Sharing memories after the death of a child can help the grieving family more than you’ll ever know.
If you were close to a child who has died, there are many things you can do to help the parents and other family members. But the absolute best is to share precious moments you had with the child
“I was so happy to hear my son’s name brought up at the Senior Honors Convocation as being on the football team that year as quarterback and scoring so many touchdowns,” a mother told me. “I had not known about some of the unusual plays that were discussed, but best of all, he was remembered and talked about by those who knew him. It made me feel wonderful for the first time in so many months.”
When my daughter died, even those who didn’t know her were able to share something comforting. I met the couple who happened to be right behind her car accident. I did not know any circumstances of the accident and was eager to hear what they had to say.
They were able to give me a minute by minute description of what they had seen. They happened to know my daughter’s husband through work, but had never met Marcy. They did not recognize either of them because the new car, which had just been driven off the dealer’s lot, was unrecognizable and Marcy’s husband was pinned underneath parts of the debris.
They politely asked me if I wanted to know the details as they saw the accident unfold or whether it would cause too much pain.
I said, “Yes, I want to know everything you can tell me. No one else could do that.” And so they told me. They particularly spoke of how a paramedic was two cars away and tried for 20 minutes to resuscitate Marcy.
They took my son-in-law the few blocks to the hospital, knowing he needed an operation. They stayed and watched the time unfold and the obviously distraught expression and mannerisms of the paramedic, knowing after a few minutes there was nothing he could do to help Marcy.
It was important to hear from them that she looked peaceful, as though she was just asleep. It was also comforting to know she did not suffer. It was an instant death. This couple took the time to tell it like it happened. I appreciated their honesty and will always cherish knowing the true facts from an eye witness.
As time passed, I received over 100 notes and stories from Marcy’s friends, about what a good friend she was and how she held groups of people together with her friendship and kindness. It was comforting to know how much she was loved and that she left a legacy for others to emulate.
At her funeral, more than 300 people attended. Some gave eulogies and spoke of what she meant to them. It does help in the grief process to know that your child was admired by so many. I was told a year later near the anniversary of the accident that some of her friends got together at a restaurant to talk and reminisce about her. One of her friends was kind enough to call and tell me about the meeting. There were funny stories and thoughtful moments. All their comments were precious memories to keep within my heart.
In the past year, I have heard from two of Marcy’s boyfriends whom she dated in high school. It has been 16 years since her death, and people still call to tell me stories of their time with her and what a great person she was.
Since Marcy and I were close, I knew most of her friends and remember the names when they call, but not necessarily the faces when and if I see them.
Good does come from tragedy: in this case in the form of memories, so I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity and ability to share something comforting with the remaining family after the death of a child to do just that.
Sandy’s latest book on surviving grief on Barnes and Noble and Amazon is Creating a New Normal…After the Death of a Child, 80 articles on coping techniques, resources and inspirational stories to help bereaved parents, family members, friends and anyone who would like to understand how to act and react to those who have lost a child.