“It gets worse before it gets better.”
Those were the words the pastor offered to a newly bereaved couple whose daughter had died unexpectedly.
And you should know that he is right.
Bereaved parents are stunned when four months, six month, nine months down the road they find their grief remains overwhelmingly raw.
The shock has worn off.
Their hearts have been flayed open and the wound is still bleeding.
It doesn’t help that those outside the loss community expect healing to be happening when the magnitude of the loss is still seeping into the soul.
The depth of loss has not been fully realized when the funeral is over. No, in the weeks and months and years ahead bereaved parents are confronted with the realization that they didn’t just lose their child but that they lost the hope, dreams and expectations they held for that child as well. They lost their child’s future, but they also lost their own future expectations (marriages and grand babies, to name a few) and they grieve for both what their child will never experience and what they themselves will miss out on.
Frequently, bereaved parents squelch their grief as they try to remain strong for their surviving children. They can’t fall apart because they are so desperately needed by those too young to understand or to express their grief in healthy ways. That’s one reason why the average length of time it takes for parents to work through the grief process averages five years or more – the longest bereavement period of any loss known to man.
My daughter’s grief counselor told her that many teens don’t grieve over lost siblings for four or five years. They experience delayed grief which I think results from trying to be strong for their parents.
The entire home is in upheaval. The sense of security that was taken for granted has been exposed for the fallacy that it is. Gone is the naïveté that we can protect those we love from harm. It’s a frightening experience.
It’s truly terrifying.
And parents and siblings are often left dealing with problems that arise in the wake of the death. Financial pressure, legal issues, spiritual, emotional and health problems assault the family. Marriages and family relationships quake in the aftermath.
While the outside world expects healing to begin, bereaved families are often sorting through compounding problems. They are reeling from the fallout and haven’t really begun the healing process.
Grieving parents and the outside world need to know and understand that grieving the loss of a son or daughter – regardless of their age – is the most devastating and destructive loss experience. Both the bereaved and those who care for them need to anticipate and make accommodations for a long and drawn out grieving process, because it definitely gets exponentially worse before it gets better.
For those who care about the bereaved, grieve with those who grieve. Let go of the expected length of bereavement. Don’t reduce grief to a simple bid for sympathy or pity. And be ever aware that for the grief-stricken feeling bad feels bad, but feeling better feels bad too. It’s a psychological hurdle grieving families frequently face. There is a battle raging within the hearts and minds of loss parents. What they know to be true doesn’t “feel” true and they struggle to reconcile the conflicting messages received from the heart and mind. The solution is not as simple as mind over matter.
People often ask me what to say or do for someone who is grieving. So many times I’ve heard others advise just be present and listen. Both those things are helpful but not necessarily healing. In my experience validating feelings is the single most healing thing you can provide the bereaved.
Grief, for a bereaved parent can be likened to a pressure sore, more commonly known as a bedsore. Pressure sores develop when an individual stays in one position for too long. Unlike other wounds, a pressure sore grows deeper instead of spreading wider. They can be deceptively dangerous because they rapidly eat through layers of flesh below the affected skin to the tendons and the bones beneath if not treated promptly. Treatment involves the painful scraping away of the dead tissue to reach the healthy tissue below. Ointments is applied, the wound is packed and covered and daily cleaning is required to prevent the wound from getting deeper.
Likewise, grief gets worse and deeper when exposed to the pressure of society to project a positive outlook or to work through their grief in the timeframe others deem appropriate. Shaming and silencing the bereaved for failing to heal, wallowing in grief, or throwing a pity party deepens the wound by invalidating the lost loved one’s worth. Venting the negative feelings helps to clear away the infection but refusing to validate those feelings is tantamount to leaving the wound exposed to the dirt and debris floating in the air. The wound gets worse and healing takes longer as the grief-stricken seek the understanding of others.
Validation is the antibiotic ointment applied to promote healing. The presence of “safe friends” (those who don’t criticize or try to fix the broken) is the packing and covering which provides a barrier between the open wound and the influences of the outside world. Frequent validation and affirmation keep the emotional wound clean providing an environment that encourages healing. The bad must be flushed out before the good can replace it.
Unfinished grief occurs when we slap a bandaid on without cleaning and disinfecting the wound. The wound may no longer be visible to the outside world but is quietly festering beneath the bandaid that it covers.
For the bereaved, be gentle and patient with yourself. You’ve been deeply wounded and deep wounds heal slowly. As the old song says, “The road is long with many a winding curve.” Grief isn’t supposed to feel good.
It gets worse before it gets better; but it can and does get better as the grieving struggle their way through the intimately painful thoughts and emotions that arise after the death of a loved one. That’s not to say it will never hurt again at some point down the road. Instead it means the bereaved will no longer be consumed by and actively working through their loss.
March 21, 2017 at 5:32 am
Thank you Janet!
You are a champion for hurting hearts and we need to hear your wisdom. It does get worse before it gets better. At three years I have many more “better” days that “worse” days but I am finding this third season of anniversaries is plunging me back under the ocean of grief. I have developed much more successful coping mechanisms. i can DO all the things I have to do. But oh, my heart!
I appreciate your honesty, your encouragement and your commitment to autthenticity. No sugarcoating here! And that is such a breath of fresh air.
LikeLiked by 1 person
March 22, 2017 at 1:56 pm
I’m praying for you as the anniversary of Dom’s Heaven Date approaches. How I wish we could turn back time!
LikeLiked by 1 person
March 21, 2017 at 6:12 am
That was so amazing. Thank you for giving me some validation to my feelings and to what the rest of my family is trying to live. We are 15 months into trying to live without our daughter. What was, will never be again. And we don’t get a choice. We were 4 and that was what our family was supposed to be. Now we cling to 3, because the hole that is left is wrong. So many ups and downs the days and months have flown by. Numb to the rest of the world. Hope is a good thing to know it’s around the corner. Not for us now, our faith is our glue holding us together.
March 22, 2017 at 8:56 am
Your words we were 4 and now cling to 3 I found to be truth, we have each other but still the broken hearts come to life and we again grieve
April 28, 2017 at 4:14 pm
It’s a vicious cycle if ever there was one, Pat. I’m sorry for your loss!
March 22, 2017 at 2:03 pm
Liz, I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter! I’m glad to know that you have faith to help you through. The hope of Heaven – of reunion – of no more sorrow and suffering is indescribably helpful.
Jason Grey (Gray?) has a song, Not Right Now you should find on YouTube. It expresses so much of what you’ve said here.
The scriptures tell us to stand firm and hold fast not to move ahead. God bless you as the Holy Spirit works within your heart.
March 22, 2017 at 7:52 pm
Thanks Janet for the song Not Right Now. It was truly beautiful and touched so many feelings. God bless you
March 22, 2017 at 8:44 pm
A friend shared it and it was perfect for me. Glad you liked it!
March 21, 2017 at 7:30 am
wow….that says it all. It has been almost 9 years since we lost our daughter. You have told it like it is. It is still so hard. Sometimes I still want to wake up from this nightmare. Still hurts to see others go on with their weddings, children, grandchildren. hard to go on but know I have to…know I can thanks to some special friends who will always be there for us. They listen. We are not alone in our grief. I try to put on my “I’m OK mask” but I never will be, but it is OK. I’m never supposed to be “OK” with such a loss.
March 22, 2017 at 3:10 pm
The Bible describes our suffering as light and momentary but it sure doesn’t feel that way 24 years, 9 years or 3 years down the road. I think only looking back from Heaven’s perspective will it feel light and momentary!
I’m so glad you have been blessed with friends with whom you can be yourself – you can take off that mask the world seems to demand we wear.
Thank you for encouragement of nine years of survival! God bless you!
March 30, 2017 at 9:51 am
SO true Jan, my thoughts exactly as you have said . My SON Doug has been gone 13 months now. SO devastating and lost are my feelings. I think I’m mostly in denial. Some days seem a little lighter, but mostly still trying to digest this horrible tragedy of his sudden demise !! My heart is truly broken forever ! This article is so touching and true that it said exactly how we feel ! Lightens our hearts somewhat . Thanks for your post!
March 30, 2017 at 5:23 pm
I am so sorry for the loss of your son, Doug. Devastated, lost and living in denial are all so very common in the loss community. I’ve experienced all of those emotions. It does lighten the load for a bit of time when you find someone who “gets it”. It’s not so much that we deny the truth of our losses as it is that we want so desperately for it to all be a bad dream we will eventually wake from. The flashbacks roll and I am back on the side of the road again.
I wonder if this life will feel like one big dream when I get to Heaven – that the moment we reach Heaven will be like waking from a very real nightmare. A friend and fellow sister-in-loss told me once that she imagines Jesus wrapping her in His arms and saying, “That was hard. I’m glad you’re home.” I see myself falling to my knees, head bowed, arms outstretched and thanking Him for bringing me there. The more I lose the more grateful I feel for the hope of my Heavenly home!
March 21, 2017 at 12:57 pm
That is so true but some time in the grief people who is strong and brave are to proud and I know first hand that can destroy you and a family my husband would not let me give up our son died and I had a 6 month old daughter and He was a friend and husband and dad to her and my daughter before we were married if it hadn’t been for him pushing me to get my grief out I would still have that cold heart I have learned to deal with my own loss has helped me to be able too help others and I think God for that.I my son talks to me in so many ways and people think it’s a way Of holding on it is but it’s also his courage and devotion as a son saying mom I love you I’m hear it’s been 24 years since I lost my son and I just now 3 year’s ago let him move on from keeping him stuck between two worlds people may not believe me but God has shown me that I have the strength to help grieving families lossing their child and talking about my son with them helps my own grief and I have one lady too thank for that cause she lost her daughter 3years ago and helping her is what help me deal with my own loss I didn’t realize that until my husband brought it to my attention were going on 28 years together and standing together hand and hand grieving and talk to other about our family and we have God to thank for that cause you lose your child you ĺose the most important thing in life God has held us together and a marriage survive that we’ll there a reason for ever thing and we get stronger together every day.
Treasa Dixson (Donya J Catlett)
March 22, 2017 at 2:07 pm
I am so glad you have been blessed with a faithful husband and Savior to carry you through this time of separation from your son. And I’m also glad to hear that you are reaching back to help other hurting parents through the most difficult days of their lives as well. God bless you!
March 21, 2017 at 4:24 pm
Very good article. My son passed away 20 years ago. At that time I joined our local chapter of The Compassionate Friends. That group was extremely helpful. In time I became the Newsletter Editor and continue in that capacity today. Your article is one that would be so helpful to so many grieving parents, may I have your permission to use it in our newsletter? Thank you. Anne
March 21, 2017 at 4:27 pm
Yes, you may! I’m honored to be asked.
March 22, 2017 at 2:11 pm
Forgive me for failing to tell you how sorry I am for the loss of your son. It’s been 24 years since my son’s death but only three years since I lost two of my three daughters. I’ve not attended a Compassionate Friends support group meeting but have found encouragement via their Facebook page. Thank you for continuously serving the grieving parents in your area. We all need each other!
March 21, 2017 at 5:04 pm
Oh thank you for this insightful message. I have a friend who lost her precious daughter shortly after Thanksgiving. I cannot begin to know her pain and just want to be there to listen and soothe…whatever that looks like. God bless all of those parents…who’s hopes and dreams for their child have been dashed forever. May they be blessed with special friends and family who will let them just be…..
