Where were you on 9/11/01?

Once again, I found myself turning off the radio on my way to work because it was too difficult to listen to the remembrances, the stark and emotional audio of those horrific times on 9/11. It touched me in such a deep and painful place. It continues to weigh heavy on my heart, though, and so I thought I would reblog this post from last year.
~Becky

Grief: One Woman's Perspective

There are moments that are indelibly burned in my memories. They are the moments that forever changed my life or changed the way I look at the world. The clearest and most significant is the night Jason died. That night was incredibly traumatic and has affected me – and continues to affect me – in ways I never could have imagined. Second clearest is 9/11/01. It shattered my sense of security as an American. Third is the day JFK was shot, although I was only eight years old at the time. It shattered my sense of innocence. I still remember watching my elementary school teachers cry.

On the morning of 9/11, my sister called from Tulsa to tell me to turn on the TV. The first plane hit the North tower at 8:46 a.m. ET (5:46 a.m. Washington State time) and the second plane hit the South tower…

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Dreams

There are people that dream about their family members who have died, but typically I am not one of those people. I am not one who usually dreams or remembers any of my dreams at all, although I’ve had a few very vivid dreams about things over the years.

For example, one Friday night I had an extremely vivid dream about my mother-in-law. I dreamed that she had fallen, that someone had come to pick her up, and that she was dying. Her health had been declining, but there was no indication that she was near death, so this dream really rattled me.

The next morning, I debated with myself about whether or not to tell my husband, but I decided I’d better tell him and encourage him to call his mom to check in. When he called his folks, his sister answered the the and said, “Joey, I’m so sorry. We should have called you. Mom fell yesterday, and they came and took her to the hospital. They’re really not sure how long she’s going to live.” Needless to say, he booked his plane ticket right away to go see her. She died not long after. That whole experience still gives me goosebumps.

I’ve had several other similar vivid dreams that seemed to fit exactly into what was going on in real life. It is a bit unnerving at times, I have to admit.

I have only dreamed about Jason a couple of times, most memorably about six months after he died. I wish I dreamed about him more. I miss seeing him so much. I miss his hugs so much.

After Jason died, it caused me enormous anguish to think that my precious, beautiful son had borne the direct hit of a car going 70 miles per hour. As a parent, we just want our children to be safe and protected, and our minds rebel at the thought that they weren’t. Our whole beings cry out for the safety and protection of our children. My husband went through a horrible time of guilt that he wasn’t able to protect Jason; he felt like he should have been able to protect him somehow. When the accident happened, the drunk driver’s car hit Jason’s car right on the driver’s side door, right where he was sitting.

My anguish was made worse when I got the death certificates in the mail. Not understanding the medical terminology of the main cause of death listed on the death certificate, I made the mistake of looking it up on the internet. I have never, ever shared what I found with anyone, and I never, ever will. Ever. It caused me a whole lot of anguish for many years. It’s not like I have dwelt on the cause of death all the time, but it definitely factored into my grieving process.

Although we have a complete set of the police investigation, along with all of the photos they took that night, it is securely taped shut with a stern warning on the outside about never, ever opening it. I’ve never looked at it and I never want anyone to, either. When the police detectives reviewed the case with us, they were very selective in the few photos they showed us of the accident. I’m sure there is a very good reason why. I’m glad the whole court case didn’t go to trial; otherwise, a lot of that documentation would become public. I should probably have our work’s shredding service take it away. I don’t know why I’ve held onto it this long.

Anyway, some years after Jason’s death, I hit a really low point and was struggling mightily in my grief — not only about Jason’s death and everything surrounding that time, but how he died. And then, one night, I had a dream that really brought me comfort.

We lived in Florida at the time. In Florida, there are canals and waterways all over the place, and there are some bridges that go up on either side to a flat area on top. As you go  up and across the flat top, you can’t necessarily see if there are any cars stopped as you head down the other side. I always watched in fear that someone would come off the bridge too fast to stop. Florida has some crazy, fast drivers! (No offense to any Floridians!)

In my dream, I had gone across the flat top of the bridge and was on the downslope on the other side, stopped and waiting for the light to change. In my rearview mirror, I saw somebody in a very large, heavy vehicle come barreling up behind me. I instantly knew that there was no way he could stop in time, that he was going to hit me hard, and that there was no way I was going to survive. Right in the split moment before he hit me, I felt my soul, my spirit, whatever you want to call it being pulled out of my body so that I was several feet above the car.

