Sunday, June 22, 2014

Unique Aspects of Losing an Only Child, part 1

Questions. Questions. Questions. The bereaved always have questions for those of us who have gone through the initial grief period and have come out on the other side. We know only what we have experienced, but it is a start for those of you who are newly bereaved. I write this column this week and next for those who are now childless. Here are the first five most asked questions. Even if you have other surviving children, you may be able to apply these situations to your own life.

Am I still a mother? The answer is yes, you are and will always be a mother, whether your child is alive or has died. You should always think of yourself in that way, no matter who asks.

Related to this is the question "Do you have any children?" Do you say, no children? Do you say one child (and in some cases, more than one child (with multiple deaths)? Or do you explain your situation? I have been asked that question so many times that I now have my answer: "I have one daughter who died 20 years ago in a car accident." Although the other person may now feel awkward, didn't you, too, feel awkward when confronted with the question and dreading to say the answer? Tell it like it is and go from there. You will feel better acknowledging you are a mother and always will be, and now you can ask the other person the same question and release the tension, letting them talk about their children. You have said what you needed to say and have turned the tables, so that they now have something to say and there is no uncomfortable silence.

There will no longer be any special events in my life like graduation, prom, birthdays, weddings. How will I ever be able to go to another event and not cry my way through it? No, it won't be easy. In fact it took me a long time to attend a special event of even a special friend's child. I explained the situation and said I would have to take a pass; that I hoped they would understand. If they are a true friend, they will understand. Then, little by little I started going to celebrations again. I had to take tiny steps; when I made it through the first one, I continued the tiny steps until I was comfortable about it. And there will be a time when you will be comfortable. Tell your friends to keep trying and not forget you.

Who will I leave everything to? If your only child has died and was not married, you will probably not have any grandchildren. You will have to think about making a new will or trust and think of any legal issues that might entail. You might still have siblings, aunts, uncles, and special friends who you would like to leave things to. Or, if very lucky, you may have a grandchild and the decision will not be that hard. I have put my step-grandchild into my will; I love him very much and since I do not have any living relatives, it was a perfect solution for me. Think about who else you might want to leave things to.

What should I do with my child's possessions? That should be entirely up to you. Don't let anyone influence you. Take your time to decide what you want to keep and what you want to give away to others or even your child's friends. Some parents gain much comfort from seeing, touching, wearing their child's items. Others find it too painful. Again, that is your decision and there is no right or wrong answer. But be sure not to dispose of items too quickly as later you may regret it. I kept all my daughter jewelry because I like to wear it. It makes me feel close to her and we had very similar tastes. Some of the clothes I gave away to her friends, others to Goodwill. The rest I have worn over the years. You'll know when you are ready for a change. And if you want to keep items, store them in an area with a good temperature. I also display some of her belongings, like stuffed animals, trophies she won and photos that were taken of her. Remember, putting your loved ones things away does not mean putting them out of your life.

to be continued next Sunday...

Editor's Note: I discovered two days ago that my web site had been taken down months ago, and I knew nothing about it. Apparently, a new format was now being used in combination with another company, and what I had used for the past 13 years had become outdated. So there I was, no site, no copy, nothing. They claimed to have sent me an email, but I never received it. I finally found a site that achived old websites and there it all was and I didn't have to reinvent it again. So I hopped on the band wagon and have finally gotten my new site up for anyone who would like to go to it for information about my books and more. Sorry for the inconvenience:

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