March 22, 2017 at 1:29 pm
We all need a friend like you, who is willing to try and figure out how to help your friend as she travels on this horrific road.
March 22, 2017 at 1:53 pm
So true! I hope you have a handful of friends like that around you.
March 22, 2017 at 2:14 pm
Thank you for loving your friend so well! I cannot tell you what a friend like you means to a grieving parent. You are a treasure. God bless you!
March 22, 2017 at 7:39 am
Emotional expression. You have really touched that deep feeling of loss in words somthing I have never been able to explain to anyone except those who are in that same place. Frustrating so very Frustrating and a very tender subject.
March 22, 2017 at 2:16 pm
I hope my words give voice to your own sorrows. The inability to express one’s feelings is incredibly frustrating. But when you find the words it’s freeing. I’m so sorry for your loss!
Jimmi Jayne Kincaid
March 22, 2017 at 9:05 am
Thank you so much for this. I am 4 1/2 years into this journey and just now starting to feel some healing. God bless all those who are on this path with me.
March 22, 2017 at 2:19 pm
I’m sorry for your loss and encouraged to hear that you are finding some healing. You give hope to others!
March 22, 2017 at 1:02 pm
One of the best articles I’ve read on grief
March 22, 2017 at 1:10 pm
March 22, 2017 at 2:19 pm
March 22, 2017 at 1:20 pm
Thank you for this article. It is so very true and brushed on so much in my life. A friend sent it to me and I am so grateful for it. I have people that have criticized my grieving process even though my child passed less than 4 months ago. It has been hard. I am so happy this crossed my path. God bless.
March 22, 2017 at 1:39 pm
I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. It’s completely devastating. I think people feel helpless to “fix it” as if that’s at all possible anyway, and since they don’t know how to help they encourage us to see the positives, etc. We might also incite fear that what happened to us could happen to them as well. I just want other grieving parents and those outside the loss community to know that the grief we are experiencing is completely normal and should be expected. Feel free to share this post with friends and family as it may make things easier for you in the long run. I hope it will result in much needed validation for you!
There is a faith-based non-profit group called While We’re Waiting that provides free services to bereaved parents. They also have a private Facebook page where you can get support and encouragement from other grieving parents. If you go to whilewerewaiting.com you can request a Hope package and ask to be added to the Facebook page.
Four months out is hard, very hard. Praying for you, Navijana!
March 22, 2017 at 1:24 pm
Thank you so much for putting it in words.
March 22, 2017 at 1:54 pm
I hope it helps both you and those who hurt when you hurt!
March 22, 2017 at 1:26 pm
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! You put into words something no one else has been able to explain. I know in one of the groups I was in, one of the members explained that the first year you are just numb and it really doesn’t hit you until after the year of firsts. All of us who hadn’t reached the first year plateau all cringed and thought “could this really be true?” How could it hurt any more than it does? I’m still not finished my first year and with each passing day I have days when I just don’t understand why I still feel so lousy! The analogy of the pressure sore explained it well for me. Yes just putting a bandaid on it doesn’t fix it. Yes it is a process, everyone grieves differently and you will learn to live with it, you will never feel normal again! So true! I have lost my passion for many things but as a parent of a surviving child you go on. I will learn to think of my Son in a more positive light but I will always regret the things that I was hoping to witness, wedding, grandchildren, etc.
Again thank you for putting it so frank and real!
March 22, 2017 at 1:51 pm
I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son! I cringe when I read of grieving parents who describe themselves as feeling the way they did when their loss occurred many, many years ago. That’s not what I want for myself or for others yet moving forward often “feels” as if your child was not as valuable as you know in your heart he was. The second year isn’t necessarily more painful, it’s just a different kind of painful. The raw edges have rubbed off for the most part but the everyday reality of loss is settling in. Work through your feelings instead of trying to ignore them. That’s how you get better, but it’s certainly not easy!
March 22, 2017 at 3:09 pm
Loved this article. I relayed to just about everything.
March 22, 2017 at 3:11 pm
I hope you found some much needed validation!
March 22, 2017 at 7:22 pm
Janet, did I read correctly that you lost your son and 2 daughters? I lost my son coming up on 10 yrs 3/28. There are still days the pain is unbearable. I can’t imagine going thru it again.
March 22, 2017 at 7:45 pm
Yes, that’s correct. I’m glad I had twenty years between losses. I still have one daughter.
I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your son. I’m sure this month is especially difficult for you. Two years or ten years – the disappointment and longing don’t go away. Our children will always be a part of us. Praying for you!
March 22, 2017 at 11:16 pm
No one understands loss but those who have gone through it. My only child a daughter past away in 2015. She was my only child. I lost myself after she left. I’m standing still. My mind says there are so many things I want to accomplish but I can’t to them. It’s like when she died I did too. I’m just gking through motions and going with the flow of life. I wear a smile but I’m so sad inside. Family/ friends almost alienated me as they don’t want to ask how do I feel. They act like I’ve had the flu. Grief is a solitary journey and I’m trying to find my way on this road called life.
April 28, 2017 at 4:37 pm
Please forgive me for failing to respond to your comment promptly. I’m sure my failure to reply felt like just another alienation and I sincerely apologize for that. Your hands, your heart is already full of so much hurt and disenfranchisement.
i’m so very sorry for the loss of your daughter, your only child. I have often thought of bereaved parents such as yourself who have lost their only child. I know that has to be a uniquely painful experience especially if no grandchildren have been left behind.
Frankly, I don’t even know what to say in the face of such sorrow and anguish. My heart hurts for you! I’m not at all surprised to hear that you are just going through the motions of life. You have suffered a staggering loss!
I hope you have found at least one of the private Facebook pages for bereaved parents. I know you will find understanding, support and encouragement there and other parents grieving the loss of their only child. I can appreciate the value of online support because it was not available in 1992 when my son was stillborn. Grief is indeed a very solitary journey! If you haven’t found one such group, I’d be glad to recommend a few to you. I hate that feel feel so marginalized by both friends and family. So often they care deeply but absolutely have no idea what to say or how to help. I hope you have at least one friend who validates your feelings and is safe for you to be vulnerable with!
Again, please forgive me for the delayed response. I think I read the loss of your only child and like everyone else simply chocked on what to say. I know there are no words that fix it, only words that let you know how very normal your feelings are. Please forgive me for adding to your pain.
March 23, 2017 at 5:50 am
We have been without our son since October 30 2016. He took his life by shot gun. He was only 17. He was our only child ( my step son) but you would never know that to see he and I together. No signs, no indications whatsoever that he was in such internal pain. We are broken. Everything in our life is one day at a time. Some days are better than others but there are no “good” days. Better days consist of maybe I didn’t cry all day, I made something out of the ordinary for supper, I put make up on even though I wasn’t leaving the house. It is excrutiating to think beyond today without our son. Future? What does that mean? Who are we now? What is my purpose? Family and friends who have never lost a child by suicide cannot understand our pain and what we need from others. I don’t even know myself. I want to thank you for sharing your story and to help shed some light to us and those who care about us.
March 23, 2017 at 10:30 am
I am so sorry for your loss. True family is not determined by DNA but by the heart. He is the son of your heart and it is a devastating loss. You are not the first parent I have encountered who was shocked by suicide because there was no prior indication that such pain lurked below the surface. Our culture trains us early that we must be positive in spite of very real reasons to be negative. It is heartbreaking that we are all living behind masks to so that we don’t make those around us uncomfortable. We are living in a world so far from what God desired for His children. What ever happened to bearing one another’s burdens? To granting the broken the freedom to grieve deeply and without condemnation? To saying that circumstances suck sometimes instead of deluding ourselves into believing that every struggle makes us stronger. It’s not only unrealistic but it is not suppose to be this way!
I am still struggling to figure out who I am and what my purpose is. I hope you know that those are very common issues in the loss community. I think most of us lose ourselves along the way. We try to figure out the next steps instead of simply allowing ourselves to grieve. I am afraid to experience such deep sorrow. I imagine I am not alone in that fear.
God bless you, Laura, as you grieve and redefine yourself and your purpose in live. It is a arduous and courageous undertaking. And thank you for reaching out and encouraging me.
March 24, 2017 at 3:48 pm
I’m a grandma of a young man that committed suicide jan 9 of this year. It’s unbelievable when you feel that someone chose to leave their family.
I’m so sorry. Not trying to make this about me. Trying to learn how to help my only daughter with this. His brother and sister that I’m having such a hard time keeping from suffocating. Because of the fear that is our new life. If he could do it. What else is out there for us?
Thank you all. May god bless you all thru every second of every day
March 24, 2017 at 4:24 pm
I am sorry to hear of the loss of your grandson! You don’t have to be the parent to grieve deeply and suicide is a uniquely devastating way to lose a loved one. As a grandparent It’s a bit of a double whammy as you grieve for the child’s parents as well as for your own loss and you feel so helpless. It’s also not uncommon to live with a lot of anxiety following the death of a child. I understand your fear of suffocating his brother and sister – your fear that the next shoe could drop, so to speak. You just want to keep them safe!
Thank you for your concern for grieving parents. As far as helping, validate feelings, don’t focus on finding the positives or trying to fix the pain or moving forward. Those messages seem to diminish the value of the child. Instead speak his name. Tell the family what you miss about your grandson. Recognize that the 9th of the month will probably be a hard day for many months to come. A phone call or a card to let the family know that you are thinking or praying for them is always appreciated. Cry with them. You don’t have to be strong for them. They’d prefer to know that others are hurting with them. I hope these suggestions help. They need the freedom to vent without being corrected.
I’m praying that God will give you wisdom in what to say and do and how to meet needs for the parents and your grandkids. And I’m praying that God will comfort each family member.
March 23, 2017 at 8:50 am
We lost our 27 yr old son Cole. He died on July 9th 2014 From Acute AML Leckumia.
Our youngest son 26 yrs old Clay.
Committed suside on March 31st 2016.
March 23, 2017 at 10:04 am
I am so very sorry. Those words are completely and utterly inadequate.
My surviving daughter, Gracen, has a rare form of muscular dystrophy. It is a progressive neuromuscular condition. I know what it’s like to watch your child’s body betray them. There is really no way to describe the fears and frustrations and complete heartbreak a parent lives with as their child losses abilities we all taken for granted while simultaneously waiting for the worst to happen. It’s indescribable.
I have no experience with suicide but know it is uniquely devastating. I wish I were there to hug you and let you poor it all out in words and tears. I am praying for you and your husband.
I know I can’t fix this for you and how I wish I could! I know God is faithful and that He grants us new mercies every day but I also know that faith doesn’t anesthetize pain and I also know how betrayed and abandoned you must feel. I takes a long time and a courageous soul to carry your anger and wounded heart to God even when you know deep down inside that He loves you and that your circumstances don’t reflect His feelings toward you. He did not cause these horrible things to happen to you but He did allow them and I know what a struggle it is to feel His love in the midst of such pain and loss.
My heart hurts for you and I desperately wish I could do something, say something, to help. Please know that you aren’t alone. There are other parents like us out there who are living with death and disability-and parents who are living with the same brokenness you are after the loss of all their children. I live in anticipation of that day, but that pales in comparison to living it day in and day out.
