I grew hearing stories of my great-aunt, Hazel. She died long before I was born, three weeks after giving birth at only 21. I was told my great-grandmother never got over it. I couldn’t understand. She had another daughter and eight grandkids. Why wasn’t that enough? Because, she forced upon the road of the loneliest journey.
Until you experience it, you cannot understand the bond between a parent and child. The bond with each child is different, but just as strong. It is your heart, a piece of your soul, all of your hopes and dreams rolled into one. For most parents, the one desire is for them to be healthy and happy.
Losing a child is exactly the same, but totally opposite. The opposite: It is the ripping away of those things, a hole in your soul that will never be filled. Something you have to learn to live around, never heal from. The price of great love is great grief. The deep love for your child does not stop just because they are no longer here to hug. The same: Until you live it, you have no understanding.
Grieving parents fear their child being forgotten as if they never existed. Not by them, that will never happen, but by others. For a parent, everyday tasks and household items hold memories of conversations, hugs, and laughter that will never happen again. Something as simple as a trip to the grocery store, even years later, means remembering there is no need to buy their child’s favorite food. For someone on the outside, it’s uncomfortable. The fear of saying the wrong thing, of reminding them of what they have lost keeps most quite. And some, because they are not living it, do not understand why a parent has not “gotten over” it yet. So the parent puts on a smile and tells you everything is ok, while their heart cracks a little more as next worst fear materializes, their child is no longer mentioned, just as if they never existed.
If you are not walking that road, it can be hard to understand how to help someone else through it. And that is ok. After all, none of us knew either until we were unwillingly thrust into that private “club”. One of the best things a friend said to me after losing my son was “I want to say some magic words to make it better, but there are none.” She did not tell me time would heal, things happen for a reason, at least……. She was just there. If someone in your life has started on the loneliest journey, no matter how long ago, the best gift you can give them is to just be there. They have not forgotten their child is dead. They face it every second of every day. You are not reminding them. Ask about their child, let them talk, let them know that for that moment, they are safe to take off the mask and open their heart.
Originally written for Valley Vital Living Magazine. Read more and other articles on the website.