In my dream, I could actually feel the sensation of being pulled out of my body. I don’t even know how to describe it — sort of a quick, but gentle and airy separation of body from spirit that sort of tickled, like someone grabbed me by the back of my collar and just lifted me right out of my body. I was still me, just not in my physical body any more. I could look down past my feet at my physical body in the car, and I felt a holy presence beside me, holding me. I had felt no pain at the moment of impact because I was no longer a part of my physical body; I had been pulled out in the split second before the car hit me.

And, as I woke from that dream, I realized that that’s what had happened to Jason. God had spared him the horrendous pain of being hit by that drunk driver, of his 180-pound frame absorbing the full impact of a speeding, 4000-pound car. He had quickly and gently pulled the true spirit of Jason out of the way of that speeding car to be with Him, leaving just the shell of his body behind to absorb the impact.

From that time on, even though I remember the medical terminology of Jason’s cause of death and know exactly what it means, I know in my heart that he felt no pain at the moment of the accident. He is safe; he is healthy; he is happy. And he’s waiting for me.

I love you, my precious boy. Oh, how I miss you.

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Abandoning those who grieve

In its entirety, below is a blog post written by Melanie at https://thelifeididntchoose.com. She is an insightful and thoughtful author whose son died in a motorcycle accident in 2014. Please see my additional comments below. I would also encourage you to look at her original post and the comments below it.

I know that I seem to hit this subject hard – the aloneness of grief and abandonment of those who deeply grieve – but I think it’s important to emphasize this topic. By doing so, those who deeply grieve might gain some insight into the reasons people disappear and understand that they are not the only ones this happens to, and those who know someone who is deeply grieving might gain some insight into how awful the aloneness of grief can be and then make an effort not to disappear. The walk following the death of a child is an inherently one that must be walked alone, at least in some ways, but if I can encourage one person to not abandon a parent whose child has died, I will feel like my writing has been worthwhile.

Why Friends Abandon Grievers

It happens in all kinds of ways.  One friend just slowly backs off from liking posts on Facebook, waves at a distance from across the sanctuary, stops texting to check up on me.

Another observes complete radio silence as soon as she walks away from the graveside. 

Still another hangs in for a few weeks-calls, texts, even invites me to lunch until I can see in her eyes that my lack of “progress” is making her uneasy.  Then she, too, falls off the grid.

Why do people do that? 

Why is it, when we need them most, many friends-and I mean really, truly FRIENDSjust can’t hang in and hold on?

I admit in the early days I didn’t care WHY they did it. 

It broke my heart and enraged me all at the same time.  I felt abandoned, judged, forgotten, pressured to conform to some unwritten standard of how I was “supposed” to do grief and utterly, completely forsaken.

It took me months to begin to even consider their perspective and years to come to a place where I could forgive them.

Here’s what I’ve figured out this side of devastating, overwhelming, heart-shattering pain about why some friends run away:

  • I represent their greatest fear.  I am a billboard for loss.  My life screams, “We are NOT in control!” And that is scary.  Most folks run away from scary if they can.
  • I remind them that faith is a living thing, tender and vulnerable to trials and testing.  We love to tout Sunday School answers that follow like the tag lines on Aesop’s fables when asked about anything to do with Jesus or how God works in the world.  But it’s just not that simple.  The Bible is full (FULL!) of untidy stories where even the giants of faith got it wrong for a season.  I think people are afraid that if they follow me down the rabbit hole of questions they might never come back out.  Better to stand outside and hope I emerge safe and sound without risking themselves.
  • My situation is messy and they don’t want to get involved.  I will need ongoing, intense investments of emotional energy and time. Who knows where it might lead?  Who knows how many hours might have to be given to come alongside and support someone whose journey looks more like slogging through a swamp than a walk in the park?  These folks are just not going to risk entanglement.
  • Some friends and family are genuinely afraid of doing harm.  They feel my pain so deeply that they are frozen, unable to do or say anything because they fear they will make things worse.  These are the hearts most easy to forgive and the ones most likely to jump back in when I assure them they cannot make it worse but their support can make it better.
  • Some people were going to disappear anyway.  We don’t like to admit it but many friendships are only for a season-we go to the same church, live in the same neighborhood, our kids go to the same school-and as soon as circumstances change these people fade away.  Well, circumstances certainly changed!  They leave because our differences outweigh our similarities and it requires too much effort to maintain the friendship.

Understanding why people run away has helped my heart. 

It doesn’t undo the pain inflicted by abandonment of those I felt sure would stay close by my side, but it puts it in perspective.