I hope you have found a good support group and have safe friends and family you can be yourself around. Those who don’t criticize your grief but instead validate your pain. You have been deeply wounded in the worst possible way. You need people who understand that and can pull up a chair and share your sorrow with you. I am so very sorry for the loss of both Cole and Clay and all the difficult things you’ve seen and experienced over the years. So very sorry!
March 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm
Thank you so much for your words. What you’ve described is exactly how I’m feeling and what I’m experiencing. The anniversary of my eighteen year old daughter’s death, is but one week away: April 2, 2017. God bless you. 😪
March 23, 2017 at 12:28 pm
I’m so sorry for your loss. That first anniversary. . . It’s just difficult. There is no fun anniversary. Birthdays and holidays are bitter and sweet. We are thankful for what we had and so very bitter over what’s been lost. One thing I’ve found to be true for myself is that the days leading up to the anniversary are often worse than the actual day. We are filled with anxiety and dread over what the day will be and when the day dawns it’s just another day cloaked in a fog of disappointment, sadness and resignation. The pain doesn’t become more acute it just hasn’t abated. It just hasn’t abated. I’m praying for you.
March 23, 2017 at 6:19 pm
Does this apply to a 6week along miscarriage?
March 23, 2017 at 7:57 pm
Great question! I’d have to research that. From my observation of multiple families that have experienced miscarriage I don’t believe the average person grieves for an extended period of time but everyone is different. M d you, I haven’t seen statistical data to back that up but I have been around the block for a great number of years.
The length of grieving period depends on a variety of factors too such as how difficult it was to conceive in the first place, if the pregnancy was planned or wanted, the age of the mother, health issues that might prevent subsequent pregnancies and how many miscarriages the parents have suffered. Those factors, and more I’m sure, complicate and extend the bereavement period.
I do believe that society as a whole undervalues miscarriages and expects an abbreviated grieving period which leaves the bereaved parents invalidated as their feelings are dismissed. In older generations before good prenatal care was readily available miscarriages were a common enough occurrence that people weren’t shocked when it happened. I think abortion legislation has diminished the value of the unborn child as well in the eyes of society. What one woman grieves another proclaims as her personal right.
Regardless of the gestational age of the baby, every parent needs to be allowed to work through their grief without a predetermined schedule. And of the families I know impacted by miscarriage, none of them forget that child. They may not grieve for an extended length of time but there seems to always be a longing for the child they’ve lost. Children are not replaceable. A subsequently successful pregnancy doesn’t wipe away the place a miscarried baby holds in the hearts of the parents.
Two things I want to say. As a Christian I believe that every miscarried or aborted baby goes to heaven. I believe parents can live in expectation of a reunion. Secondly, I believe your miscarried baby has a legacy here on earth. That child impacted those who knew of its presence. For you, that child has impacted the way you parent current and future children. Also, that child has equipped you to comfort and encourage other parents that suffer the same kind of loss. That’s not a roll any of us would chose to play but it is one that is appreciated more than words can say by a family who needs their feelings validated over the great value of their miscarried or aborted child.
Please know that I am sorry for your loss. My first child was stillborn. People treated me the same way they treat parents of miscarriage. They didn’t understand my grief. Some criticized my grief and my son is routinely overlooked even by family. But Cole has never been forgotten – his worth has never been diminished in my heart. I used to imagine myself introducing my son to his sisters in heaven one day. Now I anticipate my daughters introducing me to my son. He was created for eternity more than for this world. He will never experience disappointment or the hurts commonly afflicted by others or providence. I take comfort in that. I hope you do too. It doesn’t make missing him easier but it does give me hope.
March 24, 2017 at 1:58 am
What a great article to share. Thank you for writing it. It’s so true. I lost my daughter, Dana almost 3 yrs ago at the age of 14. All future hope has been ripped from us all. We were a family of 4. A great family. Now we are a broken family of 3. With my son still trying to physically heal from the accident and my husband and I just trying to survive each day the best that we can. He now holds us (my husband and I) together, here, unfair for the surviving child, I know, but it’s true. We know no other way. He is our glue to this world. We now live for him. It cannot be helped. He must live to the fullest for his sister and himself. It’s like Dana gets me mentally and he gets me physically. I’m split.
He spent 6 months in the hospital after the accident. Needed 24hr care when he came home. I felt myself breaking down more and more as he got better and better. This cycle still continues. Family and friends have been amazing. But it’s still such a long journey ahead of us. It’s just mentally crippling.
March 24, 2017 at 8:26 am
I so relate to your situation. My surviving daughter was only hospitalized for 17 days but she has a rare neuromuscular disease called ARSACS so a full recovery is not only impossible but she will continue to worsen as time goes by. She has been in a wheelchair since the accident three years ago.
Sophocles said, “Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.” Smart man that Sophocles! I certainly understand surviving for the sake of your child. And watching your child recover in the hospital while facing the fear of losing that child too is a special kind of hell on earth. Forgive me for the language but I can find no other way of coming close to expressing that truth in any other way.
I am glad that you have been blessed with supportive friends and family. It just helps but certainly doesn’t fix your broken heart. And I’m glad to hear you have faith in Christ and therefore the assurance that you will be reunited with Dana. It is the only earthly hope I cling to.
God bless you and your husband as you continue to live and breathe for the sake of your son. And God bless your son as he heals from his physical and emotional wounds. I wish I could hug you and sit down to a cup of coffee and share your burden for a time.
March 24, 2017 at 8:44 am
This article is so very true. I lost my daughter a year ago. This article first I’ve read that really gets it, really knows how I feel. Who wrote it??
March 24, 2017 at 8:57 am
I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your daughter! Thank you for your kind words about the article. I wrote it so I’m glad to hear that it validates your feelings – your experience. I hope you have found a support group or a handful of friends and family that allow you to express your sorrow and work through your feelings. Heaven knows we need each other as we walk this unwanted path!
Sandra K Baber
March 24, 2017 at 9:35 am
My son passed 7 years ago yesterday. My question to you after reading your article and all the responses from your readers as well as your encouragements back to them is this… does this process aid in your own personal ‘recovery’? I’m overwhelmed just reading through all the messages!
March 24, 2017 at 10:42 am
I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. Seven years is a long time. I can hardly believe that three years have past since my daughters died. Sometimes it feels like so much longer and others it feels like it just happened yesterday.
To answer your question, it does . . . and it doesn’t help to write and respond to others.
Some days I’m overwhelmed by my own sorrow and fears. Other days I’m too down to encourage another. In addition, my responses to others often feel incredibly inadequate. One thing I like about the child loss FB pages I belong to is that if I’m too depressed or anxiety filled someone else will reach out and provide the help I can’t give on any given day.
You might notice that sometimes I don’t reply to comments all that quickly on my blog. The day this post was published I was unable to respond to anyone. The last few days however, I feel as it I can say something. And of course, sometimes the losses are so profoundly horrible that it is hard to read let alone respond. The emotions are so raw. The hurt so intensely revealed. I have to know when I need to step back a bit for my own personal wellbeing. I wish that wasn’t the case but there are times I’m simply staggered by the pain others suffer.
On the other hand, writing helps me to unravel my own feelings. For example, anger is a secondary emotion meaning that we get angry as a result of feelings of rejection, betrayal or abandonment (among other things). In order to get past my anger I need to identify why I feel angry in the first place. I have to work through the root cause before I can let go of my anger. Writing helps me both identify exactly what I’m feeling when I’ve struggled to verbalize it, and to make peace with the feeling underneath the anger.
I also like writing because I’m not particularly fast on my feet. I don’t always have a ready word of encouragement. I stand in the presence of other hurting people and I feel helpless just like those outside the loss community. Personal experience doesn’t really mean you’ve become an expert at helping others. And writing helps me to better say what I mean than when unedited words come out of my mouth. I don’t always say things without offending others but I offend others less frequently when I’ve had time to reread and edit my response. And sometimes people reveal a perspective to me that I had not previously considered, so I learn something new.
I’m sorry, this is a lengthy response, more than you likely wanted to know. (I’m wordy)! But overall, writing and replying to others does help me work through my own grief. It is healing to know my responses, my feelings, my struggles are normal and that there is hope that things will get better. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone (although I wouldn’t wish this on anyone else). It’s helpful to know that I might have helped someone else by validating their feelings instead of dismissing them so they can move on the was society seems to demand.
March 24, 2017 at 6:43 pm
Thank you for sharing . This is a great read and so very true .
March 24, 2017 at 6:53 pm
March 24, 2017 at 8:52 pm
A great article! Sent it to my friend who just lost her son in January. My son died 12 years ago. I saw the delayed grief in my daughter. You explained it beautifully. I think the most difficult thing is when people ask, “How many children do you have?” That question always leaves me like a deer caught in the headlights. I now just say three, including him in the mix, and don’t feel compelled to give any explanation. The first time someone asked I broke into tears and I’m sure they thought I was a crazy lady. I sometimes still find it shocking how birthdays and death days drag you through the ditch of depression. Sometimes I think they’re going to be ok but they never are. I’m glad I had him for 26 years. One thing that helped me was thinking I can’t get stuck in the moment of his death. I felt like if I did that then the rest of his life and who he was didn’t matter as much as the fact that he died. He was hilariously funny, a great cook, loved his children, loved his family, and everyone loved being around him. That matters more than the fact that he died. Ain’t none of us getting out of here alive…it’s good to know where you’re going. 😇
March 24, 2017 at 9:14 pm
I am so sorry to hear of the death of your son and your friend’s son. I’m sorry that you know far too well the struggles she is facing as that has to be painful for you to watch and to experience with her.
I think every loss parent I know has struggled with that simple, “How many kids do you have?” question. I certainly have! I answer based upon how much I will be interacting with the person in the future.
I think you made a wise choice to remember your son as he lived his life as opposed to his identity being tied to his death. I want that for my girls.
I hope the article helps your friend. She is lucky to have you as I’m sure you will be one of a small number of people with whom she can completely be herself without judgment. That’s a priceless gift. Blessings to you both as you wait with anticipation for the reunion day we are hoping for!
March 25, 2017 at 4:21 am
Wow, Janet, powerful words, thank you for sharing. I wish however that you had never had the opportunity to acquire the wisdom that you share with us. ❤️
March 25, 2017 at 6:53 am
Thank you. I wish you didn’t either!
LikeLiked by 1 person
March 25, 2017 at 9:32 am
Good words of advice. We all grieve differently.
It takes time, but it only gets better if you know
The Lord Jesus as your savior and helps to know
Your child did too. Hope keeps us going, knowing
We will see our Becky (who died at age 30) when
Jesus calls us home. Praise God from whom all
March 25, 2017 at 9:41 am
Amen! God bless you as you wait for your reunion with Becky and you anticipate meeting the Savior who made it possible by His love and sacrifice.
March 25, 2017 at 9:33 am
I also wanted to say how sorry I am for your profound loss. I can’t imagine it. You are a strong woman. Your posts indicate you have faith in God and, if not for Him, I really don’t know how people make it through this journey. God and prayers have held me up.
Love and blessings to you. I will remember you in prayer.
March 25, 2017 at 9:56 am
Thank you, Judy.
