Sixteen years ago today, my beloved mother lost her battle against the septicaemia ravaging her tiny little body. I woke up this morning thinking “well at least this year Mom has Dad and Vic with her…”
It was very hard for me to come to terms with my Mom’s death. I spoke to her every day of my life regardless of where I was in the world. I was a real “Mommy’s Girl”. Mom adored Vic. They were so close.
I was cruising (I know “surfing” is the correct terminology) the web looking at bereavement sites when I saw that on the 9th of December 2012 it was Compassionate Friends 16th Worldwide Candle Lighting. The 9th of December is my birthday. It was a special birthday – my last with my precious child. Worldwide bereaved parents were lighting candles for their dead children…This year I shall join them in sorrow – lighting up the world.…
I found a section “To the Newly Bereaved”. It is now 4 months and seventeen days or 137 days since Vic died. Am I still a newly bereaved parent or am I becoming a seasoned bereaved parent?
When your child has died, suddenly it seems like all meaning has been drained from your life. When you wake in the morning, it’s difficult to get out of bed, much less live a “normal” life. All that was right with the world now seems wrong and you’re wondering when, or if, you’ll ever feel better.
We’ve been there ourselves and understand some of the pain you are feeling right now. We are truly glad that you have found us but profoundly saddened by the reason. We know that you are trying to find your way in a bewildering experience for which no one can truly be prepared.
When you’re newly bereaved, suddenly you find yourself on an emotional roller-coaster where you have no idea what to expect next. Here are thoughts on some of what you may be experiencing or feeling (many of these will apply to bereaved siblings and grandparents):
- You’re in shock from what has happened and a numbness surrounds you to help shield you from the pain. I thought I was going to lose my mind when Vic died. The pain was unbearable. Now numbness has settled in. It is a survival mechanism.
- You find yourself in denial. Your child cannot be dead. You expect to see your child walk through the door any moment. No – I have passed this stage. Vic is dead. She will never shuffle down the passage again.
- You see your child in the faces of others walking down the street. No – Vic was uniquely beautiful. I wish I could see her face on a walking body because that may erase some horrible memories from my mind.
- You wonder how someone can feel this much pain and survive. Absolutely!
- Thoughts of suicide briefly enter your mind. You tell yourself you want to die—and yet you want to live to take care of your family and honor your child’s memory. Absolutely!
- You want to know how the people around you can go about their day as if nothing has happened—don’t they understand that your life—everything that meant anything to you—has just ended? Your purpose in life is gone. Absolutely
- You are no longer afraid of death as each day that passes puts you one day closer to being with your child. Absolutely yes!!!!
- Thoughts of “what ifs” enter your mind as you play out scenarios that you believe would have saved your child. Yes
- Your memory has suddenly become clouded. You’re shrouded in forgetfulness. You’ll be driving down the road and not know where you are or remember where you’re going. As you walk, you may find yourself involved in “little accidents” because you’re in a haze. Absolutely
- You fear that you are going crazy. I fear I am…
- You find there’s a videotape that constantly plays in an endless loop in your mind, running through what happened. I try very hard not to think about it
- You find your belief system is shaken and you try to sort out what this means to your faith. Yes
- Placing impossible deadlines on yourself, you go back to work, but find that your mind wanders and it’s difficult to function efficiently or, some days, at all. Others wonder when you’ll be over “it,” not understanding that you’ll never be the same person you were before your child died—and the passage of time will not make you so. Absolutely correct!
- You find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over again trying to understand what someone else has written. Yes – it is scary. I watch TV programs and cannot remember the show afterwards.
- You rail against the injustice of not being allowed the choice to die instead of your child. ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!!!
- You find yourself filled with anger, whether it be at your partner, a person you believe is responsible for your child’s death, God, yourself, and even your child for dying. ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!!!
- You yearn to have five minutes, an hour, a day back with your child so you can tell your child of your love or thoughts left unsaid. No, I have no unspoken words or emotions. I just want her back with me!
- Guilt becomes a powerful companion as you blame yourself for the death of your child. Rationally you know that you were not to blame—you most certainly would have saved your child if you’d been given the chance. Thank God this phase has passed.
- You feel great sadness and depression as you wrestle with the idea that everything important to you has been taken from you. Your future has been ruined and nothing can ever make it right. My life will never be the same again. I wonder whether I will ever experience true happiness again.
- Either you can’t sleep at all or you sleep all the time. You feel physical exhaustion even when you have slept. Have these people moved into my home? This is absolutely true.
- You no longer care about your health and taking care of yourself—it just doesn’t seem that important anymore. Maybe….
- You’re feeling anxiety and great discomfort—you’re told they’re panic attacks. No
- The tears come when you least expect them. Absolutely
- Your appetite is either gone or you find yourself overeating. Oh yes!
Family & Social
- If you have surviving children, you find yourself suddenly overprotective, not wanting to allow them out of your sight. Yet you feel like a bad parent because it’s so difficult to focus on their needs when you’re hurting so bad yourself. I am petrified of not being with the boys all the time. I hate not being with them! I am stressed when they are with their father or friends. I am terrified of leaving them to go overseas…
- You find that your remaining family at home grieves the loss differently and you search for a common ground which seems difficult to find. Yes
- You’ve been told by well-meaning people, even professionals, that 70-80-90 percent of all couples divorce after their child dies. You are relieved to find that new studies show a much lower divorce rate, from 12-16%, believed to be caused by the “shared experience” aspect of the situation. We have gone through a very rough time in our marriage. We have worked through it. But I can see that it is a distinct possibility in a newly bereaved situation.
- Old friends seem to fade away as you learn they cannot comprehend the extent or length of your grief. No…they faded away when Vic was ill and she did not die soon enough
- Things you liked to do which seemed so important before now seem meaningless. Absolutely correct
- Others say you’ll someday find “closure,” not understanding that closure never applies when it is the death of your child. Darn right!
- Fleeting thoughts of pleasurable activities bring about feelings of guilt. If you child can’t have fun, how can you do anything that brings you enjoyment? Maybe
- New friends come into your life who understand some of your grief because they’ve been there themselves. Absolutely! I have also opened up and made myself “accessible”. Before, Vic consumed my life. http://www.compassionatefriends.org/Find_Support/Personal-Note/To_the_Newly_Bereaved.aspx
Tomorrow I will share “Finding the ‘new me’…”