Losing a child is the most painful experience that any parent can be asked to go through, especially when it is a young child that they have had to watch go through the devastating, frightening, physically and emotionally crippling battle against cancer.
Losing a child is like losing one’s heart and then being expected to carry on with life as though everything is still the same – and it isn’t.
People expect you to act and behave in a specific manner, and they have no right; they mumble inane well-meaning but awkward, insensitive phrases like “He’s in a better place,” “Everything happens for a reason,” or “You’re lucky to have other children,” and “Time will heal all,” or “You must get on with your life now.”
In our second article in this Bereaved Parents Awareness Month we would like to once again extend our heartfelt sympathies to all parents who have lost a child/children and remind you that NOBODY has the right to tell you how to grieve, how long to grieve, or anything else about YOUR grief!
Grief is a normal yet highly personal response to loss. It is neither an illness nor a pathological condition; it is a natural process that every single one of us will unfortunately have to go through at some time or the other, usually more than once in our lives.
Everyone grieves differently, according to gender, age, culture, value system, personality, previous experience with loss, and available support. Grieving differs even among members of the same family, as each person’s relationship with and attachment to the deceased family member varies.
There is no one way to grieve. While certain manifestations of grief are typical, common and normal, and although some feelings and reactions are universal, their intensity will vary, and they can happen in no particular order.
The Mourner’s Bill of Rights
1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief
No one else will grieve in exactly the same way as you do, not even other members of your family. Do not allow anyone to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.
2. You have the right to talk about your grief
Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out people who will allow you to talk as much as you want and as often as you want about your grief. Grief counselors are perfect as they know exactly what you need.
3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions
Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt, and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Know that there is no such thing as a “wrong” emotion. Accept all your feelings, no matter what they are, and find someone who will do the same to listen to you talk about your grief.
4. You have a right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. Don’t allow others to push you to what you don’t feel ready for.
5. You have the right to experience grief “attacks”
Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you seemingly out of the blue. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.
6. You have the right to make use of ritual
The funeral ritual provides you with the support of caring people. More important, it supportively sees you off on your painful but necessary grief journey. Later rituals, such as lighting a candle for the person who died, can also be healing. If others tell you that rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen – do what makes YOU feel better.
7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality
If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.
8. You have the right to search for meaning
You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, and some may not. Watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like “It was God’s will” or “Think what you have to be thankful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.
9. You have a right to treasure your memories
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring memories, think of creative ways to embrace them. If you want to cover your walls with photos, play videos of your child over and over or listen to songs that you used to sing together, do so, and ignore anyone who says it is wrong.
10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal
Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid anyone who is impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone you loved changes your life forever.
Remember, There is no right or wrong way to grieve; there is only your way, and you must discover the best way for you to grieve for yourself. There is no magic formula, no short cut, and no easy way out.
Grief is like a long, winding tunnel whose entrance is closed behind you, and the only way out is through, but it is important that you work your way through it on YOUR terms and within YOUR timetable.
The moment that you left me, my heart was split in two;
One side was filled with memories; the other side died with you.
I often lay awake at night when the world is fast asleep;
And take a walk down memory lane with tears upon my check.
Remembering you is easy, I do it every day;
But missing you is a heartache that never goes away.
I hold you tightly within my heart and there you will remain;
You see, life has gone on without you, but will never be the same.
~ Author Unknown ~