“Dear friend of a bereaved mother or father:
I wanted to share something I have learned on this new journey. If you or someone you love has lost a precious child, you will know the truth in this letter. I feel your pain and your loss as deeply as I feel my own, and I’m so brokenhearted for you.
If you are the friend reading this, please recall these messages and feelings we experience when we—those of us who are bereaved parents—are somehow perceived to have let you down, have changed, or if you just simply do not know how to react to our loss.
When we haven’t gotten ‘over it’ quickly enough for your likes and you want ‘us back.’ When we cling to the pain because it is, at that point in time, the only lifeline we have to our lost child.
The only way we can feel close to our loved one in the early aftermath or make any sense of this horrific loss is to somehow relive the moments in our mind when we let them down, we were unable to fix their pain, we failed to be there, we misunderstood their intentions, we questioned their decision making, we somehow held back our love to make a point, or we were too busy to listen and love on them when they were near.
There are no more tomorrows for us now to fix what went wrong.
No more ways to beg God we be taken instead of them.
Beg Him to give us just one more year, one more day, one more minute.
No more memories to make.
No more dreams to create.
No more laughs to enjoy.
No more hands to hold.
No more arms to hug.
No more tears to share.
And no more room to watch them grow into who we knew they would become.
When we lose a child, we have lost the ability to unconsciously breathe again. We need to be reminded to breathe.
We need to be reminded to eat because it’s fuel for our body, though there is no hunger, no taste, no smell, no need. We find it impossible to look forward to any event in our life with the same zest and joy we once felt. It is with disdain and perhaps even indifference that we must move to the next obligatory event. And it may not happen for months or even years.
When we lose a part of ourselves, we will never ever be the same. We have to learn how to somehow function with a huge piece of ourselves missing. There is no rehab for a bereaved parent. No class or handbook to read on how to handle this grief.
The day-to-day may only include rising to change clothes only to climb into bed again. The phone goes unanswered. The texts unread. The messages are full and still unheard. The emails multiply and overwhelm us until we stop looking altogether. The food, if any, is still dropped off, goes uneaten. The hair unwashed.
The friends who stood by you, tire of your pain. You now become work for them. They cannot find words when none are even available for such an event like this. And if they do, someday we pray we will find grace to forgive their inability to comprehend our pain and tell us, ‘It’s time.’
It is never time. How can it ever be time? Time to learn to start again when we just want to live in this cocoon. Time to learn to laugh again when our child will never laugh with us. Time to play games or see the world, when we will never be able to share those visions with them.
Time to find a new dream because the old dream has been shattered. Time to find the strength to face the world when the colors have dulled. Time to enjoy the beauty around us when it is clouded with gray.
You, dear friends, please wait for us to come back. When we do, we still find laughing hard and making plans only to cancel on you. We don’t attend your child’s graduation or wedding day, because it is a painful reminder our child’s day will never happen.
We fail to come to parties and gatherings because the dynamics change when someone from the Bereaved Parents club shows up. We let you down because life broke us. We let you down because we couldn’t stand up again with a major piece of us removed.
Our balance is off, our equilibrium shaken. We don’t feel the same joy you feel when your favorite team wins. Or the same anger when a car cuts you off. Nothing that was of significance before our loss seems to matter. All that matters is survival.
And, when we feel we have somehow survived the worst pain a heart can feel and still live, we may take baby steps to allow you back in our world.
Please say their name and share their stories. Please validate their life even though they are gone. Acknowledge our pain but rejoice in our victory.
Remember our life with them as we try to navigate a life without them. For they have lived and will forever live in us. Just as they may be gone and never forgotten, we were gone and hope somehow a piece of us remains to carry on.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Donna Mencini Heck from Mansfield, Ohio. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her website. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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