Posted by: jodyglynnpatrick | 04/14/2015

Returning to work after the death of your child

live after lossBefore your child died, you probably knew someone in the workplace who suffered a traumatic loss – a home fire, cancer diagnosis, messy divorce, public bankruptcy, or even a spousal death. You likely expressed sympathy for them, imagining how you’d feel in their shoes, and that empathy cushion guided your response. However, the trauma experienced after the death of a child is unimaginable. Any parent employed by the firm may try to imagine what it would be like if it had happened to them, but it didn’t happen to them; it happened to you. And you can’t expect anyone at work to understand how disemboweled you feel or to fathom how hard it was to return, or to realize how impossible it is to believe things will ever be “normal” again.

Agnes, a newly bereaved parent, explained her workplace re-entry this way: “I’ve always loved working in a small, close-knit office, but now it is the absolute pits. If I cry, my supervisor questions if I’m really ready to come back, but if I act normal, does that mean I’m ‘over it’? How do I ever get over losing my daughter? Everybody here knew Ellen, but since I came back to work, nobody has mentioned her name or even talked about their own kids, either. Suddenly it’s like we live in a ghost town where none of us has kids anymore.

“But what I hate most is how people suddenly stop laughing whenever I enter a room. And maybe I would resent it – them finding something funny when my child was put in the ground last week. But them trying to make me feel like things are normal makes me feel like crying because I know it’s my fault everyone is so miserable. That’s how I feel – like now I’m a workplace pollutant.”

Statistically, bereaved parents are many times more likely to consider suicide, to have marriages crumble, to self-medicate, and to suffer from clinical depression. But no two outcomes are the same, and some people work through their grief and find grace more readily than others — not because they loved their child less, but because they biologically are wired to handle things differently. Likewise, some will dread returning to work while others may relish the idea of finding a sanctuary – the single place where perhaps they might find respite, for a brief moment even, from the mountain of grief awaiting their return to the home (and/or life) that their child no longer occupies.

Everyone expresses and experiences grief in their own unique way. If you could write a memo to your co-workers before returning to work, stating how you’d like to be treated once you get there, what would you write? On re-entry, do you think you might need a shoulder now and then, or some schedule flexibility, or do you think you’d prefer minimal interaction with others the first couple days? Would you be more comfortable if people acknowledged your loss or if they simply patted you on the back or gave a meaningful wave and went on with their jobs?

After you have an idea how you’d like to be treated, can you convey that to your colleagues? If not, is there a co-worker you might enlist as an advocate – to say to others what you want said?

Everyone will want to help, but no one will know how or what to say. The more you can control your own re-entry, the more you can signal to others what you really would find helpful and what would ambush you. You owe that to yourself as well as to your friends and co-workers.

Posted by: jodyglynnpatrick | 03/10/2015

A message for you (and me) from John Edward

john edward

Photo by Getty Images from book “Fallen Masters”

Yesterday, I interviewed psychic medium John Edward (it was an author interview for bookreview.com, for his fictional novel Fallen Masters). Following that formal interview, we discussed this blog site, and his past advice to grieving parents to try to see the actual death of a child (the way in which they died) as a door and nothing more than that.

He has said in the past that the method of the death is not important after “crossing over” and therefore, he has long advised parents not to get hung up on “the door your child went through to cross over”. He says that parents will often ask him how the child died, if circumstances are unknown, or what they were thinking at the time of death, rather than about the state of their energy at present, which really is more important to feeling a continued connection. On the other side, he said, the method of death makes absolutely no difference to anyone.

Yesterday, I specifically asked him for a different message for grieving parents, regardless of their belief in mediums. I asked what advice he would suggest, based on his own belief in the messages he has received from those who have “crossed over”. Specifically, I asked him what he would say to grieving parents who need help to find a sense of peace with redesigning their own lives after the death of a child. Here is his response for Bereaved Parents:

“The loss of a child admittedly is the Grand Canyon of your life. It is a gaping, cavernous hole in the ground that you have created as the national monument of your life — that is as it is supposed to be. It is a place that you visit, but it is not intended to be a place where you live. It’s not where they want you to live. It’s okay to go back there, but not stay there.”

I don’t know if I believe in this medium or that one, but I do believe in the power for ongoing communication between energies. I call where Daniel is the “death dimension” and understand it to be devoid of the restriction of time or space. It’s a fifth dimension, to my way of thinking. So, on the road on the way to Madison, WI where the interview was conducted (I now live in downstate Illinois), I had reminded my son — in my head, which is the only place I can reach him now — that our symbol of connection is a blue rose, and I suggested that it would be nice to get one again, as it’s been far too long that he’s reached out!

It was a lighthearted thought. But Friday evening, I settled into the hotel with the responsibility to read a 479 page book in the next two days before the interview on Monday, and imagine my surprise (more honestly, my shock) when — on page 39 — a central character uses a single blue rose to propose to his wife. Since there is no time in the Death Dimension, I wondered if Daniel had whispered in John Edward’s ear when he wrote the book to include a blue rose? A nice idea, but really…. just a whim, right?

Saturday afternoon,  I opted for a little retail therapy as a diversion from the book, and went shopping at a nearby Hobby Lobby. A group of six young people with a couple children between them were joking and walking down the aisles together. The small, happy band caught many people’s attention because of their Goth dress. I like Gothic clothing myself, and Daniel had liked it at around the time of his death at age 16, so I smiled their way and moved on. A few minutes later, they were again near me in the store when one of the young women presented one of the young men with a plastic flower. “What’s this?” he asked her, and I turned at her answer: “A blue rose.”

