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January 7, 2011

TALKING WITH FRIENDS WHO HAVE LOST A CHILD

Do not worry that mentioning the name of the child will "remind" bereaved parents of their child. We remember our child every minute of every day. We want to talk about our child. Mention his name. One of our biggest fears is that he will be forgotten and one of our biggest joys is to hear his name.

Understand that we are parents without the right number of children. Because of this we experience over and over again fear, anger, guilt, sorrow, loss of future, isolation, abandonment. These are not steps that we work through but feelings that will continue to return forever with various intensity and in different forms.

Keep in mind that there really is no "closure" to the grief for the loss of a child. How can there be? Such loss is against nature and against all that we understand in the passage from one generation to the next.

What you say to bereaved parents is less important than that you say something. Ignoring bereaved parents is only adding to the burden of grief. Simply asking "How are you doing?" can be very helpful. But do it often.

When bereaved parents return to the workplace, make sure that you stop by, even if it's just to say "hello." After the loss of a child, parents often feel as if they are starting all over. This "new life" is just in the infancy stage and a friendly word makes a difference.

Call bereaved parents just to let them know you are thinking about them. Don't be insulted if they do not call you. Grieving saps energy for a long time.

Never think that grieving parents are somehow "holding onto their grief. "There is no such thing. The loss of a child causes endless grief that becomes part of the bereaved parent's inner self forever.

Remember that grief is not a process that one goes through a step at a time. Grieving is a roller coaster ride, and it is circular. The first couple of years, we are numb. When the numbness goes away, we are shocked to see that the world has gone on without our child. When we come out of this numbness, we are different people with a new sense of what it is to be "normal."

When parents lose their child, their hearts are broken. A huge hole is left. This hole will never heal - only the jagged edges around the hole may heal with time. Our grief, not always in the same form and maybe not as intense, will be with us the rest of our lives.

It does not matter how a child died or whether he was one week old or sixty years old. Nor does it matter whether there are surviving children. There is something absolute about the loss of each and every individual child.

Certain times of year will trigger intense sadness. Birthdays, anniversaries of the death, holidays, Mother's and Father's Day, weddings and funerals are just some. We can never properly prepare ourselves for these days. A simple "I am thinking of you and I know this day must be hard" goes a long way with bereaved parents.
~By Linda Waxler

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