Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Goals, New Priorities After the Death of a Child

This is the fifth and last in a series of five commonalities that exist among bereaved parents. In previous blogs I covered (1) leaving memorials, (2) finding a cause to move on, (3) everyone grieves differently and at different rates, and (4) they all have setbacks. The final commonality is that after the death of a child ,we change, we have different goals, different priorities, different friends and a new life.

My goals, which were once to make sure my daughter had a rich, full life, are no longer there. My reason for living, for doing what I did, are gone. As always, it took a while to decide what I now wanted to do with my life, and I can say I have found the answer for myself. It is to help other bereaved parents, and I do that through my book, my blog, and my speaking engagements at bereavement conferences and elsewhere, where I can share my story and teach others to learn to accept what we can become without our child.

My priorities have also changed. What was once important to us may no longer have any meaning. What others talk about, like the economy or global warming are insignificant to us during our grief journey. There is a powerlessness we feel over life after the loss of a child. It’s hard to believe how much energy it takes just to go on.

Grief rewrites your address book for you. I lost good friends when Marcy died. They didn’t want to be around me. They thought I had changed. Of course I had changed. How could I not change after what had happened! They also probably thought that what happened to me could happen to them; so they didn’t want to hear me speak of it. The truth was, as I have found out in recent years, that a few of them were scared, they didn't know what to say or do for me. The easiest thing was for them to fade into the background. They didn't realize what they were doing hurt more than anything they could have said. Only someone who has been through this circumstance can truly understand and help, and I couldn't expect those few (who have come back now) to understand what, at the time, was incomprehensibe to me also.

People are funny about death. Until the 1980’s it was a hush, hush topic. Death wasn’t spoken about in a home, especially if it was a child’s death. There were no books, no organizations to help bereaved parents. It was literally shoved under the bed. Thank goodness, by the 1990’s there was help out there in the form of books and newly formed grief organizations. There will always be those who still feel that way about death; they do not want to talk about it to you and "it didn't happen."

On the other hand, I discovered that people who were just acquaintances became better friends than those I thought were good friends. And I appreciated them for being empathetic to my situation and wanting to listen to what I had to say. I’m sure many of you have had the same situation. I now have new friends who talk about Marcy and allow me to do the same. I am comforted by the following saying, “A friend is one who knows you as you are…understands where you’ve been…accepts who you’ve become…and still gently invites you to grow.”

And finally, an apropos quote I invite you all to follow that I used in one of my speeches and needs no explanation: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Go dance your heart out!


  1. Thank you so much for your blog. It helps me to understand what I am going through.

    Blessings and love to you.


  2. That last comment is the inscription we put on the back of our daughter's memorial stone. She danced all through grade school, high school, and throughout college. Even while undergoing chemo, she was taking ballet classes, and just weeks before her death, she was sitting in a wheelchair, her feet tapping out a series of steps from some music in her head. Thank you for your blog. Sometimes, we just need to know that we're not walking alone.