But what is it like to be on the other side?
What is it like to love someone who grieves a child?
Sometimes, we get so lost in our grief that we forget it’s hard for others, too. It’s hard for those who love us to watch us suffer.
It’s hard to see what seems like endless pain without being able to offer a “fix.”
Our culture wants to fix everything.
Grief can be fixed, right? Self-care. Books. Therapy. Medications. Meditations.
All of that can fix this horrible loss, eventually.
The Truth Is Simply This: There Is No Fix
We want you to understand this. There is no fix for this pain.
It has altered everything about our world. We have witnessed firsthand the fragility of life.
Bereaved parents know a deep secret. It can happen to us. It did happen to us.
As you watch us navigate this new world, you may have no idea what to expect.
We may be buoyant, manic, hopeful, angry, resentful, withdrawn, or snippy.
It depends on the day and how we feel. It’s not easy to find our way.
Yet, we don’t want to be left to navigate this loss alone.
We are different now, and it can be hard to understand.
Here’s What You Might Expect When Someone You Love Is Grieving A Child:
– We know that you don’t know what to say. It’s ok.
There are really no words for a loss of this magnitude. We don’t expect you to have the perfect words or the magic cure for our pain. All we want is someone to listen.
It doesn’t mean that we didn’t receive it or that we don’t care.
It might just mean that we are emotionally tapped out for the day and can’t think of a response.
– We don’t want platitudes, nor do we want encouragement to consider medications or more intensive therapy.
What we really want is for someone to sit with us in the uncomfortableness of our grief.
We want someone to acknowledge that yes, this is as terrible as it seems. We want the acknowledgment that there is no fix for the loss of our child.
– Our moods will change not just daily but sometimes hourly.
We may be happy and chatty one moment and then withdraw into silence the next.
– We are not, and we never will be again, the same person.
Loss of a child causes a shift in perspective. It suddenly becomes very obvious how fragile life is – all life.
– Talking about our child does not remind us of our grief.
It does not bring up painful memories. We live with those things every moment of the day.
Our child is always with us, so please, say our child’s name. It makes us happy that you remember too.
– We may forget birthdays, holidays, or other special events.
Or we may not feel like calling or messaging on those particular days. We may seem uninterested in your problems sometimes.
We may be withdrawn and isolated.
That is the time to reach out to us instead of feeling hurt. We still love you, but sometimes we are lost in our own pain.
It seems to be second nature for people to ask the father how his wife is doing. It’s much less common to hear someone ask a father how he’s doing.
When sending cards, messages, or memorials to a grieving parent, remember to include the father.
– We will still need you six months, a year, even two years or more after our child dies.
Time passes differently for the bereaved parent.
Six months can pass like a sigh, and it still feels as if our child died yesterday.
Our grief does not know time boundaries.
Related: 7 Ways To Support A Grieving Friend
We Need Your Support
Loving a bereaved parent can be hard.
We are sometimes so lost in our pain that we can be hard to reach.
We are not the same person that you once knew.
Yet we still very much need you and your support – someone to sit with us and hold our hand in the dark.
Feature Photo credit: Ben White / Unsplash
I am mother to three children, two beautiful girls and one gorgeous baby boy, James. James was diagnosed with trisomy 18 at 32 weeks gestation. He was born Aug 1, 2016 and lived 154 amazing days cradled in the love of his family. He died on Jan 2, 2017 due to complications of pulmonary hypertension. Because of him, I learned that a mother’s love has no bounds. My grief is enormous, but only because my love is enormous.
Our sweet son is buried in our backyard. We brought his body home and had a home visitation and home burial. This was facilitated by a Cuddle Cot. Due to this, our baby boy never left our arms. He was with us from the moment he was conceived until the moment we gave him back to the earth. Since his death, we have been trying to educate others about the beauty and healing of a home burial.
We live in western NC. I am a veterinarian and mother. My husband is a mathematics professor. We are expecting our fourth child, a baby girl, in July 2018.