Yes I am a follower of Jesus Christ. The deaths of my daughters has confirmed my faith in God. Paradoxically, I have found it both harder and easier to live with life’s disappointments as a believer. The deaths of three of my children plus the degenerative disease that plagues my surviving daughter have left me questioning God’s love, protection and goodness. I think it’s harder to trust God in the face of such circumstances. Conversely, my hope is in Him and He is my comfort. Faith in Christ is and isn’t for sissies! He reveals my weakness and is my strength simultaneously. Trust seems to require facing fears and surrendering control. It’s a challenge to say the least! Therefore, I very much appreciate your prayers. I’m just another broken believer.
March 26, 2017 at 10:47 am
My heart hurts for all of you on this page who have lost someone. I read this page in the hopes of trying to figure out how to help a very dear friend. She lost her 15 year old son 1 year ago. He was best friends with my son. The boys have been friends since 2nd grade. My son hurts, I still grieve for him as well but mostly my mother’s heart hurts as I watch my friend & her family struggle to make a new “normal.” I am afraid a distance is setting in. I have read that this could be normal…. seeing my son & me might be painful for her rather than comforting as she sees my son going on with his life and doing all the things her son will now never do. I know she still loves & cares about us but those feelings may have to be expressed differently. I understand that, I think, but I just really don’t know how to help or what to do. I won’t push her, and if a friendship has to be let go somewhat for her comfort, I will wait until she might be ready. But how can I best let her know I am here for her, now, or 2, 4, etc… years down the line, however long it might be before she might need me? Can I even help her at all right now? I just don’t know what’s best….for her.
March 26, 2017 at 12:24 pm
Great question-and a difficult one to answer. It’s hard because everyone is different. I have a close friend who has three daughters. I withdrew from everyone for awhile and left her feeling as if it was too difficult for me to be around her. I had no idea, and that really wasn’t the case. It only came out because I was telling her about a letter from a family member who asked if she had hurt me in any way. My withdrawal had unintended consequences.
First, let me commend you on educating yourself and caring so deeply for your friend that you are willing to put her needs above your own and grant her time without allowing it to put a wedge between the two of you. I can’t tell you what a rare and priceless friend you are.
I have a suggestion that you may feel you can try or know right off that it would be a bad idea. You know your friend’s personality and I don’t. She’s not the same person she was before the death of her son but her underlying character has probably not changed. If she was an extrovert before she probably still is one. She may be less so but she would still improve emotionally by being around other people. If she was an introvert she’s probably more introverted than she was before. Being alone helps her recharge her batteries.
My suggestion is that you talk to her about it. She is emotionally vulnerable right now and people put up walls when they feel vulnerable. The distance you are feeling may be a result of people pushing her to get over her grief. It’s been a year and inexperienced people think that’s an adequate time to grieve. They think a positive attitude can fix what ails her. Or worse, they decide she is just throwing a pity party. It’s easier to withdraw than it is to argue for your right to grieve as for long as necessary. She needs “safe” friends. Friends who try to understand how they might feel in her place (which it sounds like you do) and validates negative feelings. Hopefully, she already feels that you are a safe person she can confide in.
**See bottom of this comment for guidance on being a safe friend.
Keep in mind her personality to determine the best way to discuss it with her. An extrovert will probably be okay with a face to face conversation, an introvert might be less comfortable with that. Writing a letter and telling her what you told me might be a better way if she is introverted or if you are concerned about putting her on the spot.
If you don’t want to approach it directly you might extend invitations for coffee, lunch or dinner. Don’t assume a rejection or cancellation means she doesn’t want to spend time with you. Sometimes the bereaved don’t have the energy to put their game face on. Sometimes the day just ends up being a tearful one and they need privacy. Sometimes depression or anxiety cause them to closet themselves away. Try to get with her every other week or once a month. If that doesn’t work out, send note cards letting her know you are thinking of her and her family-that you miss her son-that your son misses her son. Be aware of important and difficult days. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays acknowledging that those days will be difficult for her. If you have pictures of her son that she doesn’t have copies of, send her digital copies or frame a good picture of her son for her. If she needs to be with people but can’t bring herself to talk, take her to a movie. If she’s okay with people dropping by, stop by with a treat you know she likes – a cupcake, latte, a book or journal or just stop by because your heart is hurting over her son and you need a hug. You don’t have to linger, just let her know she (and particularly her son) is not and will not be forgotten.
As far as what she needs, she probably can’t even tell you what she needs. What she wants most she can’t have, and that’s her son back, of course. So instead of asking, call and tell her you are bringing dinner by the next day, or listen to see if she says she needs to get out and get something but hasn’t been able to out of the house and pick it up for her. If she has to go to a school function with her others kids, ask if you can sit with her. If needed when in public, help her deflect questions or change the subject when other people make her uncomfortable. Memorial jewelry or shadow boxes show that you care and knew her son well.
Most important of all, pray for her. Let her know by mail or phone/text that you continue to pray for her. Pray for wisdom for ways to maintain your friendship. God knows what your friend needs and I can only guess.
Let her talk about her son. Don’t flinch when his name comes up in conversation.
I hope this is helpful. I may have lots of experience but people are different and what might help me might make your friend uncomfortable. I love to hear back with what you decide and how you feel like it went.
**Safe friends validate feelings. Unsafe friends criticize or judge feelings. For example, a family member who loves me deeply asked me how I was “really” doing about four months after my girls died. I replied that I was tired of living in this world and just wanted the rapture to happen. His response was to promptly tell me that I couldn’t feel that way. Ding, ding, ding! He is not a safe person for me to share with. If he’d said that he could certainly understand how I’d feel that way and maybe ask if I was considering harming myself he would have been a safe friend. I still love that person but I won’t be sharing my feelings with him in the future. Feelings aren’t right or wrong they just are. You validate the feelings, not necessarily agreeing with the actions they might suggest – such as me hunting down the driver who killed my daughters and avenging their deaths since the justice system failed to do that. You’d say, “I’d want to do that too!” You don’t encourage them to act on those feelings but the important thing is that you don’t dismiss or gloss over those feelings. People want to be understood and they want to know their feelings are normal.
March 26, 2017 at 6:11 pm
I never had to feel the loss of a child
I never want to experience it. But no better words were spoken of what I just read. My blessinhs and prayers reach out to those.
March 26, 2017 at 6:14 pm
March 28, 2017 at 9:56 pm
Reblogged this on Shattered Mothering and commented:
Oh my, YES YES!!
There’s so much pressure to be fine and you again, but you’re new and shattered…
March 28, 2017 at 10:06 pm
Exactly! Condolences on your loss, Priscilla.
March 28, 2017 at 10:00 pm
Thanks so much your article is so helpful I lost my beautiful son forever 21 Robert 6/30/2015 and I feel like nobody but my immediate family cares I am devastated as is my family the pain doesn’t end and there are days I think that the only way to end this pain would be to join him but I am thankful that God hasn’t forgotten us nor robert
March 28, 2017 at 10:16 pm
I’m so sorry for the loss of your son, Robert. Those thoughts about joining him are not uncommon. Still there are people who would be just as devastated to lose you too. Please don’t hesitate to seek help if you ever fear acting on those feelings.
As far as people other than family, so often they fear saying the wrong thing so they don’t say anything at all. It’s very lonely and isolating. I once heard Christian artist Kathy Tricolli say that she thought loneliness was God’s call to her to fellowship with Him. Maybe she’s right. It’s the longing of our soul for things this earth cannot satisfy.
He does care for you and He is faithful to His promises. Hold fast and stand firm because (as I keep reminding myself) reunion day is coming. O glorious day!
March 29, 2017 at 9:24 am
Thanks so much I really feel like God placed this article in my reach I feel so much better
March 29, 2017 at 10:09 am
I’m glad to hear you feel better. Hold onto that when the waves of sorrow once again rush in with the tide. There will be more moments like this one – God’s mercies are unending!
March 29, 2017 at 8:39 am
Janet, l’m surprised that you don’t have the TCF background . I lost my 25 yrold son 22years ago and found TCF at that time. Without them I don’t know where I would be . This article is right on. It’s hard for someone new in grief to know that there will be a sense of peace in the future. Your five year time line is right on for moving forward but it’s not the end for there is no end for the hurt and pain of the loss of a child. Some days you can be brought to your knees for the pain that is still deep in your heart no matter the years gone by. There will always be times of deep pain when those special days come around that would have involved your child. “I life that touches the life of others goes on forever”
March 29, 2017 at 10:04 am
I’m so sorry for your loss. This June will mark 25 years since my firstborn was stillborn. You are so right – you never stop longing for your child – you never stop hurting over their absence. And my one and only son? – he changed me in deeply painful and profound ways. I’ve not been the same woman since, nor would I want to be in spite of the fact that some of the lessons I learned were negative.
When my daughters died, I knew what I was in for. I knew the pain would get worse before it got better. I knew I would get better and get through. I knew what others would expect of me. But I have found that experience was not really a help – that losing a child you’ve spent years with is very different from losing a child you’ve no living and breathing moments and memories of. Different disappointments, different triggers, different emotional and spiritual challenges. Different but no less devastating.
Another twenty-five years is unimaginable. My surviving daughter has a progressive neuromuscular disease. My heart longs for my eternal home – for all of us. I wish we’d all been freed from these earthly confines that day in spite of knowing that God is faithful, that a purpose remains, and that this pain will magnify my joy. And I hate watching and hearing of others experiencing the same thing because heart knowledge is so much more painful than imagining what those individuals are going through.
So I write. Hoping to reach back and to educate both the bereaved and the general public. It’s helpful to know you aren’t alone and that the way you feel is normal. It’s helpful to know others survive this and there can be good days ahead. And it would be a huge blessing if the general public understood what is normal, what to expect, and how the bereaved interpret their words of condolence and encouragement. I hope I can save one bereaved parent from the internal and external expectations (unrealistic expectations) for their grief.
Thank you for reading and taking time to encourage me as you and I both anticipate reunion day!
March 29, 2017 at 9:08 am
My son committed suicide April 17, 2016 while serving in the military. Sometimes it feels like I am barely making it and other times I’m almost ‘okay’. I have a great support system who are always there for me. In fact one of them sent me your link.
I have always been the person in control and able to deal with and get through anything. I had my unshakeable faith in God and Jesus and thought I could handle anything because I knew them. Now I find myself questioning almost everything. I know Jesus is still there for me, but I find myself asking “why”, with no answers, and I know I probably won’t have them until our reunion day. My surviving son is also in the military, and having a difficult time dealing with his grief. Watching him grieve and not be able to physically be there and help, has been very difficult. We have been planning to be together for the one year anniversary, but that may not be possible.
Reading your article has been so helpful. You described what I’m feeling so well. My friends are so supportive and want to help, but, thankfully, they have no frame of reference. Thank you for sharing, and I’m truly sorry for your loss.
March 29, 2017 at 10:22 am
I am so sorry for your loss and for the separation from your surviving son as you both grieve and as the one year anniversary approaches. I pray that you will get to be together that day!
I’m also so glad to hear that you have an amazing support system. Even when they don’t know what to say or how to help, “safe” friends (those who validate your feelings and allow you to express your feelings without criticism) are a priceless treasure.
I have no personal experience with suicide but I know many bereaved parents who share this uniquely devastating loss. My heart aches for all of you as I think of the challenges you face.
