“Emerge from Darkness”
The loss of a child permeates every aspect of your life. Your world becomes turned upside down. Things you thought were important are no longer. Everything you thought was under your control isn’t.
Although it doesn’t fully capture the aftermath of losing a child, I describe to others as it’s like being dropped deep into a body of water blindfolded at night, alone and in complete silence except for what you hear in your head, you just don’t know which way is up. The fear sets in and you start to experience psychological and physical symptoms you may have never felt before. Fear turns to panic as you try to make sense of it all, grasping for help. Your nervous system impacted by irreversible damage, trauma, I’ve heard it described. Call it what you will, it doesn’t change the way you feel inside.
After you lose a child, you no longer recognize the person in the mirror. You look vaguely familiar in physical features only. The look in your eyes displays so much pain. Pain that no one on the street recognizes and if they do, they haven’t inquired. That would make them uncomfortable.
Some people close to you become concerned. They say things like “you just have to get over this.” In return you ask them, “Would you get over it if your child died?” They stare at you with a blank look, offended that you would even ask such a question. If you have lost a child, you know this isn’t something you get over. Only those that have lost a child can understand the depths in which this pain travels.
The message I want every grieving parent to know is that it’s hard, it hurts, it’s scary, but you will get through this, you will make it, you will come out the other side of this very long and lonely tunnel. It will be the hardest thing you will ever experience; it is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Your life will look completely different when you do, that’s not necessarily good or bad, just different. You will become more compassionate towards others and less tolerant towards things that really don’t matter in the big scheme of life. You will appreciate the real relationships you have and try to ignore the ignorance of others that have never walked in your footsteps.
You will start to have moments that the pain has lifted ever so slightly, you may even notice that you smiled or laughed for the first time in months. These will happen ever so gradually, but once you recognize it, you may even feel guilt set in. You may think to yourself, “How can I smile or laugh when my child has died, what kind of a parent am I?” Please know that just because you smiled or didn’t cry today doesn’t mean you have stopped loving your child or you have forgotten them in any way. It just means that the very deep wounds in which this tragedy has inflicted are starting to heal. Our children want us to be happy again, they want us to continue living the best life we can.
They want us to move forward, that doesn’t mean you ever get over the loss or beyond it. How could you? Your mind eventually learns to live with it, adapt. It’s like any deep wound, it is very painful at first, but over time it starts to heal leaving a scar in its place. During the healing process the scab will be ripped away at times leaving the wound exposed. But it will once again start to heal. This process will occur many times before the only thing remaining is the scar. It’s not that you forget your child or you stop loving them, but the pain isn’t as intense as it once was. You start living your life to honor them, which gives you purpose and hope.