforce to behold. Get to know a
bereaved parent. You’ll be thankful you did.
5). The empty chair/room/space never becomes less empty.
Empty chair, empty room, empty space in every family picture. Empty,
vacant, forever gone. Empty spaces that should be full, everywhere we
go. There is and will always be a missing space in our lives, our
families, a forever-hole-in-our-hearts. Time does not make the space
less empty. Neither do platitudes, cliché
well-wishes for us to “move on,” or “stop dwelling,” from
well-intentioned friends or family. Nothing does. No matter how you look
at it, empty is still empty. Missing is still missing. The problem is
nothing can fill it. Minute after minute, hour after hour, day after
day, month after month, year after heartbreaking year the empty space
remains. No matter how much time has passed.
The empty space of our missing child(ren) lasts a lifetime. And so we
rightfully miss them forever. Help us by holding the space of that
truth for us.
6). No matter how long it’s been, holidays never become easier without my son.
Never, ever. Have you ever wondered why every
is like torture for a bereaved parent? Even if it’s been 5, 10, or 25
years later? It’s because they really, truly are horrific. Imagine if
you had to live every holiday without one or more of your precious
children. Imagine how that might feel for you. It would be easier to
lose an arm, a leg or two– anything
— than to live without your
flesh and blood, without the beat of your heart. Almost anything would
be easier than living without one of more of your precious children.
That is why holidays are always and forever
hard for bereaved
parents. Don’t wonder why or even try to understand. Know you don’t have
to understand in order to be a supportive presence. Consider supporting
and loving some bereaved parents this holiday season. It will be the
best gift you could ever give them.
7). Because I know deep sorrow, I also know unspeakable joy.
Though I will grieve the death of my son forever and then some, it
does not mean my life is lacking happiness and joy. Quite the contrary,
in fact. It is not either/or, it’s both/and. Grief and joy can and do
coexist. My life is more rich now. I live from a deeper place. I love
deeper still. Because I grieve, I also know a joy like no other. The joy
I experience now is far deeper and more intense than the joy I
experienced before my loss. Such is the alchemy of grief.
Because I’ve clawed my way from the depths of unimaginable pain,
suffering and sorrow, again and again– when the joy comes, however and
whenever it does– it is a joy that reverberates through every pore of my
skin and every bone in my body. I feel all of it, deeply. I embrace and
thank every blessed morsel of it. My life now is more rich and vibrant
and full, not despite my loss, but because
of it. In grief
there are gifts, sometimes many. These gifts don’t in any way make it
all “worth” it, but I am grateful beyond words for each and every gift
that comes my way. I bow my head to each one and say thank you, thank you, thank you.
there is nothing– and I mean absolutely nothing– I take for granted.
Living life in this way gives me greater joy than I’ve ever known
I have my son to thank for that. Being his mom is the best gift I’ve ever been given.
Even death can’t take that away.