For me the why question became irrelevant when I figured out that God could never provide me with an answer that I would feel justified the deaths of any of my children. Nothing would satisfy this very human grieving mother’s heart. But it is so very normal and common to be plagued by that question. Even Christ asked it.
God bless your family in the coming days especially, but really until your faith becomes sight.
Kristina L. Royalty
March 30, 2017 at 11:08 am
It is a very long road and there will always be bumps but for every bump you come across will make you stronger, I am speaking from experience and I can tell you your feelings will never change you will always miss her but it will become less over time , and God is always with you. I am keeping you in my prayers.
March 30, 2017 at 4:53 pm
Thank you, Kristina, for the encouragement and prayers. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit is within me and I am not alone in my sorrow (not that I’d wish it on anyone). I’m thankful for social media where we can connect and support each other. That was not the case when I lost my first child and it has made such a difference this time around. Please accept my sympathy on the loss of your child. One day, in the twinkling of the eye, this will be behind all of us. I’m clinging to His promises as we await that day.
March 31, 2017 at 12:17 pm
Everything here resonates with me, thank you! Our son took his life 2 1/2 years ago on what would have been his first day of high school. Our daughter, his older sister, was 18 at the time and has expressed exactly what you mentioned — feeling so compelled to take care of her parents. I worried so much at the time that she was delaying her own grief in an unhealthy manner. As her dad it felt like a roll reversal of the parent/child relationship and made me feel even more inadequate as a parent. I now see healing and maturity in her that’s so encouraging.
I also especially like your thought that, as a parent, it feels bad to feel bad but also feels bad to feel better. Sadly, I am intimately familiar with that concept. For a long time, sometimes still, I felt guilty about smiling, guilty about finding a spark of joy in some little thing. It is truly a struggle for a parent (probably others as well) to not allow feeling bad about feeling better consume us.
March 31, 2017 at 3:11 pm
I am so sorry for your loss! I am equally glad for how you report your daughter is doing. My daughter has not dealt with her grief, but then she was critically injured in the accident that took her sisters’ lives. She has a genetic neuromuscular disease so recovery was both complicated and temporary to a certain extent. Basically, she has so many of her own problems that she hasn’t had a lot of energy left to grieve. It just is what it is.
Thank you for letting me know that this article was helpful for you. When I find that the feelings I’m experiencing are common to other bereaved parents it helps. In the midst of so much upheaval it’s nice to know my reactions are normal as I think almost all of us question our sanity at some point in the grief process. The lack of control, fears, despair, etc. lead to depression and anxiety, if not a measure of PTSD.
I hope than not only are you seeing growth and maturity in your daughter, but that you can also see that you have made progress in healing yourself.
God bless you and your family.
March 31, 2017 at 4:25 pm
Please tell me how?
March 31, 2017 at 4:42 pm
How to get better?
March 31, 2017 at 9:35 pm
If you send me a Facebook friend request I will personal message you. (I don’t want to cross any boundaries you aren’t comfortable with or I would send the friend request).
April 28, 2017 at 4:53 pm
You have been on my heart all of April. There are no easy answers for how to get beyond, much less, triumph over such a devastating loss. No easy answers and no easy path. You do it day by day, and often minute by minute. Hold on! Please hold on! Even when my heart hurts the most, when I’m despairing, I remind myself that I did go on to find purpose and happiness following the loss of my first child in 1992. Therefore, I know it’s likely that I will find that place once again.
Please do not be afraid to seek medical treatment if you are spiraling down into depression, anxiety or even symptoms of PTSD. The is no shame in getting either counseling or pharmaceutical help. I’ve availed myself of both and so have a number of other bereaved parents. It doesn’t mean you are weak, just that you have been deeply, deeply wounded. There are also a number of private Facebook pages for bereaved parents available. I can point you to a few if you haven’t found them yet yourself. One of the benefits of such a group is knowing that you are not alone in your circumstances or your feelings. You will be cared for there.
I hope to hear from you again, Wendy.
April 1, 2017 at 2:45 pm
Thank you so much Janet for this insightful note. I’ve been in the situation for the past 5 years where close friends lost parents and siblings unexpectedly. It’s been tough not knowing exactly how to “be there” but with every ounce of prayer and God’s help, I’m doing the best I can to help my friends grieve and know that it’s okay. It’s been tough when you are athe a loss for words and grief therapy tends to be filled with steps 1-100 that really don’t work. I want to continue to be a source of strength for my friends and I pray that those who seek validation through your blog and a feeling of understanding will continue to move through life with strength. It is absolutely the worst to have one less person to take along with you on the life journey. Thank you so much for helping those aching hearts ache with assurance that there is better after this long period of burning pain.
April 1, 2017 at 3:32 pm
Thank you for your kind words, but more importantly thank you for being a good and safe friend for those you love. Heaven knows it’s not easy! There are not adequate words to communicate what a blessing you are. You are an oasis in a vast desert! I pray that God will bless you and your friends.
April 18, 2017 at 4:02 am
Thank you so much for posting this. This information is essential for anyone who has ever lost a child and most important for those who love someone who has lost a child.
I’m 38 and my most amazing friend lost her son and as she goes through her grieving process and posts her thoughts on FB it has brought up all of my feelings about my sister.
I found through my life that people don’t understand how long you grieve or how deeply you grieve. And I also found that people don’t understand that even though your sibling was still born and you never had the opportunity to get to know them that the same grieving process happens.
I was 8 when we had my sister’s funeral, I was 10 when my younger brother was born and I became way over protective, and I was 25 when during labor, while my feet were in the stirrups, for my own son I had a flashback to my sister’s funeral.
Most parents are able to not think about bad things happening their children but when you live through loosing a sibling it becomes impossible to not think the worst thought first with your own children and have to talk yourself into a less crazy position.
The most important thing to remember is not only does it get worse before it gets better and it takes years but sometimes the hardest part is when you start feeling better than guilt comes about feeling better.
April 19, 2017 at 9:38 am
I’m sorry for both your loss and the loss of your friend’s son as well. She is fortunate to have a friend who understands so well what she is experiencing, not that I would wish that knowledge upon anyone.
There is such a thing as secondary trauma. That is what you describe resulting from your sister’s birth. I can’t imagine being eight years old and suffering through the anticipation and then the loss of your sibling and witnessing the deep sorrow of your parents. It’s staggering and so very frightening. It’s not at all unusual that you fight against being over-protective of both your brother and your own children.
There is a trauma therapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) that has proven effective and may be of benefit to you. It is not simple talk therapy and you might find it makes your flashbacks a thing of the past. Honestly, it looks kind of woo woo, but it has helped me a great deal. You can find YouTube videos that show the process if you are interested.
And yes, not only does grieving take a lot of time but guilt, or maybe shame, comes calling as you process your grief. Feelings are not right or wrong – they just happen – but they don’t always communicate truth to the wounded soul. Making peace with your loss, accepting that your new everyday reality involves such a grievous loss does not mean you did not love the one you lost enough or well. The truth is that your loss impacts the way you view and do everything after that loss testifies to the depth of love and the value of the one who is missing from you. I think those feelings of guilt and shame come from Satan who came to destroy, not Christ who came to give us abundant life.
I recently saw a video about sibling loss on Facebook. This quote from one young man who had lost his brother eight years ago resonates within me: “It doesn’t matter how much I heal or how much emotional processing I go through or how much I pray or go to therapy, whatever, he’s still gone.” And that’s the crux of the matter. Nothing undoes the loss. Nothing fixes it. We just repeatedly have to come to terms with it. The one we love is still gone. Thank God for the hope of eternity!
God bless you and your friend, Lynette, as you travel and support each other through the grieving process.
Tony A Bartolucci
April 18, 2017 at 11:06 pm
Greatly appreciated your thoughts. My wife and I lost our only child 9 mo ago and it has been an excruciating journey – one that began when our 14 year old, Giana, and I went to get a Christmas tree a year ago Christmas Eve. While looking for the tree farm a drunk driver hit us head-on. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. G was a real-deal believer and our hope is in eternity. Meanwhile, our hearts are broken.
April 19, 2017 at 9:57 am
I am so very sorry for the tragic loss of your daughter, Giana. What a beautiful name! Christmas Eve, it shouldn’t matter when it happens but it seems to add insult to injury when your loss occurs on a holiday. If you read my About page you know that my son was stillborn on Father’s Day and two of my three daughters were killed in a collision the day after Christmas. My heart hurts for you and your wife! For all of the bereaved parents out there who are living with the most crushing loss known to mankind.
I am so very thankful that you have the assurance of Giana’s salvation and the hope of eternity to cling to in the devastating days between her death and your reunion. I try to remind myself that reunion day is coming . . . but oh, our temporary separation feels far from momentary on this side of Heaven! Regardless, that day is coming and we will fall at our Savior’s feet in worship and gratitude for the price He paid to make that reunion possible. Those who believe that grief and gratitude cannot coexist have no idea! It is the anchor that tethers us.
God bless you and your wife, Tony. I’m praying for you both. Take a minute and check out whilewerewaiting.com. They provide free retreats for bereaved parents and an online private Facebook page where loss parents support and encourage each other.
April 26, 2017 at 9:55 pm
It’s like you reached into my soul and pulled out everything I’ve been trying to put into words for years! Thanks so much for this ❤
April 26, 2017 at 10:01 pm
I have a Facebook group called “Mourning Mothers” it’s completely private and it’s only women whom have lost a child. It’s a place to come cry when you need a shoulder, be uplifted when you need love, or anything you need from women who UNDERSTAND and FEEL your pain. It’s an unexplainable pain to lose a child and it’s even worse when you feel alone. You dont have to be alone. Please just search it on Facebook and I will add you. No one pressures you into saying anything you aren’t comfortable with. We are all here to help. 💙
April 28, 2017 at 5:01 pm
I’m so glad to hear that my words gave voice to your feelings. It is terribly frustrating to find yourself in a position where no one seems to understand.
I looked for Mourning Mothers on Facebook and got a reply from a group by a hat name for women raising their children after the death of the father. If you send me a Facebook friend request I will accept it and then I believe you can add me to your group. Please let me know if that’s not the case. We all NEED each other!
April 28, 2017 at 9:13 am
What a beautifully written and authentic message, true in every aspect. I would never expect anyone to understand completely these unrelenting feelings of loss unless they have walked this torturous road, but it is clear that those who love you can indeed grasp something of bereavement through your analogy to a pressure wound. After five years, the pain is manageable on most days, but still very raw on certain others, especially anniversaries. Gone are the hopes and dreams we had of a big happy family, and most painful for her parents is the searing loss of her not being here to share the lives and accomplishments of her children and her only sibling. The bereavement of the sibling is accurately explained here as well. I am crushed to witness my daughter’s pain that no one ( except us and her husband) understands how deeply she still grieves. When people ask how I’m doing I am quick to point out that her sister needs validation for her loss of hopes and dreams to grow old with her sister. I plan to print this and share it with the countless others in my life who have experienced the loss of a child, no matter how old that child may have been at the time of their death.
April 28, 2017 at 7:10 pm
I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter, and her sibling’s sister. It creates a unique dynamic within the home when teens and young adults lose a sibling – a different, but no less difficult,m dynamic when the siblings are younger. Honestly, child loss is a tsunami wrecking far reaching damage.
