It is said, that the tragedy of losing a child brings with it unbearable grief. Grief has been defined as an intense response to the loss which brings on extreme emotional distress.
To me, I thought I had descended into Hell and the pain was so intense, I couldn’t believe the cruelty of it, when my son Robb died. The parent feels disbelief, helplessness, confusion and extreme anxiety. They realize there is also a loss of control over their life and the lives of others they care about. All of this rang true for me, and the first few months the pain was unimaginable.
The professionals say there are five stages of grief: these are anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As time goes on, some of the shock and numbness subside and the parent will then tend to feel anger and, depending on the relationship with the child, may also have feelings of guilt, frustration, and shame. Upon losing a child a parent also loses a special bond, a very strong bond and one we assume will last a life time. Over the years, I would often picture my son, Robb, visiting me occasionally in my old age, calling me on the phone, taking care of me if I became ill or needed help. At the wake, I remember standing by his casket looking down at him, disbelieving that he could have died before me, an unnatural interruption in the scheme of the progression of life.
Dealing With Grief
People react differently to all things; so it is with death. A grieving parent should be encouraged to grieve as they feel fit to do. I withdrew from people other than my family and very close friends. I didn’t go near any social events/places for over a year. On the other hand, my husband began going back to play golf a couple of months later. Although I didn’t understand how he could to do that, I knew we each had to grieve in our own way. I went to “grief classes” at a local funeral home, but Bob chose not to go. I did this six week session to help heal myself.
We did read a handbook on grief together recommended by a counseling friend. First, we read the book which helped us see how our society in general views grief and why it’s so difficult to be a grieving person in our culture. Those chapters alone were helpful to me. Then we worked on various writing projects, the point being to cleanse ourselves of the accumulated grief of our past as well as the present loss.
There were other things that helped me with the healing process besides the handbook. I read other books about grief. We got counseling. I took long, quiet walks, mostly by myself and began noticing things, seeing things differently, like flowers, trees, and clouds moving above me. I listened to classical music which I found soothing. My other children, although they seemed to distance themselves from us in the beginning, as time went on we became closer than ever. Eventually I shook off the lethargy and began to force myself to do new things, like planning trips to places we’d never been to before.
The release of grief is something that can’t be hurried. I don’t believe it’s a good idea to just “keep busy” as so many folks advise. I would say use that time to think about and remember the lost child even though it is painful, savor the memories especially the great fun memories of your deceased. Keep moving forward, bringing in new possibilities and opportunities that will enlighten you and possibly help others along in the healing process.
My book, Living Loving and Losing a Son will give you some hope as I discuss how I and my family dealt with the loss of our son. It’s devoted to my son Robert who died on a Sunday morning. He was 37 years old, and a wonderful person. It’s a memoir of our shared life together.