I had no idea, until I became one myself three and a half years ago, that there is an entire month set aside to help us educate ourselves about and support bereaved parents. When I first heard this, I was taken aback that they (whoever “they” are) felt it necessary to designate an entire month to this. But as time goes by, I see the wisdom and necessity of devoting a month out of each year to bringing awareness to the wound that occurs in the life and soul of parents who have lost a child.
My husband and I have almost made ourselves completely anti-social simply because of the ignorance of most people in regards to the suffering a parent experiences after losing a child. At almost any outing we take, when socializing is the order of the day, we encounter an off-handed comment or description that affects us like salt in the wound. Just this week we have both been affected that way just going about our everyday lives.
My husband is in construction and can be at a different location almost daily, so he is very aware of the many roads, highways, exits and businesses along them in our area. But he wasn’t sure about a particular area a fellow construction worker was telling him about recently and expressed his confusion. To help my honey understand where he was talking about, this person said, “You know, the exit your son died at.” When telling me about this exchange, my honey said, “After that, I was done.” That’s how it feels after dealing with this sorrow over our loss, and the insensitivity of others, for almost 4 years. We just want to be done!
I don’t think anyone, save fellow bereaved parents, understand the extent and depth of wounding losing a child causes.
As I sat at the hair-dresser yesterday, the young woman cutting my hair asked me about my recent trip to Texas, and I briefly told her about it, including a fender-bender accident my sister and I were in. This one simple bit of information passed on to a seemingly “safe” and unrelated person launched a minute-long description of the injuries that can occur by being hit in the rear of a car by another car. I know this person doesn’t know how my son died, but knowing of her innocence doesn’t stop the images, horror, disappointment and sorrow that it triggered in me.
This is part of why I write this blog – I wish to help educate others, who have not experienced the loss of a child, about this horrendous experience. This is not something one “gets over” or “moves on” or “heals” from.
It is ongoing and life-long.
A year or so after our middle child died from injuries sustained in a car accident, a relative told me about someone he knew who had lost a child who appreciated the things people said to her. I’m sure she probably didn’t mean things like I quoted above. But it highlighted, in my mind, how different we all are. I am not one who likes to be told things about my journey through grief, my loss or my sorrow over it. Being told things like that simply add to the confusion, questions, doubts and fears that I deal with, on an almost daily basis, as a consequence of this loss.
I prefer to know that I am loved, supported by prayer, and that my family, and all that we are going through – good and bad – is remembered.
But I don’t want my life pronounced upon!
I am who I am.
And I am where I am.
Nothing you say or don’t say will change the circumstances of my life, or help me learn to live with them. (I’m not speaking, of course, of professionals who are trained and qualified to help us learn to live with our circumstances.)
So, I say all this to say that if you know someone who is a bereaved parent –
Be careful when you speak.
Or, don’t speak at all! (I’m just joking about this one!)
Don’t think, even for a second, that you can imagine or guess how they feel. Don’t presume, that because you have experienced loss (other than your own child), that you can speak into their lives. (In fact, in my opinion, unless you have a personal relationship with someone, you shouldn’t be speaking into their lives – but now I’m revealing one of my pet peeves.)
Don’t give bereaved parents any more reason than we already have to withdraw from life.
Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts about Bereaved Parents Awareness Month.