I hope the other bereaved parents you know will find validation and affirmation through this blogpost. I am honored to know you feel it is worthy of sharing. I hope the grieving and those who are close to them will learn something that allows them to realize what normal grief looks like in the child loss community.
God bless you!
April 28, 2017 at 2:17 pm
This passage is true from a twin sibling’s view.
April 28, 2017 at 7:17 pm
I am so sorry for your loss. I know that the relationship between twins is often much closer than that of other siblings. Every loss is tragic and staggering, but I’m sure you encountered many uniquely difficult issues following the loss of your twin. My words are entirely inadequate and I wish I could be there to hug you and listen to your story personally. You have my sincere condolences.
Tammy Cretella Richards
May 1, 2017 at 4:44 pm
Thank you Janet and other who shared. I lost my 18yr son 8 weeks ago today almost to the minute. One minute we were all together and then he was gone. My friend sent me this as I just told I feel like I am getting worse not better. I was thinking I am going crazy. I have been through many hard times and always able to pick myself up but this has kicked the life out of.
My family feels like we are falling apart, I can’t focus at work, and if I was my friend I would be sick of my crying. The next few weeks will make it worse as we go to high school graduation where they will honor Jeffrey. But Jeffrey is not going to college as expected and after that will be his 19th Birthday and i don’t know how to celebrate.
I told myself this will be the year of first but now after reading the comments I wonder if I am kidding myself. I need prepare myself as future anniversaries approach year after year. I need to try and help my living children but for the first time I have no idea how when I’m in so much pain.
Thank you at a minimum I know that what I am feeling is normal for what I am going through. I only hope that it is true that I will have more good days then bad days at some point. I do wish I could control that.
May 1, 2017 at 5:26 pm
I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son, Jeffrey! Eight weeks may feel like forever in terms of suffering but it is nothing to the heart. Your grief is a reflection of the great love you have for your son. That love never ends. He is forever a part of you and his life carries forward a legacy in all those who knew and love him. His fingerprints are everywhere.
Family dynamics become this weird dance of allowing each other to grieve yet wanting to protect each other from our individual grief as well. At least that’s how it has worked in our home. A wise woman once told me that men and women grieve differently. That was really helpful to me particularly after our son was stillborn. I needed to verbally process my grief and my husband worked really hard to listen, but it was hard for him. He was able to compartmentalize his grief and set it aside while at work, etc. For me, it was ever in front of me. I viewed everything, heard everything through the lens of grief.
I read a blog where a wife explained that she and her husband used the drowning man approach to grieving. That meant that they both realized that at times they would not be able to support and encourage others, they were both too overwhelmed by loss. They were both drowning in it. Recognizing that led them to find others who were safe to vent with. Safe people validate your feelings. They don’t try to snow you with some grander plan that explains your loss or to point out the silver lining (which I think is tantamount to saying something very bad is now good because something good came about as a result of the bad). I’m not a silver linings girl. Instead I chose to think of the blessings that come my way as God demonstrating His mercy and compassion toward me.
The inability to focus is a very common side effect of grief. And a good friend may get sick of your crying but is far too concerned about you to be inconvenienced by your sorrow. (There are people out there who try to push you through the grieving process because it makes them uncomfortable – not out of concern for the suffering. That selfishness is sad but not uncommon). Protect yourself by sharing with safe friends and having acquaintance-level conversation with those who frustrate you because their quick fix solutions seem to devalue the importance of Jeffrey’s life. It’s not worth it to correct them.
My heart aches for you for birthdays and graduation. I’m glad to hear that Jeffrey’s school will honor him during the ceremony but I know that doesn’t make his absence any easier to bear. His absence is a very tangible presence in your heart and mind.
I don’t think you need to prepare yourself for future anniversaries. Today’s worries are sufficient for the day. One step at a time.
Tammy, I think every bereaved parent I’ve encountered that has other children have all felt ill prepared to downright inadequate for helping them grieve and heal. Don’t be afraid to seek the help in the form of grief counseling for yourself or your children. You’ve been deeply wounded. Grief and shock take a toll. Getting help is nothing to be ashamed of – and that includes help of a pharmaceutical nature should depression, anxiety or symptoms of PTSD arise. Some of those don’t make them selves evident for quite some time.
Have you found either a local or online Bereaved parents support group? If not, I’d be glad to point you to a few that have been good for me. I probably can’t help much in terms of local support groups but I will do my best if you let me know the state and city in which you reside. If you are a Christ follower, you might find a local Grief Share group which I’ve heard good things about. It is for any kind of loss not just the loss of a child but in many ways grief is grief.
Tammy, you are very normal and not as alone as I’m sure you feel. Please let me know if I can help ou find a support group. I’m glad to know that you have at least one friend who cares about you and your sorrow and tries to help you and herself by reading blogs like mine. I’d hug both of you if I were there!
Praying for you and your family, Tammy.
Tammy Cretella Richards
May 2, 2017 at 7:07 pm
Janet thank you for taking the time to respond. I have always been a control freak and I have always been resilient. I have have faced so many challenges Jeffrey being born with a heart issue that required three open heart surgieres by age 5. My oldest boy did multiple tours in Afghanistan, my youngest had a bike accident and almost died, my son struggles with addiction and has overdosed and I had breast Cancer. I have been the one to push this family through, remained positive and sure that this to God would see us through. Even the day in the hospital with Jeffrey and they said it was serious and that he had a blood clot in his heart. I told the boys and my husband we would get this through this. God has always gotten through. Well I was wrong. I don’t know how to be positive and push through. I don’t know why I can’t get control of my feelings. I have always been able to handle whatever has been thrown at me.
I’m going to counseling as is my youngest. That is where my comment of feeling worse and not better was so scary to me. I have always been able to get control of myself and even with counseling I can’t. I’m so lost.
I know time and I guess (with all my reading and counseling) there is no telling how much time it will take. I have not found a bereavement group but thought about it a lot (did groups when dealing with addiction and it helped me strong and do what I needed to). I thought maybe I needed to be in a better place before I go but I’m not sure what a better place is. My counselor heard me say that and asked me to define it. For now it is a day with more good moments then bad, sleeping through the night, and not replaying ever step of the last Monday over and over in my head like I could do something different.
If you have any recommendations on a group in the West Palm Beach area please let me know. I am open as I know I need to do something to support me as I do not want to burden my family. I have always been the strong one and now I seem needy. Not a good feeling to me.
May 3, 2017 at 5:31 pm
You have been through A Lot. I’m so sorry.
I wonder if the reason you can’t get control of your feelings is because it’s done – unfixable. In all the other situations you described there were actions you could take to make the situation better or make the best of a bad situation. You could focus on the positive but there is nothing positive about the death of your son. You might find positives to focus on surrounding how it happened or the ways other people ministered to you, but not about Jeffrey’s death itself. And for a self-proclaimed control freak that is a very hard place to find yourself. I’ve stood in that place myself. The most common reaction to chaos is control. People freeze, flee or attempt to gain some control over what is happening to and around them. Control is a deceptive coping mechanism because there are simply some things that we have no control over. You know this all too well, I’m sure.
Not only that, the loss of a child is an incredibly devastating loss. There are very few relationships that you invest so much of yourself in. You nurture and protect in the womb and then provide sustenance & security, you teach life skills, morals and values. And when your child is grown you begin investing in the families they create themselves. This is so very hard because of the enormous scope of thought, love and care you’ve provided your child for years. You don’t have that depth of involvement with your parents or even your spouse. The parent child relationship is blatantly unbalanced. You nest more of yourself in that relationship that the child invests in the parent. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just how life works.
And I know that fearing death, your own or your child’s is a very traumatic thing, but experiencing it is far worse that your heart could have ever imagined. How you are coping is insanely NORMAL!
I was glad to see that you and your soon are getting some grief counseling. I am not any kind of a trained professional but I can pass on a therapy that was beneficial to me. It’s a trauma therapy called EMDR. It is frequently used to treat PTSD and has been proven effective. It made a world of difference in how flashbacks affected me and I know several other loss families that have had success with it. The one thing people rarely talk about in regards to trauma is that it has a cumulative effect on people regardless of how successfully an individual has coped with past traumas. It’s the straw that broke the camels back kind of thing. You have lived with a great amount of anxiety and even constant low-levels of anxiety is traumatizing. (Caregivers have been found to develop PTSD over time). I’m not trying to say you have PTSD, just that the many difficult trials you have faced over time have a cumulative and traumatic effect. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is not a traditional talk therapy. It may be of great benefit to you.
Support Groups. Do not wait until you are better. Everyone is in some state of brokenness in those groups. Other loss parents can understand your thoughts and feeling better than anyone else because they experienced it. When you find others who say, Yes! That’s exactly how I felt or what I thought, it is incredibly freedom no. It just lifts a weight off your shoulders and also verifies that you are very normal. Unique is overrated! Normal is nirvana in situations like this.
So below is what I found out about support groups near you as well as online groups. I noticed that you referenced your faith in God so While We’re Waiting and Grief Share are both aligned with the Christian faith. Grief Share meetings are far more prevalent but they do not exclusively minister to parents who have lost a child and their Facebook page is open to everyone and anyone. The Compassionate Friends child loss support groups have no religious affiliation but are generally available all over the country. So here is contact information for each of those. I hope you will give them a try, at least online. You can always lurk if you feel uncomfortable sharing!
Grief Support Group Information
While We’re Waiting (A Non-Profit Organization (ministry) which offers faith-based retreats and support for parents who have lost children.)
1685 South Moore Road
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Phone or Text:
Starting in June in Winter Haven
Private Facebook Page: While We’re Waiting-Support for Bereaved Parents
Grief Share (Non- Profit Grief Recovery Support Group (Christian affiliation – any loss not just children)
Meeting Info: (Contact for dates and times)
1101 S Flagler Dr
West Palm Beach, FL
Good Shepherd United Methodist Church
2341 S Military Trl
West Palm Beach, FL
Destiny International Ministries, Inc.
1765 Benoist Farms Rd.
West Palm Beach, FL
First Presbyterian North Palm Beach
717 Prosperity Farms Road
North Palm Beach, FL
8350 Okeechobee Blvd
West Palm Beach, FL
Facebook Page (**This is NOT a private closed group):
Compassionate Friends Loss of a Child (No faith affiliation)
TCF of Western Palm Beach County Chapter
10941 Southern Boulevard
Royal Palm Beach Florida 33411-4343
Chapter Phone Line – Lynne: (561)-315-0306 or Darlene: (561) 640-9056
Royal Palm Beach, FL
1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month 7:00 pm
Private Facebook Page: TCF – Loss of a Child
Tammy Cretella Richards
May 4, 2017 at 9:46 pm
Janet thank you for the time you have taken to respond. I will look into each of the organizations you have mentioned. I have never heard of EMDR. Again I will do some research. Your words have made me stop and think. The understanding that I can’t impact this change in my life in anyway and why I have NO control is a new way to think about this and cut myself a little slack. I have felt needy something I am not used to. Not even sure how to ask for help. I am the one there for everyone else. Now I need my friends and family to lean on. I need my boss and colleagues to be patient with me. This is new and not something I am used to asking for. I need to have patience with myself. TIME I know.
