by Sandy Fox
In my previous blog I spoke of issues parents have when they lose their only child. I spoke of “Am I still a mother,” “Do I need to make a new will?, and “Will there be any special events in my life?” Today I’ll finish with four other issues.
First, “listening to others talk about their children and grandchildren.” My bridge friends talk about their children and grandchildren all the time. They have every right to. But do they really understand how I feel? Of course not. It’s never happened to them. They can never understand what I am going through. I hide it pretty well. But if given the opportunity to say something about my daughter Marcy, I’ll certainly take that opportunity, whether they want to hear or not. They may be thinking, “Why is she talking about her dead child?” Why do you think? My daughter was all I had, and I will always have her as far as I’m concerned. And what better way to keep her memory alive but to talk about her. She is as important to me as my friend’s children are to them. And so I continue to listen to the talk around the table. What is so wonderful is when someone says to me, “And how did Marcy react to that in high school or college,” making me gladly join in with a story also.
Second, “affects on a marriage.” If you had a good relationship with your spouse to begin with, chances are that the death of your only child will not hurt your marriage. But, if the reason you were together was only because of the child, there is a good chance your marriage may be in trouble. Despite what a lot of people think, if a marriage breaks up, it is not because of the child’s death but because there was something wrong with the marriage in the first place. If your marriage is worth saving in your eyes, seek help during this awful time in your life. Another problem could relate to significant others. Are they supportive? Do they understand what you are going through? Do they let you talk and express your pent up feelings? Or does your grief and loss cause problems in the relationship with not only the significant other but with any stepchildren? I am very lucky that my husband has a wonderful daughter who I am very close to. She reminds me a lot of my daughter. Their personalities are similar, they are both spirited with minds of their own, their birthdays are identical except for the year born. She gets along great with her parents as Marcy did with me and her dad. Others are not quite as fortunate and I would again encourage those who need professional help to get it and not wait until it is too late.
Third, “losing friends who still have children.” Many newly bereaved parents believe their friends are uncomfortable around them now. And they are probably right! It’s that old syndrome: I don’t want what happened to you to rub off on me. When Marcy died, good friends who I thought would be there for me were not. Others who hardly knew Marcy camped at my doorstep. I was so surprised at how people reacted, and I hear others also talk about it all the time. I found that I made new friends, friends that have brought new meaning to my life and try very hard to understand the new me. Grief shoves away friends and scares away so-called friends and rewrites your address book for you. Oh, so true.
Lastly, “I wanted others to understand the new me.” I am a different person than I was when my daughter was alive. I have new goals and new priorities. What was once important to me may no longer have any meaning. I ask for patience as I go through my grief journey. I ask for understanding that there is no set time limit to my grief. Grief makes what others think of us moot. It shears away the masks of normal life and forces brutal honesty out of your mouth before propriety can stop you. Don’t cry over a broken plate. Don’t worry about gas going up 2 cents this week. Those things are insignificant and no longer important after our child dies. There is a powerlessness we feel over life after the loss of a child. It’s hard to believe how much energy it takes just to go on. We’ve been slammed against a brick wall. And the slamming comes again and again. We are suffering through the most unbearable loss of all, but we are all survivors. We will never forget, never get over it, but we will eventually move on with our lives. What other choice do we have?