Sunday, June 3, 2012

Commonalities Between Bereaved Parents

Commonalities exist between all bereaved parents. As I did research for my books, I found these five to stand out among many. They are:

1. Parents want to leave memorials of some type to honor their child
2. They choose to find a cause, a reason to move on with their lives.
3. They believe everyone grieves differently and at different rates, and that as painful as it is, it is important to go through this process to come to terms with the reality of their loss.
4. They know they will have setbacks or rushes of emotions that will be overwhelming when they least expect it, but that doesn’t mean they will not heal.
5. They believe they are different people now than they were when their child lived with different goals, different priorities, different friends and a new life, with a new richness to it that focuses on what our children left us, the gift of having them.

1. LEAVING MEMORIALS- What better way to remember and honor your child and allow others to do the same. There are so many things you can do from starting a scholarship, buying memorial bricks on certain new buildings, donating to your church or synagogue a piece of art in their memory, to collecting money to build a building in their honor, speaking to schools and organizations and doing your own quiet memorial at home or cemetery. Whatever you choose, know that your child would be proud of you working through your grief.

2. FINDING A CAUSE- Many parents become active and/or get on boards of various grief organizations such as Compassionate Friends or Bereaved Parents USA on a national or local level. Or they might try to change laws that would have saved their child’s life. Don’t think you have to do this immediately following the death of your child. Having a cause or new purpose in life can be very rewarding and you will know when it will be right for you.

3. EVERYONE GRIEVES DIFFERENTLY- Many parents are relieved to find out that they are not going crazy or that their spouse grieves completely opposite of them. It is perfectly normal to grieve differently and at different rates, and each should give the other space to do so. It is very important to communicate during this period in your life, so that your marriage does not suffer. Talk about your child. Remember the good times. Talk about your fears, your hopes for your new future and how you can accomplish all this together during your darkest hours.

4. SETBACKS- We may have setbacks for many years to come, particularly when our child’s name is mentioned, hear a song they used to like or go to an event they used to participate in. Don’t look at this as though you will never heal. This is very normal. Don’t listen to those who say, “When will she ever get over this?” They don’t understand and never will. New friends say to me, “I could never live through the death of my child.” What choice do we have. This has happened and we can’t change it. But we can learn a great deal from adjusting to the situation. I don’t like it. I want my child here with me, but I know that will never happen, so we move on, keeping our child in our hearts forever.

5. DIFFERENT PEOPLE NOW WITH DIFFERENT GOALS- Because of the death of our child, our life changes, our priorities change and what was once important to us may no longer have any meaning. Our friends change and so does our address book. I can not believe how some good friends did not want to have anything to do with me after my daughter died. New friends came out of the woodwork and are still friends today, 18 years later. I realize some did not know what to say to me or how to react, but if they had told me that, I would have worked at making them comfortable around me. Instead, they faded into the background. My new friends talk about my daughter and allow me to do the same. The following saying comforts me: 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.

I invite you to grow, to learn to love life again and to work your way through your never-ending grief journey.

Editor’s note: this is an abstract of a much longer and more in-depth article in my recent book “Creating a New Normal…After the Death of a Child.”

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