Thank you again
Debbie & Gary
May 4, 2017 at 10:58 pm
This was a very helpful article. My husband & I are grieving the death of our 32 y/o son, Ryan who died of an accidental overdose July 9, 2016. Just when the relief of pain is like a breath of fresh air when submerged in a dank, dusty dark hole…another wave of pain washes over and crushes once again. We have 2 adult daughters who surround us with love, shoulders to cry on and understanding. No judgement or criticism EVER. Between them and our 7 grandchildren they are like the healing balm of Gilead.
My question is concerning the many friends of our family for the past 25 years and their silence and distance. What can i say to them of the painful awareness of their absence?
May 6, 2017 at 2:40 am
Debbie & Gary
I’m so sorry for the loss of your son, Ryan! Grief, like the sea, tides rolling in and out, storm induced raging waters or calm placid seas. Two steps forward one step back. It’s hard to be tossed back and forth over and over again. I’m so glad to hear that you two daughters and seven grandchildren that allow you the freedom to fully express yourselves.
The question you asked sounds so simple but it’s a whopper! Personal relationships are complex. There are multiple reasons others might withdraw from you, and we can only guess at those. Sometimes they are frightened away by the inadequacy they feel to help and support you. Or they feel that they need to be strong for you but find themselves unable to do that because they are emotionally devastated too. Sometimes they fear that you might be uncomfortable in their presence because their families remain intact. And sometimes, people realize that if such a horrible could happen to you that it can happen to them too. Sadly, sometimes death destroys friendships because either the bereaved or the friend can’t cope with it, or careless words are spoken, etc.
I honestly don’t have all the answers but I think the simplest course of action would be for the two of you to call these friends and invite them to coffee, lunch, dinner or for drinks. I probably wouldn’t address the pain their absence caused you but would say, “We’ve missed your company or friendship”. More than likely their absence stems from fear. The Amplified version on Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense and discretion make a man slow to anger, And it is his honor and glory to overlook a transgression or an offense [without seeking revenge and harboring resentment].” That’s a tall order when someone close to us hurts us but it may be the best way to keep a friendship you obviously value. Letting them know they hurt you may just make it harder to restore your relationships.
Having said all that, I want to qualify my comments with a word of caution (for lack of a better way to say it). I have discovered that there are safe friends and unsafe friends. Safe friends validate and try to understand your feelings. You walk away feeling better having shared your struggle to reconcile this horrible loss with them. Feeling understood and having your feelings respected is HUGE! Unsafe friends tend to try to fix your feelings instead of understanding your pain. They are the people who try to make every negative into a positive. You walk away from these people feeling defensive of your perspective, misunderstood or feeling as if others diminish the value of the son you lost. I think these people sincerely care about you, it’s just that they desperately want to save you from your pain so they skip over acknowledging the depth of loss and move on to fix it mode. But grief is not solved by adapting a positive outlook over your loss. In reality that is more a short circuiting of the process leading to unresolved grief. You haven’t healed from your loss, you’ve just learned to successfully mask your feelings to be more socially acceptable or to grant the illusion of healing projecting a facade of strength in front of friends and family. And I have to tell you that it is not only frustrating but it’s also exhausting to constantly portray yourself as strong or together. I think society has forgotten that grief is supposed to hurt.
It’s okay to have both safe and unsafe friends. However, the closeness of your relationships need to align with the type of friend they are. What I’m fumbling to communicate here is that the information you share with your friends should be driven by determining if they are safe or unsafe friends. In other words, you can share your thoughts, feelings and struggles over the loss of your son with safe friends, but it’s ill advised to share those things with unsafe friends. You can talk about your jobs, family, hobbies, etc. with unsafe friends, but you can talk about all those things and your vulnerabilities in relation to Ryan’s death with your safe friends. And sometimes this means that closeness of the relationship is lost. You remain friends but on a more superficial level than you once enjoyed. And that’s painful too but it’s less painful than constantly being judged or criticized for your grief. Unsafe friends become advisories if you are unable to be yourself in their presence.
So reach out to your friends. Tell them you missed them. But don’t automatically assume they are safe to share your vulnerabilities with even if you have been able to in the past. Some people just don’t deal with death well.
I hope this is helpful for you. I have wracked my brain trying to come up with several options for you but clearly I’ve failed in that regard.
Personal relationships are hard and fragile. I hope you will stop back by and let me know how you chose to address this situation and how effective you found it to be. I am hopeful that you can reestablish the friendships you have nurtured for so many years.
May 5, 2017 at 12:27 am
i am amazed at the accuracy of this article…. i lost my son tragically 9 yrs ago. im still not accepting of alot of it..
May 6, 2017 at 2:43 am
I think I am more resigned to my losses than accepting of them. I’m sorry for the loss of your son. Thank you for your kind words.
May 5, 2017 at 12:29 am
What a touching post ! I am 4years 6 months into this new life ! I lost the best person in the whole world ! My 21 year old son Ty ! He was killed in a MVA while sitting in the back seat ! Head on hit so hard it ruptures his aorta! They say he died instantly! My world is taken from me ! I also have a daughter who is graduating this may ! She put her pain threw 4.5 years of school and grading an RN ! I do believe a sibling takes 4-5 years to let the piain out as now she talk and post pictures of her brother that was 12 months younger then her ! She is also gettin married this July to a man who is has been with for 6,5 years n we struggle everyday with our loss of Ty ! Mine is he will never have his own dog his own wife and child now the pain ! I will never be a grandma to his child ! Life goes on in everyone else world but day and night I am never complete ! I work hard so I don’t feel pain but once I’m home my mask does come off and my heart hurts and I cry and ask Why ! Healing yes but I will never ever want to forget his smile his voice and his memories we had ! Love my son forever and I know people will never get it ! I work with 40 doctors and they will never understand nor do they ask !! So a parent who lost a child doesn’t matter what age it just isn’t fair and it hurt like hell to get threw each day ! 😪
May 6, 2017 at 2:44 am
I’m so sorry for the loss of your son, Ty. Two of my daughters died in a MVA as well. I too grieve for the things my daughters will never experience as well as the future I expected for myself as they began careers and families. I struggled with that unrelenting why question as well until I finally figured out that if I found an answer it would never satisfy me. There is no possible reason that I would feel justified their deaths. As a result, why became a moot consideration. And yes it is yso difficult seeing the world go on without us – without our children.
I am so proud of your daughter. With tenacity she has thrived in unfavorable circumstances to say the least. Congratulations on her graduation and upcoming wedding. I am thankful that the things you missed with Ty, you will be able to enjoy with your daughter.
God bless you, Charlene, with hope, assurance and joy.
May 28, 2017 at 8:26 am
Thank you Janet. I hope more people read your writing. It has been 14 months since we lost our first daughter, from premature labor. And tomorrow i have to go through a curetage (D n C) for our supposedly second child. The grieving goes in full cycle.
May 28, 2017 at 10:49 pm
Vidya, I am so very sorry to hear of the loss of both of your children. I hate that you have experienced not one but two devastating losses so closely together. I can only imagine what that does to a mother (and you are a mother if your children are present with you or beyond the veil between this life and the next). The time between losses is notable only in relation to the amount of healing that has taken place , or the lack thereof between losses – the state of your physical and wellbeing. Cumulative losses create increased suffering, spiritual questions, the reevaluation of expectations, fears, and so on.
I also hate that the day designated for remembrance of fallen soldiers that has, over time, has extended into the civilian community, is the day you find yourself having a D&C. Somehow having your loss associated with any holiday seems to magnify your sorrow – maybe because the rest of the world is enjoying a day of rest, fun, or celebration with friends and family – pretty much a direct contrast to the way you experience pretty much any holiday.
I blog because I hope to educate both the bereaved and those close to them identify what are normal and common thoughts, feelings, frustrations, fears and also common mental and behavioral changes.
Those who love the grieving need to be informed so they can avoid common pitfalls in conversation, gain realistic expectations in regards to the bereaved’s thoughts, feeling and behavior and recognize the normalcy of those things so they are aware and equipped to help, instead of hindering the healing process with well intended encouragement that the grieving intellectually process far differently than the speaker intended.
I so want to help other grieving parents because no one should be alone with such devastating pain. And I further hope that educating those who care for hurting parents will eliminate a lot of pain and frustration from their lives. If my blogposts meet either goal, then I hope they get spread near and far and help to change the way society interacts with the bereaved.
I’m praying for your procedure and emotional and physical affects that result. God bless you, Vidya!
May 31, 2017 at 5:29 am
Dear Janet, Thank you for the encouragement. It has been an emotionally tiring weeks prior to the D n C. After going through it, i spent 2 days of numbness and then searing pain. Physical and emotional pain. It was like repeating what had happened a year ago when i first lost my child. Although the loss is different, it’s still a loss. I am still in a state of recuperating physically and mostly emotionally. Luckily my family and friends and even coworkers are pretty understanding. They provide encouragements in the form of prayers and advices…good ones, because some of them have also experienced D n C.
My husband has been a rock solid support, he also grieving but differently. I just hope he could find some consolation in his own way.
I guess this is another time of reevaluating a lot of things in life, while at the same time still wanting to live. Keep praying for me please. Thank you Janet.
May 31, 2017 at 12:28 pm
I can’t imagine you feeling anything other than the emotional and physical pain you describe. Sometimes I wonder if God allows that physical pain in order to help us vent the emotional pain that we’d prefer to numb. Pain hurts and unresolved grief leads to additional emotional pain and problems as we attempt to present a stoic presence before others in order to protect our vulnerable hearts.
I am so glad to hear that you have a good number of what I call “safe” friends. People you can share with without being judged, criticized or dismissed with platitudes. Those with personal experience are often best equipped because they know how they felt and how others responded to them when they were most vulnerable. A protective instinct arises and steps in to help share your burdens, grouse over painful, well-intended comments, and remind you that your feelings are not just normal but common in the loss community.
I’m also glad to hear that your husband has provided rock solid support even as he expresses and experiences grief differently than you do. I’m sure you do the same for him too.
Vidya, your significant losses are traumatic events. It’s not unusual to develop PTSD in the aftermath, even months after the events occurred. Flashbacks are like reliving the events mentally while retaining awareness of where you are. It’s not like tv portrays as if you can’t tell if you are in the here and now. But it is a bit like daydreaming, which is a form of disassociation. You know where you are, you may even be relaying your experiences to a friend, but as you do it’s as if you’re right there reliving it at the same time. At least that’s how it worked for me. I wrote a blogpost called “Trauma Momma?”, that talks about PTSD. You might google PTSD or read that article to see if you are symptomatic. I’m not an expert and I have no reason to think you are symptomatic, I just wanted to tell you there is a trauma therapy called EMDR that has proven effective for the treatment of trauma. I tried it and it helped. It’s not normal talk therapy.
Since you mention your faith I want you to know there is a group called While We’re Waiting that provides free retreats and other services for bereaved parents. They have a member’s only Facebook page where you can find support and encouragement and when you are ready, you may be able to reach back to help another grieving parent. If you send me a Facebook Friend request I can initiate the membership process for you. You can read about this group online at whilewerewaiting.org to find out all about it.
