Surviving the loss of a child, a fatal tragedy in a family.
Surviving the loss of a child, a fatal tragedy in a family.
Your child dying, gone, no longer here on earth. Can you imagine the feeling? You know it would knock you to the ground and keep you there, making it hard to breath and shaking your world. But unless you went thru the experience you would not wish on anyone, you don’t know the sense of loss, or can you begin to feel what that event really is all about. That’s what a friend of mine that has five children told me.

The accident happened in the child’s backyard. An oak tree limb broke that the child was swinging on. His brother broke a leg, this child suffered life ending injuries from the tree, and the fall from the swing. How did the dad and mom handle it? Shock, disbelief, guilt about the tree and then in a circle, round and round back to shock, flashback and then numbness. No feeling, all the senses shut down, sound gets turned down, vision gets tunnel like and to a pin point like the ocean surf coming in, going out. Blackness and despair.

The hardest part of the loss were people around you. Some trying to comfort and help you. Some reliving their loss of a child and making your Dr Phil-like to console them thru the recall of their own tragedy. My friend and his wife said the comments made them angry although most were well intentioned, said from the heart with no agenda to hurt, cause further suffering. They did not want to hear what other’s felt, how they would get over it. That “this too shall pass logic”.

But when a person tells you “I know just what you are feeling, what you are going thru” or “well, you have four other children, so God blessed you so greatly the loss will soon pass”…the blood starts to boil, the anger and temper can ignite like a flash grass fire with a spark in a dry fall Maine hayfield. All consuming, at a time when your defenses to take it all in, to surface from the loss of feeling and numbness is at an all time low. Nothing more to feel, a bankrupt emotional account.

The dad told me the last thing you wanted to hear at the funeral, on the street, over the phone or thru email is “I know just how you feel.” He became angry and felt minimized, reduced. That his feelings and the ability to have them were hijacked, ripped away and replaced with a short, sappy explanation for the current state of family affairs.

The words delivered on the same level of “hey, we’re out of milk, we need bread” causal recklessness. Said without thought, having no idea how inappropiate the jumble of words uttered, meaning to help caused the absolute opposite result. Creating a dagger of a sharp, hugely insensitive apology that plowed deeply into the heart of the dad, the mom and even the four remaining children if they were within earshot.

Can you imagine being in the funeral home, barely able to stand and swaying from fatigue, trying to hold it together for your family, for yourself to just get thru the horror, the day to day as you try to recover your balance? Like a person suddenly thrown from a plane they were not in ten minutes ago, and without a parachute…everything happening with no sense of why, no logic at all.

My friend was amazed how many folks came forward to offer their own sense of loss or that of another friend, family member or someone in the community they barely knew but were suddenly prompted, well versed to shareon. To attempt to put themselves in your shoes and help you sort it out. Telling you how to feel, how not to feel…programming you when you just want to sit in the breakdown lane a little longer until the nausea lets up, the vise grips on your brain loosen a little to continue on in that lane for an exit. Any exit to get away, be alone.

If you’ve never been there, you don’t know. Sorry. That was the sentiment and without wanting to be a martyr, or looking for sympathy, he just wanted the spotlight turned off, the organ music to stop, the sickening smell of flowers to clear the air. The childhood pictures on the easel by the casket to be cleaned up, packed away. The stories to end, stop, be hiddened away neatly, and protected. Suddenly to be very private. And to begin the crawl back into a sense of day to day life with one big gapping hole remaining.

Circling the family to reach out, to join hands, to make all pull together that remained to close the gap, the void, the cavity filled by a missing child. A child…not a aged, frail, grandmother with thinning blue hair, a myriad of health problems, medication containers on her kitchen window sill and a walker. A child, with a full, ripe life ahead of them.

A child that would not go on to have a family of their own, holidays, little league games, graduations, weddings, more funerals or other traditions. All missed..never experienced, never happening. Like empty picture frames, film reels containing no family footage. Blank, empty, stark, nothing there. The death affecting, changing the lives of the other remaining siblings. And their outlooks, view on life and a little less sense of safety, a future as a solid group, a set of brothers and sisters, mom and dad.

What my friend needed to hear was “I’m sorry”. Stop the teleprompter…no more copy to read, to share. Just that and zip the pie hole. Take an arm, give a meaningful hug of assurance that I am here if you need anything. Anything, anytime. But continue down the line so the funeral can play out, the process of healing can start. Resisting anymore. No trying to rationalize how with four other kids, the one lost would be hardly missed. I have four children. There are none I would be prepared to lose, would consider any more or less than the other.

Children are a privledge, a blessing and everyone’s quivver as the Bible says, should be full of them. Family is the most important institution on earth, the reason to be here, the day to day goal to create, to nuture, to cherish. Creating a home for them, providing food, heat, love and affection and equiping them with wisdom for the days ahead is my job as a parent. The same exercise my parents provided 24/7 for me. A sense of family, togetherness, of love, security, understanding and hope for a bright future involving the entire family.
Maine REALTOR Andrew Mooers