At the time of the death of our child, we think and feel that our world will certainly end and we often want to die and be ‘with our children’. It does not matter if we have a wonderful relationship with a spouse, surviving children, family members, friends or a career; we just want to be with our deceased child. For the first several months and sometimes even years, bereaved parents may have a self death wish and would welcome the diagnosis of a serious or terminal illness.
Fortunately, after doing years of grief work, we are able to reinvest in life and that death wish no longer is so prominent in our thoughts BUT we do not fear death in the same way that we did when our deceased child was living. We know that we will be able ‘join’ our child with whatever belief system we practice.
Our daughter, Rhonda, died due to surgery complications just prior to her sixteenth birthday many years ago. I remember wanting to die and be with her in heaven for the first two to three years. I never contemplated suicide but would have welcomed the diagnosis that I received thirty-two years later this past fall.
I did NOT welcome this diagnosis in 2011 and am not ready to die but, I do not have the fear that I would have had prior to her death. This is not to say that I do not think about and or fear what I may have to go through prior to my death, I do. I was diagnosed with triple negative Stage III breast cancer. I had a mastectomy and am currently taking chemotherapy treatments, which will be followed by several daily radiation treatments this spring.
My treatments this fall were very intensive and difficult and I was hospitalized for a few days. My current treatments are less invasive and I can function at a more normal capacity but must be cautious of communicable diseases. I told my husband this fall that if and when the cancer returns not to ask me to go through this again as it was too difficult.
I do not CURRENTLY know what my decision will be when that time arrives as I ALWAYS said that if something happened to Rhonda you would have to institutionalize me and we have been able to endure the grieving process and reinvest in life, taking the love and life of our daughter with us into our future.
When we have a child die we think and feel that we have ‘paid our dues’ and if life was fair we have paid the highest price a parent could possibly pay. But, everyone knows that life if not fair and we often have to bear many more burdens than any human should have to encounter much less live with the rest of our lives on this earth.
Due to our organization ministering to the bereaved parents whose only child/ all children have died, we meet many parents who not only have had all their children die but ALSO their spouse, parents, and other extended family members. Many have suffered personal serious or terminal illnesses, loss of jobs, loss of homes and other life debilitating circumstances.
Each of these life experiences cause us to go through another grieving process but we most often find that we approach these experiences with a different thinking process and can persevere. We also find that now that we have been active in support groups, that online and postal mail support is a vital support system for us. Often extended family and friends just cannot give us the long-term support that we need. Our ‘community’ of the bereaved ‘get us’ and they have walked through the valley, often more than once, and are there for us through yet another trial in our lives.
Even though life deals us many unfair and difficult experiences on this earth the life, love and death of our deceased children have caused us to look at the difficult times in our lives in a different way and we can be meaningful supporters of others who are enduring yet another crises. I commend those of you who reach beyond yourself to support not only the bereaved parent who has endured a similar experience as you have with the death of your child but to network with others and support those with serious/terminal illnesses and other difficult life circumstances. Do these acts of kindness in memory of your child, which will continue his/her legacy in a meaningful way to you.
Kay Bevington 2012