bereaved parent : child loss
"The Unspeakable Loss - How do you live after a child dies?"
by permission of Nisha Zenoff, PhD 3 minute read
pages 3-5; Hachette Co., Copyright 2017.
The shock of a child’s death affects every aspect of being: physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual. Unfamiliar and erratic behavior, emotional outbursts, anger at the world and at those around you, problems remembering the simplest things, changes in relationships, a desire to die, questions about one’s faith, and a host of other experiences are normal to the grieving process. Many parents experiencing loss are physically weakened and more susceptible to illness or other health issues. They may also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They must cope with feelings of guilt and responsibility, and adjust to a new family configuration. Marriages are challenged, as couples face the differing ways they cope with grief.
We each mourn differently. There is no one prescription for healing. You are going to find your own way. Some bereaved parents find it healing to be in the company of other bereaved parents. Others seek solitude. Some search for information or self-knowledge; others find activities that give them solace. Yet as I spoke with these remarkable parents, I realized that there is much that we share. There are patterns and commonalities in the experiences of bereaved parents. As we move through grief, there are touchstones along the way that many who have lost a child will recognize, as well as stories and questions that resonate with others who have experienced loss.
I did survive; I am surviving. Most of us do. And when we do, it seems as much a mystery as it does a miracle. Although it feels like time stops the moment your child dies and there’s a terrible grief you fear is forever, trust me that you will be able to breathe freely one day, to appreciate the beauty surrounding you, and to live again. We have a great capacity to heal and transform our grief over time.
If you are in acute pain, this may seem impossible—even absurd – right now. The thirty-seven years since Victor’s death have given me the advantage of being able to look back and recognize changes I never thought would occur, changes I didn’t think possible. As life goes on and the years pass, pain is altered and even disappears for large periods of time. It’s surprising how and when that happens, but it does. It is possible to again feel joy and a renewed sense of purpose in life. It is even possible to thrive, though this may at first seem impossible to believe.
Part of the miracle for me was to realize and then acknowledge the positive effects Victor’s death and my process of grieving had on my life. It’s difficult to acknowledge that something good can result from traumatic loss. Yet, over the years, in addition to learning to live with Victor’s death, I’ve come to realize that I have been transformed by this experience in unquestionably positive ways. I, like many of the bereaved parents I’ve encountered have experienced unexpected changes in my beliefs about myself and what’s important, about faith and the miracle of life. Grieving parents often report becoming more compassionate and focusing more clearly on what truly matters in life. Many bereaved parents make remarkable choices about how to live the rest of their lives. Researchers are only beginning to recognize and examine the potent way that grief can, uncannily, enrich and transform a life for the better. The transformative power of grief is a topic that deserves much more focus.