Humans have been fascinated and yet fearful of the word death since time immemorial. It has been a fascinating area of research that I have been doing the past two years in my search for meaning to my daughter’s death. It was not until I buried the WHY word that I began to grieve progressively and dare I say in a more healthy way. Everyone grieves differently, but the loss of a child is by far the most devastating loss of all losses. Many people approach those whose child/ren have passed with a statement that damages further. Statements like “Oh I know how you feel, my mother/father/husband/wife died x days/months ago” – wrong: nothing, and I will repeat that for added emphasis, nothing compares to grieving a child.
Every single parent who experiences this pain does so in a manner that is unique. No two people grieve in the same way or manner. It is a very odd thing indeed when we have a word for a woman who has had a partner die – widow when a man loses his partner he becomes a widower and when children are without their parents they are called orphans, but there is no word for the mother and father whose child dies. I wonder why.
Emma’s death at times put me into surreal positions of wondering who was I now to be calling myself a mother. The implication of mother signifies that your offspring are accounted for somewhere among the living. It was certainly one of the oddest sensations that I endured, the complete loss of my role as a mother, a role that filled me with pleasure and pride.
Equally hard are some of the inane statements made to us: statements like God needed another angel, she/he is at peace now, oh well at least you have x number of other children. So many foolish statements are made that often the person most in need of empathy ends up a mess. Another one is time heals, or you need to get on with life and stop dwelling on the past or your child would not want you to do, be like this. The same applies to be strong or turn to God he will help you. Not one of these is validating for the griever. Indeed they all hurt us more. Depending upon the circumstances individual statements about the environment are made. In my situation, I was told by a “healer” that if my daughter had thought positively, she would not have got cancer, and by the same person, she could have used her mind to get well. Really! Other similar statements were oh x, or y cures cancer did she do that. Now people get real, don’t you think that the oncologists and parents would have been all over it, about this so-called miracle and often expensive wonder drink/pill/thought.
One thing that many people forget is that we have two ears and one mouth and ought to be used in that proportion. What a grieving person needs the most is to be listened to, to be valued, to be allowed to tell their stories over and over again. People often say I don’t know what to say, and that is okay because no words will be the right ones so it is better, to be honest, and say you do not know what it is like, I can only imagine, I cannot know. We who are grieving know that you do not know because unless you have been there, no-one can know the pain, the helplessness, the utter desolation that you feel especially in that first couple of years.
My grief started with a state of catatonia, where one does not talk, is not aware of surroundings, etc. In other words a total break from reality. For the first two years, I lived in a fog-like atmosphere. This year has been the best and the worst regarding my grieving. It is still raw, but I am not so much at the mercy of my emotions as I was. Yes, time does soften the edges, but it will never heal my heart.
A terrific little book that is worth downloading if you need to hear what works best for us is below.