Prior to losing my son in 2015, I didn’t even know there was a bereaved parent’s month. I’m glad you found us, though. Because many of us who subscribe to this tribe know this pain.
The sculpture above is called Melancholy by Albert György and it is on display in Geneva, Switzerland. It aptly captures the unfillable hole that is left when a parent loses a child.
I will say my hole felt that big at first. Thankfully, it doesn’t feel that big now. Time has softened the pain. But losing a child is not like other losses because it’s out of order. Children are not supposed to die before their parents. And it’s not something you get over but a process of learning to live without the one you love. I get a number of searches by parents looking up “want to kill myself after the death of my child.” As many as 1/3 of parents want to kill themselves after the loss of a child. That’s how devastating it is.
If you’ve lost a child, please, please, please get support. You can’t avoid this grief. And you can’t be scared of the pain but you can manage it and lessen your suffering.
The two most important things for grieving parents are:
1. Support – Find support resources here
Support because, after that memorial service, many of your usual friends and even some of your family will avoid you and leave you alone at first with the excuse that you must want to be alone. Never mind no one ever asked you what you wanted. They don’t want to imagine this loss, they feel your loss too much when you talk about it and they avoid you because they can’t fix this. That makes people uncomfortable. It’s agony watching someone you are close to hurt so much. And people are fearful of walking into a tragedy this big.
That’s why support is so crucial. You want to talk, need to talk or you will explode. Not having support can result in your resorting to unhealthy coping skills such as drinking too much or getting overly angry with children, not sleeping, and so on.
You need to level with family and friends and let them know what you need. Being abandoned can make you angry but keep in mind it’s not personal although you feel that way. (The coping strategies eBook below has worksheets to know how to sit with a friend and tell them what you need.)
2. Coping strategies
I used writing and running. That’s why there are thousands of posts on this blog since 2015. It’s how I worked through my anger, my hurt, resentment, sadness, and more.
I ran because I needed that physical pounding and sweat and by the end of a run, I would find a sense of peace. Most of the time. Not all the time. Starting out my whole body felt like it weighed a thousand pounds.
My husband went hiking by the river with our dog. Being outside in nature with the dog who was once owned by my son who died by suicide was how he managed. And he attended a group with me.
List or searching healthy coping strategies (link to the free eBook on coping strategies below). Identify negative ones. By relying on the negative ones you are actually prolonging your grief and making it worse. Let’s say you rely on drinking or eating too much. Is it better the next day? By avoiding or numbing your feelings with a substance you cheat yourself out of developing healthy coping strategies and you stay stuck in the rawest pain of grief. And who needs that right?
You can’t heal if you can’t feel. And there is no way to do this without emotional pain. That is part of the healing process.