Posted by: jodyglynnpatrick | 09/22/2014

Here is what I know about grieving a dead child

broken peopleThe true value of this site is the ensuing conversation after a blog post, in the comment section. I thank you for your contributions to help keep our community real and honest.

What I most often recognize in the comment section is the feeling we parents express of “brokenness” after a child’s death. We go on, but we do not exist in the same way as we existed before the tragedy. We really do suffer from PTSD and a multitude of symptoms that don’t magically vanish after a prescribed grieving period. We also see ourselves as different from people who have not lost children to death; that separates us from the good wishes or strength of our friends and (sadly) oftentimes even family.

Many of us dwell on the unnaturalness of a child preceding a parent in death because we believe that there is a natural order to things. This loss defies even nature. This “my child should not have died before me” covenant is a concept which has only lately entered the human psyche. Even in the 1800’s, a family was likely to lose one-third of the children who were born alive — either to accident or fire, water-born disease or plagues.

My pioneer ancestors buried a 23-year old son who could not make it through the first brutal Michigan winter eating only hard-tack and tree bark. His mother (my grandmother of generations back) surely grieved his death as sorely as I grieved over the loss of Daniel, even though she likely expected to lose — and did lose — many of her dozen children before taking her last breath.

We don’t really grieve our children’s death because we had some unwritten, unspoken guarantee that it wasn’t supposed to happen; we grieve their death because we loved them with all of the servitude and protectiveness of a parent. Once we conceived this precious person, we could never again imagine our lives without them. And then we found we must.

One of the most popular blogs I’ve written continues to be “Why should I live after my child has died?” which new visitors always choose to read. This reinforces my view that many bereaved parents seriously consider suicide in the aftermath of a child’s death. Some of you admitted to hanging around only because you have another living child to parent. You know — and this is an important truth — that if you exit of your own free will, your suicide would deliver them a crushing blow. They will have proof that you didn’t love them as much as you loved a child no longer here, and that’s already their newly found fear.

Let’s at least admit that we do elevate a deceased child into something of a saint — even when, as in Daniel’s case, he WAS a saint :)

So we decide — it is a decision, after all — to stay for the benefit of a child or spouse or frail mother or whomever. We then have to work through our own internal rages at these anchors for holding us here, when we’d rather be dead ourselves to escape our suffering. Or we don’t think they are suffering enough to justify the hanging-on, whatever “enough” is. It’s all too painful to explore very closely, like picking at the edges of a fresh scab.

Or we have to face our fears for our existing children that they will die next. Certainly I didn’t want my other kids out of my sight after Daniel died in a car accident unexpectedly, and I did pull them out of public school and put them into a more cloistered (more “safe”) private school. There are so many feelings to struggle through at the very time when we consciously only feel numb and on autopilot. When we feel broken.

To cope, some of us self-medicate. Some turn to psychics. Some to prayer. Some turn away from God or faith. Some turn to sex. Some become cutters, to feel anything at all. Others just go back to work and try their hardest to compartmentalize their grief so they can continue functioning at all. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve, only healthier choices we might make to move forward in a way that really honors the love that continues to exist between parent and child.

However you are feeling today, you are encouraged to express it here. We are not so much your audience as we are the invisible hand on your shoulder or ear to your suffering. We get it. Someone in the group has suffered a stillborn loss. Someone’s child was also murdered. Someone’s child took their own life. Someone was hit by a train or fell down the stairs or hit their head on the sink in the bathroom. Someone’s precious child died of cancer. We understand your pain. You are welcome to express both your sorrow and your hope — what hurts you and how you cope. What helps? We especially want to know that.

You’ve made the choice to stay. That is, in itself, a milestone. Now take another step into our circle. We’re here for you.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: jodyglynnpatrick | 08/10/2014

Our children. Our stories.

poohTonight, I’ve written directly to a few parents who have lost children and who had the strength to reach out to you to tell their story or to ask for help through the comment section. I asked them to consider sending a photograph of their child to us to post, along with any favorite words or messages or thoughts about their child. In this way, we can share their joyous memories as well as their most painful ones, and celebrate the lives that were extinguished far too soon.

Anyone who comes by this site is invited to remember a child’s life here, though the person memorialized would be a child or sibling so that parents are never ambushed with an unexpected posting of their child’s story by a friend, etc. We’re very respectful of feelings here, especially grieving parents, grandparents, siblings and other close family members for whom this site is created.

It’s easy to participate in this new memorial site — send a jpeg photo and any message you’d like posted to jgp@glynnpatrick.com with the child’s birth and death years — and age is no barrier. If the child was stillborn, of course there would be no photograph, but we would be happy to post any words or poem, etc., you’d like offered in memorial.

What you say about how they died is left to your discretion.

If you have a related blog site, you can submit a blog you’ve written to be posted on this site along with the photo, and after review, we may provide a link back to your site to refer our readers for your other, related blogs.

We have a posting up as an example of one mother’s remembrance of her daughter. I know this mom would like others posted alongside her child’s memorial, so the more the better, as we remember each precious life.

Jody

 

Hemingway won a bet that he could write a six-word story that would make anyone who read it felt like crying. This is it.

Hemingway won a bet that he could write a six-word story that would make anyone who read it felt like crying. This is it.

Step back from the act of suicide. We can help. We get it. Losing a child is far worse than even having cancer. I know, as I’ve had both a son die, and I also was treated for late-stage, aggressive cancer. Facing cancer and the possible loss of my own life came nowhere near, in terms of fear and pain, to the experience of losing my child.

When you have cancer, all of the emphasis is on living. You desperately want to live. Life becomes even more precious as you stand at the edge of darkness. Your partner is more attentive, your children kinder, your friends more “present”. Everyone around you is focused on helping you live; your team is in place, and they have little trouble finding motivational quotes or little gifts of time to throw your way.

When you lose a child, a common experience is an immediate wish for death to escape the reality of what has happened. Your life becomes less precious in your grief because part of who you were died with that child. The future means living on without that person in the world, and the world is diminished. Your pleasure in living in it is extinguished. Casual friends drift away, close friends are stymied about what to do or say. Family is dealing with their own loss; yours is just another burden.

All of those feelings are natural. But the thought of ending your life or suffering (when you are a survivor) is too often taboo to express to those who circle you during your time of grief. People want to “fix” you, to help you “over it” and they don’t want you to talk about feeling like you’d like to die. It cuts you off from your own feelings, or the expression of them, and your response is to feel insulted by their offers of support, their background chatter about “time healing all wounds”, etc.

The truth, as bereaved parents know, is that time will not heal this wound. But know that time does allow scar tissue to form under and around the pain so that life does become bearable (and even at times pleasurable again). You move automatically through enough days, and one day, you laugh again without feeling guilty. You don’t “move on”, you bring the child with you into the future in your mind and heart, and you slowly are able to accept the unacceptable.

Whether your child was stillborn, died of accident or disease when a teenager, was murdered by their hand, a stranger’s action, or was a soldier who died in the defense of their country, or died of natural causes as a mature human being, living on after their death takes fortitude at a time when you have little of it to offer.

There are many blog posts on this site to help you learn to cope with the loss of a child. Not how to “accept it”, but how to cope. I invite you to review them on your harder days, and to invite other parents from this community – those who will read your comments — to share your burden with a quick note of encouragement during your harder days. Their response, from this community of people who truly understand grief, will help. Likewise, invite your friends to review and follow this site, too, as advice for how to help you cope can also be found.

Step back from the exit. It isn’t an answer. It only extends the ripple of grief even further. We can help.

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