A close friend told me a few weeks ago about a friend of hers who lost her son Michael Black.
It got me thinking about the people I know who have lost children. I have heard many times the axiom “Parents should never have to outlive their children.” Being a father of two, as many of you know – I happen to agree with that statement.
How they touch us
We parents have children for a number of reasons:
- For company
- For comfort
- For a part of us to live on after we are gone
- For an offspring in this world who is part of the person you love
- For blessing in disguise (in that we may not have planned to have them at all)
And of course there are those who have children who never should have had them – but then that’s not the point of this blog article.
Those of us who do have children (and many who don’t) know that children are a very special gift. They are a link to our past and a hope for our future. They connect us in ways to the world around us that we never thought possible until we had them. We watch children grow from babbling little balls of drooling, diaper-filled-giggle-jiggle creatures, to young people developing thoughts of their own and finally, to young adults who find their place in this world independent of us. They go about creating and finding their own dreams, hopefully achieving them, and drag you along for the ride in ways you never imagined possible – often in ways you never wanted to imagine . . . but you trod along with them regardless, through the bad times as well as the good.
The news that none of us wants
Then, one fateful day, one of our friends, family members or loved ones receives a call – a call that in six words shatters your world forever: “I’m sorry. Your child is dead.”
What do you do at a time like that – what does anyone do?
You curl up in a ball – physically, mentally and emotionally – and you cry. Your world is falling in on itself and you feel as if an entire skyscraper has caved in upon you. You yearn to be comforted, but you want to be left alone at the same time. Most importantly, you want the pain of loss to go away and you want your child to be remembered – to have a chance to live out all the experiences that you are now starting to realize will never come to pass; to never graduate from high school, to never fall in love, to never be married, to never know the beauty of having their own children. And if that child is very young, that “never going to happen” experience may even be a little thing, seemingly insignificant, like never losing that first tooth.
It’s a horrible thing to lose your mother, your father or even your spouse, but in each of these cases, you can go on. Moving on after the loss of a child is something that is never really possible. The depth of loss burrows itself like a tick in the skin of your soul and heart, festering, and creating a hole that will never be filled – ever.
Recovering from the pain
Whether you believe in God, believe in heaven, hell or simply believe that we go nowhere after we die – everyone has his beliefs in what lies beyond, even if it’s no belief at all. I personally believe in God. I just have a hard time believing that all of this bio engineering is simply here by “chance” of evolution.
My beliefs are not the point here, however.
Lisa, I don’t know you – though anyone who has best friends like you is in my opinion a wonderful person. I just want you to know that regardless of whether I (or other people) know you or not, there are people who have you in their hearts, myself included.
I don’t know the pain of losing a child, and I pray that I never do. I am, however, an author. It’s my job to imagine the unimaginable. I frequently find myself trying to put my head into the mind of killers, cops, men, women, children and teens. So it’s not a huge stretch to contemplate and imagine what it must be like to lose a child; but it hurts to even imagine it, and frankly, I’m not sure it’s something I could handle, even with the loving support of friends and family.
It’s up to each person drenched in grief as to whether or not he accepts that comfort or denies that support. Now, I’m not saying that accepting the comfort is always the right answer; sometimes it’s not. At times people need to heal just by being left alone. But eventually, we all need someone to hold a hand, offer a hug, or perhaps just fall asleep beside.
And we’ve all heard those well-intended words: “God never throws you anything you can’t handle.” But let’s be frank here – I think that’s bullshit at times. God throws you things all the time that you can’t handle. But that’s what friends are for, that’s what family is for and that’s what spouses are for. I can’t think of a single person who has lost someone they love who had absolutely no one else in life to offer comfort.
If there is one commonality in this world, it’s that we don’t have to go through sadness and tragedy alone. Even if I don’t know you well . . . if you’re in pain and you need my comfort, I will be there for you if I can. We are all human, after all, and we are all in this together. So, if you see anyone who has lost a child, reach out to that person. If your comforting gesture or words are not accepted, that’s fine, but be there regardless. That’s the important part.