Vidya, I wish I could sit down with you and hear your story, and lent you vent the good, bad and ugly. You are in my prayers and are definitely not alone.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. I believe that like Mary and Martha, Jesus grieves with you. He doesn’t stand impassionately back distancing Himself from your pain. He’s always right there with you even when you feel completely alone. Christ was forsaken on the cross you we, God’s children, would never, ever experience the same.
Matt - Broods, Butterflies, and Bible
June 9, 2017 at 12:36 pm
This is some great, well-written advice. If I might add, fathers and small children are often forgotten grievers. They hide their pain well and find it easier to distract themselves. Going along with your bedsore analogy, the wound is deep and wide but only leaves minimal evidence on the surface. We’re also historically bad about sharing our feelings. I’m sure that’s both a natural and conditioned inclination, but it has a compounding effect on the problem. They’re usually not a soggy mess on the outside, but the inside is usually a different story.
It’s been about 8 months since we lost one of our twins in the OR/delivery room and in that time, I would say my wife gets about 90% of the grief support. There have been a great many times someone will look at or hug my wife and ask how she’s doing and then after about 10 minutes of talking about it they might ask me how work is going. I’m never offended or put off by it because I realize how emotionally less open I am, but there are times when I feel a little alone in my grief (outside of my wife). I think there’s a real danger of bereaved fathers becoming unintentionally isolated and depressed as time goes on.
Again, thanks for the well-written post with some great practical advice. I enjoyed the read.
June 10, 2017 at 7:18 pm
I am so very sorry to hear about the death your twin. I can only imagine the unique grieving challenges you face when one twin dies and the other lives. I’m guessing that there would be a constant back and forth between gratitude and grief. It seems that society believes you can’t be both consumed with grief and simultaneously filled with gratitude. Others religiously remind you to be thankful for what you have (which you are without a doubt anyway) as if that’s a consolation. But that idea, when filtered through loss, manages to be dismissive of the value of the child you lost. All the quick fix solutions and the move forward encouragement seems to devalue the worth of the child your heart desperately longs for.
I can also imagine that you repeatedly recognize moments or milestones your living child reaches in sharp contrast to what your child in Heaven should have been doing here on earth but never will. You grieve for what he/she is missing but also for the experiences you will not share with that child. It’s as if you get a double dose of grief. You carry theirs as well as your own. I would guess that every moment is bittersweet! I’m sure there are so many other unique challenges I can’t even begin to imagine. Some things you only learn through experience.
Matt, I believe you are indeed correct when you say that the grief of fathers and young children are often overlooked. I agree with everything you shared. I find can ask my husband what plagues him the most, but I only get specific information back. If I don’t ask the right question he is not likely to spell it out for me. Prompted by your comment, this afternoon I asked David if he felt like he had to present a stoic countenance in fear of being perceived as weak (emasculated). He replied that he doesn’t feel that way. Then I asked if his inability to prevent the deaths and subsequent inability to repair the brokenness within his wife and child made him feel guilty, ashamed or inadequate in some way. He responded that that was true for him. A stoic appearance hides the things he doesn’t want others to see, issues he wants to wrestle though on his own.
I wish I knew how to ask better questions to draw him out but all I can do is speculate based on what I know or THINK I know about men. Men and women frequently perceive or feel differently about the same event. I think gender predisposes mankind to react in a complimentary fashion in a multitude of situations (by God’s design) instead of responding exactly the same way. Neither one is better or worse than the other, just different. Men seem to answer direct questions with a concise response without elaboration where women seem to expand upon a question asked of them. I find out more than I asked from my female friends.
I would love to hear the feelings and frustrations, the why’s, how’s and ways men cope with grief. I’d especially like to find effective ways to support and minister to men as well as young children.
Below you will find a link for a faith-bases organization that ministers to bereaved parents. It is unique in that every service offered is free of charge. whilewerewaiting.com. This group has provided me with incalculable support and encouragement. I hope you will look into it.
Matt, thank you for not only reading but also commenting on my blogpost. One reason I write is to open a dialog, to hear others experiences and the conclusions they draw about matters of faith in relation to the issues that arise from child loss. You drew attention to an important weakness in the ways we minister to others. I appreciate your feedback!
Matt - Broods, Butterflies, and Bible
June 12, 2017 at 10:57 am
Thank you for your kind words and thorough reply. You are absolutely right that the constant back-and-forth of emotions between joy for Asher and sorrow for Luke has be a unique grief experience that is as emotionally exhausting as it sounds. Every milestone and photo opportunity is a challenge. One way we’ve dealt with this is to include a stuffed bear in Luke’s place next to his brother. A group of anonymous people from our church gave us this bear that was precisely weighted to Luke’s birth weight. It seems a little silly sometimes, but it has been a group comfort to the whole family.
On getting grieving fathers to talk about it…I understand the challenge. My wife has tried to drag stuff out of me on multiple occasions with varying degrees of success. For a while, she was struggling with the perception that I just didn’t care like she did. The truth is, though, we have such different grieving methods that it takes a lot of effort to understand how each other is dealing with it. I’ve learned that I have to be more emotive and forthcoming for her sake as much as mine.
I think you’re not alone in wanted to better understand how men cope with child loss. There just aren’t that many resources out there. I have been working on a book for grieving fathers from a faith perspective for exactly that reason. I doubt it will ever see the light of day, though. As one literary agent put it, “men just don’t buy those kinds of books.”
June 12, 2017 at 1:10 pm
I love the idea of the weighted bear. Seriously, it gives you something to hold onto. The weight, especially since it is precisely Luke’s weight must be so comforting to hold – to rest on your chest and offset the weight of the anvil that bears down on your heart continuously. After my sob was stillborn I found myself waking daily with my heaviest pillow on my chest. I wondered if I was dreaming of holding my son. I was unable to recall any dreams so maybe it was just my subconscious mind filling my empty arms in my sleep. I should tell you that I had never woken like that prior to Cole’s death.
In regards to the literary agent’s comment, he has a point. And honestly, if someone gifted a grieving father with such a book, it’s unlikely he’d actually read it. However, it is possible the agent is considering the wrong target audience for your book. Women, mother’s, wives, sisters and close friends would read such a book. They are desperately trying to find ways to help their son’s and brothers, and friends vent their sorrow, but they don’t have any idea what to do or say – what the father lost in grief needs in terms of acts of kindness and appropriate leading questions to enable them to safely express their feelings and provide the non-judgemental validation fathers of child loss need so badly. It is often true that the grieving don’t always know what they need., what they want others to say and do.
The husbands of the While We’re Waiting (WWW) founding families may be able to broaden your ministry scope as well as they have spent innumerable hours talking with bereaved fathers during the men’s and couples retreats the organization provides. Just as you and wife grieve differently, so do men. They could probably tell you common themes expressed by other grieving fathers. I am ever aware that my personal experiences are not the same as all bereaved mothers. Different kinds of losses and different personalities create different challenges, emotions, fears and frustrations as you have found with the unique circumstances the loss of one twin creates for you the father whose daughter is raped and killed, or struggled with addiction, suicide, and cancer would be very different. What those men need may be things you haven’t even imagined. I know I’ve encountered vastly different problems (things I never would have realized) and a variety of different outlooks and emotional responses to comments made to them.
And bereaved fathers themselves wanting to reach out to other grieving men often feel like they don’t know what to say or how to help another man. Death is an awkward subject to address and even personal experience doesn’t always equip one to minister to another. Words are elusive in overwhelming situations. Such ministry-minded men would appear to be a good audience for your book and Faith-based grief support groups might be interested in making such a resource available to their members in book form or a smaller booklet/pamphlet on the subject.
Another good target audience are church leaders, ministers, counselors, maybe even divinity schools may be interested in order to better equip future ministry professionals.
Those are just my off the cuff thoughts. My husband is in marketing which has given me a different perspective in regards to sales. Take those ideas with a grain of salt or roll them around your mind, pray, and see what you and God come up with collectively. From what you’ve said, your motivation is not at all self-serving, be it financially or a desire for name recognition, but rather stems from a heart for the suffering of others. I think that is God honoring and very Christ like. And even if some impure motivations lay Unknown in a our heart, the Holy Spirit’s refining fire will burn the chaff away. I interpret this scripture, “The heart is deceitfully wicked. Who can know it?” to mean that I don’t even fully know myself and my motivations. Sometimes I wonder if the purpose of my writing is for my own validation or recognition. I have repeatedly searched my own heart and mind in regards to the purpose of my blog. I’m not sure my motivation is entirely pure or if those insidious whispers are really Satan’s way of making me feel inadequate for a job God ordained for me. I write, hope it helps another hurting soul and try to leave any other result in God’s hands. It’s the only thing I know to do.
Your efforts will be rewarded either in personal spiritual growth and ministry, or according to God’s will and in His time. Just a humble reminder here, the men and women in the Faith Chapter of Hebrews never saw the fruit of their individual labors. You and I may never know if our words make a big or small difference for the good of the kingdom, or if God uses them as a gift for us alone, but our efforts are not wasted.
I pray God ensures the success of His ordained will for your life, whatever that looks like.
God bless you, Matt. You are precious in His sight.
It’s just a thought.
LikeLiked by 1 person
March 21, 2018 at 5:25 am
Reblogged this on thelifeididntchoose and commented:
Thank you Janet!
You are a champion for hurting hearts and we need to hear your wisdom. It does get worse before it gets better. At four years I have many more “better” days that “worse” days but I am finding this fourth season of anniversaries is plunging me back under the ocean of grief. I have developed much more successful coping mechanisms. I can DO all the things I have to do. But oh, my heart!
I appreciate your honesty, your encouragement and your commitment to autthenticity. No sugarcoating here! And that is such a breath of fresh air.
LikeLiked by 1 person
March 21, 2018 at 6:18 am
Janet. Yes. Thank you! For your sharing. For putting into words the real and the raw of grieving a child. Validation was huge for me as well. Still is – 13 years this May 1st – and the waves of grief still come on fiercely. Sometimes with seemingly no trigger, like an anniversary; just because his laughter is sorely missed in others laughter.
And I completely agree it get worse before it gets better. That phrase, I use it often when speaking with friends or clients about loss and grieving time. For me, we are all different, the first five years were all horrible – the first one being the year graced by numbness. Year two was raw and real-numbness gone. Year three was about relearning-how to live with and without. Year four was like year two-he would have been graduating high school. Then year five was a combo of 1&2numb in many areas and so very raw – but with 5 year anniversary marker attached.
So it did get worse before it got better – and i learned in order to get better, I could not allow bitter to reign. In addition to validation, the ‘one thing’ that helped me move down this excruciating timeline was ‘joy’. A short, three letter word filled with Love, Anticipation, Peace, Beauty, Giggles that become Laughter, And yes, sorrow…seeking Joy through all the pain – in the midst of all the pain. Garnering up the strength each and everyday to seek Joy. I learned that without sorrow and pain there is never Joy. We cannot fully feel joy, love, glee unless there is the absence of it … the depth of our pain becomes directly and completely relative to the height of our joy! Ultimately, i sought out joy in memories (Luke’s smile, his favorite’s, etc.), in nature (flowers blooming, butterflies appearing), like the woman in scripture that seeks and finds her missing coin …
Validation helped (but it rarely occurred). I had to seek Joy each day. That was my salve and still is when missing Luke overwhelms.
LikeLiked by 1 person