Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bereaved Parents With No Surviving Children

Editor’s Note: This is the 3rd in a series of four that goes over some of the workshops that took place at The Compassionate Friends Conference July 2-4.

I was part of the panel with no surviving children. We each discussed one of the aspects of dealing with the problems that confront us…problems that parents with surviving children do not encounter…and how we have been able to handle each situation.

I was asked to speak on wills, trusts and estates. I explained how, when your only child or all your children die, you must change your will so that your estate, which was originally going to your child, will now go to someone else you care about. Do not leave it up to other family members, or if you don’t have any family left, then up to the state. Designate in your will and/or trust by percentages, who should get what. Cousins, aunts and uncles, siblings, friends and your husband will more than likely be the beneficiaries, but if there is someone in your family you don’t have good feelings about, this is your opportunity to leave them out. Since you don’t know when you will die, leaving a specific amount of money may not work. You don’t know what amounts may be left when you die. That is why I use percentages. It is more efficient.

In addition, I leave a “tangible personal property” list, so that if I want someone to have something specific: a piece of jewelry, a painting, some knick knacks, I know it will go to them, since my trustee or lawyer will take care of that. Leaving something that is written assures both parties that you will get to do what is rightfully yours to do.

Another aspect of not having surviving children that was talked about was what do you do with your children’s belongings? Do you get rid of everything, keep everything and when is the right time to do this? Everyone grieves at their own pace, and there is no right or wrong answer to these questions. For some parents, they can do it immediately; some it will take a longer time; and others will never be able to deal with it or they may ask someone else to do it. Don’t let friends tell you when is the right time, because only you know that answer. It is important not to do anything until you feel ready, or you may regret it later on.

Some parents choose to give some items to their child’s friends (and that is fine), to hospitals (stuffed animals), and to shelters (clothing and bedroom furniture). You may choose to give some jewelry away that belonged to your child, or you may want to keep it all. The same applies to childhood items. One important thing to remember is to store items you want to keep in a place with a good temperature so they aren’t ruined. And most importantly, remember that putting your loved ones things away does not mean putting them out of your life. Your child will always remain a part of you.

Has your marriage changed? Are you and your husband still close? Do you talk about your child? Is the communication good? These are important questions to ask yourself. If you believe your marriage is worth working on, talking and communicating will do much to help your marriage survive. One panel member spoke about her stepchildren and how she got along with one and not the other, no matter how hard she tried. I related how well I get along with my husband’s daughter, even though every time I see her I think of the daughter I lost. That, I believe, is quite normal. The audience had much to say related to stepchildren and how they handle them.

Other topics discussed dealt with support or lack of it from family/friends; how do we get through the holidays with no children; how do we handle significant events in our lives such as graduations, weddings and baby showers; and how our goals in life have changed since our children died. Questions from the audience completed the session, but we could have used another hour to discuss all our concerns. Getting these topics out in the open at a TCF conference can help parents deal with these and other issues.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!