Don’t Forget: The Silence That Cuts Even Deeper
One of the greatest fears of any parent who has outlived their child is that their child will be forgotten. When significant days are not acknowledged, it increases the feelings of loneliness and isolation that the parent feels. When their names are not spoken it feels as though they are forgotten about or as if they do not count or matter.
Our children are not a ‘thing,’ a ‘problem,’ a ‘circumstance,’ an ‘issue,’ or a ‘situation.’ They are and forever will be our sons and daughters. We know that in our heart, and we want others to know that, too. The acknowledgment of these precious relationships is what makes our hearts soar. The failure to acknowledge makes our hearts break.
Deep down we know that behind the words that seem to flow so freely are good intentions. But we also know that words can hurt, and when we are in the thick of grief it is hard to distinguish between good intentions and the raw pain that we feel. Sometimes it is the silence that cuts even deeper.
I recently spoke with a father whose son died 54 years ago, “What bothers me the most is that I am the only one left who remembers him. It’s hard.” A mother whose son died 32 years ago reflected, “We soon discovered that it made people uncomfortable when we talked about him… or they would offer terrible platitudes like, ‘At least you still have one.’ We quickly knew that we had to grieve alone and silently — all the while carrying him in our hearts. We bought flowers for Christmas and Easter memorandums, just to see his name printed in the church bulletin. We didn’t want anyone to forget him.”
Related: If I Don’t Remember Them, Who Will?
It is hard to know what to say. The fear of making someone cry halts a lot of interactions before they ever begin. But, it is important to know that the tears that fall after an acknowledgment is made are not necessarily tears of sadness; they are often tears of joy at hearing their name said aloud by another, of knowing that someone remembers, of recognizing that there is another person out there who thinks about them.
A simple message of, “I’m thinking about you and ___ today,” on a birthday, death anniversary, holiday, Mother’s/Father’s Day, or other significant day such as the day of diagnosis, the day that chemotherapy treatments began, the day that hospice was called in, the day of the accident, the day that life support was removed, will touch a heart and never be forgotten. The act of lighting a candle and taking a photo of it and sending it to a parent will allow them to know that their child’s light continues to shine. Small gifts that include names mean so much. The random text that tells a parent that something reminds you of their child is a treasured gift.
The bond between a parent and a child never ends. No matter how short of a time we had with them or how many years we were able to share, it is never enough. No matter how many years since the death, the parent always yearns for their child to be remembered and acknowledged. Death does not end the love; love always carries on. We know that it is hard to walk the journey of grief and pain and sadness, we know because we are walking it, but someone who can come alongside and acknowledge our child is one of the greatest gifts that we can receive.
My son’s name is Max. Tell me about your child, I would love to remember your son or daughter with you.
Photo credit: DDare