He asked why he would want that, and I told the group that it probably was meant for me, and I took it from her, much to her surprise and delight. I didn’t feel a need to explain it — only to claim it.

Alongside my friend Donna Gray, who always makes the connections for us, we’ve interviewed most of the “great psychic mediums” as book reviewers for bookreview.com. It’s our genre, our niche. Once you do a few reviews, if you’ve done your homework and actually read their books and can formulate a good review, you become known for it and then publishers recognize your name and give you the chance to meet more. We’ve had lunches and dinners with a good many — probably all that you would know in the national circuit — and admittedly I have my moments of serious doubt with some, and moments of inspiration (and great hope) with others. We all want to believe our children continue an existence on some plane of existence, right?

What I do know for certain is that John Edward is right. The loss of my son, after all of these years, continues to be the Grand Canyon hole in my life. I can’t just “get over it” nor can I pretend it isn’t there. But I can honor Daniel’s place in my life, and find the splendor it brought me, without camping out at the hole every day now. That’s the message of hope I can bring to you today, care of John Edward.

And maybe that’s enough to get you to another tomorrow. That’s the point, after all, of this blogsite: to help you eat a mountain of grief. We can do it together, one spoonful at a time.

jody.

Comment from a grieving mother:wed “Jody, our second son got engaged to a young lady we adore. Celebration? Wrong! We waited until the door closed and we both began to sob like the very first day our son passed away. Why would such a wonderful thing bring such sobbing, almost heart stopping pain?

“The wedding plans (I am a designer) swirl around me and while I hear myself talk colors and flowers, I feel like I’m bleeding to death. I am braced at all angles and don’t know how to actually face that wonderful day without one son. They talk about the family photos, I gag at that thought. Only one son will stand up there with his brother. One is missing. Please talk about that.”

A future is born with our child. We imagine their first steps, first birthdays, first day of school. We imagine them learning how to drive, their high school graduation, perhaps college. In our mind’s eye, we see their wedding and ultimately, the birth of their own children, our grandchildren. We have perpetuated life, and we have all of those wonderful celebrations and rites of passage to look forward to when we bring that child home.

Then something goes horribly wrong. Our dreams are shattered with a diagnosis, with a discovered failing on our part to make a perfect body. (We, of course, will assume the blame for any abnormality). Or we get a few of those celebrations under our belt (enough to believe in “happy endings”) but then are blind-sighted with a medical surprise or an accident, a murder, a suicide. The future is not only ripped away from our child, but from us as well.

We grieve. We hurt every day. We can barely function. And then the first family event looms, as it will – an obligation to attend (or even to plan!) a graduation, a child’s birthday party, a holiday gathering. How can the world go on without our child? How can we set our grief aside for a day to “celebrate life” when the very life we cared so much about has ended? How can anyone even expect this of us?

The hardest notion to come to grips with, in the aftermath of a child’s death, is that every life is precious and deserves to be celebrated. One child’s death should not claim another child’s wedding day. One child’s timeline has ended, but the world does, indeed, move on. Our greatest challenge is to live in this parallel world where we coast along with it, even though our own purpose in life has been forever altered.

Holidays were hard for our family, yes. Daniel’s birthday came and went. Sometimes I went to church on that day, sometimes I celebrated and mourned alone; later I called daughters who had grown up and formed families of their own – a rite of passage denied my oldest child, who will now forever be the youngest, having died at age 16.

One of my most challenging days, as the years went by, was my daughter’s graduation from the Chicago Police Academy. It had been Daniel’s dream to become a police officer, which I believe truly motivated his younger sister to pursue that occupation. But how could I get through that day, feeling it should have been Daniel to first walk across the platform at Navy Pier?

After Brook gave the graduation speech (she was top of her class), after the bagpipes and drums played (which also hit my heart hard in remembrance of Danny Boy), we sat down to lunch. Brook removed her police hat and set it on the seat beside her. Inside the plastic lining, I noticed a photograph of Daniel and a copy of the police prayer (in his handwriting) that he always kept in his wallet. In her way, Brook had brought him along with her on her most special day.

Our grief is private, yes, but it is also shared. We forget that because we are all taught by Western Society that death is a final parting and that we should “move on” and not speak of it after the few weeks granted to us to grieve. But a parent’s grief for a dead child never ends. It only moves deeper into our hearts, further below the tissue and the surface. The same is true for siblings; we can never know the depth of their pain because there are no words for them to express it when all the well-meaning people around them will discourage it, anyway.

The very thing that would have hurt Daniel far more than his lost arm, his lost leg, his broken neck, and the internal injuries he suffered in that god-awful car crash would have been my never-ending pain on his behalf. Or Brook’s pain at his absence. I believe we are still connected in spirit, and so I want to now experience joy again, and to be his channel to those events, too.

The answer to your question, dear reader (dear mother), is that you will be shocked at the strength of your grief, of your reactions, to those first family obligations and celebrations. But you will eventually find a way to bring your child with you into the future. Attend the gathering and try to wring out every joy you can, and then come home and light a candle and share the experience as best you can.

We are here for you and you are here for other parents as they enter our community in search of encouragement as well as understanding. By our example and our sharing of these questions and experiences, we form a bridge for the newly bereaved as well as for those who have suffered for many years with the same feelings or anxieties. Thank you for your question, and for sharing it here.

Jody

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