A bereaved Dad, who is a member of our local chapter, posted on his wall today, missing his son.
A very well meaning friend advised him to find a website or FB group for people who have lost a child. From the dialogue that ensued, I wondered if she thought it might help to “cure” his pain and bring him back to who he used-to-be ….
I have this “thing” about educating people about our realities of parental grief.
I offered the following post
(to which he replied, “What she said”):
“I am one of those people who is an administrator and moderator for several of the closed Facebook groups for parents who have had a child die.
I am also a founder and leader of our local The Compassionate Friends Chapter (world’s largest free peer-to-peer support organization for Bereaved Parents, Grandparents and Siblings)
My daughter was killed in 2008. I have learned much about the grief of a parent since that ugly night.
All of the groups provide a safe outlet for us to put our emotions out there without having to feel the judgment of those who don’t walk our path.
They give us a safe place for us to vent and hurt and sometimes even laugh and learn from each other.
And what every single one of us longs for and what would really be the thing that helps, is to have our beloved child alive, happy, healthy and well.
We share tools of how we survive.
We let each other know that we are not crazy – we are grieving.
We share experiences and our commonality in grief.
And every single one of us just really wants our child to be alive, happy, healthy and well.
Finding our own foothold in this lifelong grief is nothing that happens in a year or 2 for even 3 or 4……
What the non-bereaved do not understand is that we are considered NEWLY BEREAVED for the first full 5 years and including the 6th anniversary.
There is nothing linear about our grief experiences or our grief pain.
We don’t start off at point A and then suddenly, slowly find that our lives become less painful or improve and then we are at point B.
It’s more like traveling on a rickety roller coaster in a dark funhouse with chainsaw wielding, ugly, sinister, psychotic clowns hidden around various turns, safety zones and popping out at us when we least want them to.
Our lives become more like walking on a tightrope over a pit of really, really hungry gators. We try to keep our balance knowing that it’s possible that any second we can easily stumble and find ourselves in pain that we don’t know how we survive. We can be proceeding steadily and then a little tiny thing throws off the balance and we are falling.
It is a constant struggle to try to bring balance to knowing that we love living people and are loved by living people AND
we ache for, long for, miss can’t stop hurting for our deceased child.
While the rest of the world gets to go on as if nothing has changed, everything in our world has changed.
We could never go back to who we were Before.
Our lives will never be as they once were.
We will never be who we were.
While the rest of the world can go on laughing, unencumbered, and feeling joy, we experience guilt for our moments of happiness, for a Very, very, very, very, very long time. We might laugh and then suddenly feel as if our heart stopped, because “how can we dare laugh or feel good, when our child is dead?!”
And then when we mature to a point where we can allow for the happy moments and happy times, there is still, always, a void present.
For a very, very long time, we understand that we don’t look for “things to get better” because the only thing that would be” better” is to have our child alive, happy, healthy and well. For a very, very long time, all we can do is look for moments of “being less horrible”.
It isn’t that we don’t love others and and isn’t that we aren’t loved by others.
It is naturally appropriate for our emotions to gravitate to our child who is no longer alive and experiencing our lives with us.
We live in pain that we never knew that it was possible to experience and still survive.
And eventually each of us comes to a point where we make a decision, whether conscious or not, to become Intentional Survivors rather than Collateral Victims of our child’s death.
We were discussing in our The Compassionate Friends in person chapter meeting one day about whether or not attending the meetings help when what all of us really know is that the only thing that “really” helps would be to have our child alive, happy, healthy and well. One of our dads said that he doesn’t know what “help” means…. what he does understand is that it’s worse not to go.
That becomes the balance of our lives for a very long time.
We don’t necessarily think in terms of “Good”.
We think of terms of “less horrible” and “less painful” because we come to understand that our lives will always have the pain of missing our loved child.
Like anything, belonging to supportive groups where others understand, Is very validating and probably is better than not.
The truth is, though, that it does not change our reality. There is no magic wand.
We will exist in the most horrible, most eviscerating pain of our lives, for as long as we do.
And Eventually, we learn how to apply tools that are appropriate for us at that moment.
Eventually, we can find ways to bring balance to existing in a world in which our deceased child is not physically present
having good, strong, happy moments of life; even though they are not here.
Eventually, we can move through the feeling that our lives have ended.
The groups, and the meetings and all of the support can help us find ways to do that.
The groups help us learn that we are not alone and can expose us to some extremely valuable tools….
And the working our way through, to not hating our lives, will be the hardest, hardest, hardest part of our lives that we will ever know.
And we CAN get there.