I’m part of the club no one- and I do mean, no one- wants to be part of. I’ve lost a child and have been dealing with the long process of grief and loss for over 10 years. What does that look like, exactly? And how can you help a bereaved parent?
Deep, heavy, dramatic sigh. I’m processing grief and loss, please, bear with me…
I’m just feeling it all today and the words need to come out. If you were looking for silliness and light, come back tomorrow.
I don’t have it in me today. October is a hard month.
Because it’s when our world stopped- 13 years ago.
I’m marking 13 years without my oldest child and 13 years of living in a quiet sort of pain that I realize will never stop and will never go away.
You may know a friend or a friend of a friend who lost a child.
And at some point, you’ve likely uttered the words, “Wow, I can’t even begin to imagine…”
Please, don’t try to imagine the loss of your own child.
Please never ever give that a moment’s thought.
Speaking on behalf of grieving parents, it’s something we’d never wish upon anyone else, I promise you.
You can’t sit with us; you can’t join our club. On Wednesdays we wear black. Every day- we wear black.
If only it was as easy as keeping someone out of a high school clique ala Mean Girls.
I’d go all Regina George on you if it would help.
No matter how bad you think it would be, it’s a million times worse.
But like I said: stop, don’t think about it.
I know my life is pretty wonderful. I’ve been married for almost 23 years to a man who still makes me laugh every day and who loves me unconditionally.
My four children at home are sassy, quirky, smart, and polite and I love them to pieces.
I am all the hashtag blessed you could think of, minus the extra 60 pounds I apparently insist on carrying around.
But there is a loss; an empty spot at the kitchen table that will never be filled.
Our Jacob is gone.
And I’ll never hear his voice, touch his sweet skin, or marvel at his knowledge of steamies and diesels ever again on this earth.
And that so totally sucks. Even 13 years later.
Processing Grief and Loss
One thing I do want you to know about loss: it doesn’t go away. It never stops impacting your life.
Sure, time marches on.
You move on.
The deep, searing cuts scab over a little and the pain mellows to a dull ache.
While all that may sound like an improvement, it’s not.
Loss is an asshole. Time can open additional wounds that are still painful, just different.
You question your seemingly healthy way of dealing with the loss. And that’s healthy or helpful… um, how? It’s normal, I know, but really, it’s an ongoing mind eff that simply won’t end.
Why don’t I still cry every day? Does this mean I didn’t love him that much?
How can I laugh and carry on or get mad about unimportant things when, you know, my child is dead?
Why do we move on and keep going?
Shouldn’t the world have stopped on October 20, 2005? Why are we still breathing and laughing and loving and existing when HE ISN’T?
Here I am, 13 years (gulp) out from the worst day of my existence and the loss is still prevalent in my life.
There’s a depression that hasn’t gone away.
There’s a what if that I can’t shake.
There’s the concern that I didn’t make the right decisions.
There’s the mommy guilt that I failed my son.
And there’s the terrifying reality that I couldn’t have done anything differently and that it could happen again.
So all this is to say: bah.
Yeah, I don’t know that there is a point here. But maybe I can turn it into something good.
A Simple Way To Help Grieving Parents
There is one thing I’d want people to know about losing a child. I felt it immediately when we lost Jake, it overwhelmed me and consumed me.
And it’s still a strong desire today.
I’m not expecting anyone to cry like I do on certain days and you are not a bad friend if you forget one of these crappy anniversaries.
But little things go a long way to show us that you know our child was important.
Speak their name, remember their birthdays, do random acts of kindness, run for a good cause in their honor.
I love it when something about trains or Thomas shows up in my Facebook feed and a friend or two tags me in it.
Little things add up and remind us that we aren’t alone even on those days that it feels like we are.
Even just giving us a hug- even if you aren’t a hugger-?is a kindness we will remember.
If you want to show me a little kindness, how about donating $15 to the Children’s Miracle Network or to the Ronald McDonald House in Nashville today.
A little love would mean a lot to me on a day like today.
If a donation isn’t in your budget, how about giving someone an extra hug? That would work too.
And if you are looking for help processing grief and loss, please reach out to these support groups.
They helped me so much when it was all fresh and new, and I’m not sure where I would be without them.
Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)