Truth is, I’m not sure how many people I would have stalwartly supported for the long haul either before Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  

None of us possess infinite emotional, mental, physical and relational resources.  It’s only natural that we portion them out according to our own priorities-even when that means abandoning friends who really need us.

Rehearsing offense only ties me in knots. 

It changes nothing.

I have limits as well. 

Forgiving those that chose to walk away frees me to use my resources in more fruitful ways that help me heal.  

https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/03/08/why-friends-abandon-grievers/

My comments to Melanie’s blog were this:

I am a person who sees both sides of the coin. Even from the very, very beginning my HEAD understood that it was difficult to be around us, the parents of a child who had died. I understood why people ran away, but that didn’t make it any easier. Oh, how it hurt my HEART. Because we had absolutely no family close by (our closest family was nearly 2000 miles away), when almost all of our friends disappeared, we were so very alone. It was like we were falling down a deep, black hole with no one to catch our fall. [And to be left so alone felt like no one cared.] These are part of the secondary losses – secondary wounds that can happen following the death of a child. And the wounds leave scars. We can forgive, but I don’t think that means that we are not changed by the experience.

The thing in the Christian community, I would venture to say, is that we, as Christians, are encouraged to be the bigger person, to turn the other cheek, to forgive, to go the extra mile, etc. Not only did I feel like we were expected to tell people how to help us after Jason died, I felt like we were expected to understand and be okay with why people didn’t want to be around us [and to understand and accept it without question when they disappeared]. It just seems backwards.

I’m glad that you stated that it took you months and years to understand and begin to forgive. Sometimes it’s a process that takes some time and effort to work through. I’ve worked very hard on forgiving people we knew, even though there has been no acknowledgement or apology given.

Let me say that again: I felt like we were expected to understand and be okay with why people didn’t want to be around us [and to understand and accept without question when they disappeared].

Melanie responded:

I also believe that forgiving does not undo the wounds that have been inflicted. You’re right-as believers we are often asked to travel the whole distance in the forgiveness process. I’ll be honest, sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. Life is hard and child loss makes it harder. I just don’t always have the resources needed to reach out to the person that has hurt me. I know there are those that will say I always have the necessary resources in Christ-they are theologically correct. But I can’t always seem to tap those in my daily life. I’m trying ❤

I feel like, when we were hurting the most and were the most vulnerable a parent could be, we were supposed to be “Christian” about people disappearing – turn the other cheek, forgive without ever receiving an apology, understand the unthinkable of why people left us alone or why they didn’t respond to our requests of support. Rise above. Take the high road. Be the bigger person. Take the initiative to reach out. Understand. Don’t let it bother you. We were supposed to be okay with the horrible way we were treated by the people we trusted and considered to be good friends. We’re supposed to understand how hard it is for other people to reach out to us. I will say this about how hard it was for other people: As hard as it was for other people, whatever the reason may have been, it was so much harder for us.

I think there are a lot of assumptions that happen, too. People assume, because you are deeply grieving, that you won’t notice certain things – like people who pretend not to see you, people who don’t make contact for months at a time, people who talk about you from across the room. I also think they assume someone else may be doing the job of “being there” for a bereaved family, when that very well may not be the case. They assume that platitudes will comfort.

People hear what they want to hear, and sometimes we, as bereaved parents, tend to say what we think people want to hear, just to avoid an uncomfortable situation or to make it easier for people to be around us. It’s easier for the non-bereaved to hear something like, “God has used this situation to help me grow” than it is to hear, “This has absolutely crushed me and I have no idea how to continue living after my child died.” We tend to say what we think will make people the most comfortable so they don’t disappear. Them – “How are you?” Me – “I’m fine” (when what I’m really feeling is soul-crushingly heartbroken and on the brink of tears).

One response/comment on Melanie’s blog I’d like to point out is the gal who said this, “Sometimes the people who try to help are pushed away, quite rudely ! “How is she going to help ?” – angrily and ugly screamed at me . . .” She felt like she reached out to help someone who was grieving and was angrily rejected.

I can understand her frustration, but I can also understand it from the bereaved parent’s position. I went through a very angry stage. I was mad because of what I had lost, what was taken from me, especially my precious boy. I was mad that other people’s kids were hanging out with friends, graduating from college, would get married and live their lives when Jason would never have that chance.

I was so mad at everyone who abandoned us. I felt so rejected by those I thought would be there for us that I wanted to reject everyone I knew or who knew me. (Since I had been in leadership at two large homeschool groups and was very visual in my positions, I knew a lot of people and there were a lot of people who knew who I was.) I lost respect for nearly everyone I knew and held in high regard. In my anger, grief and alone-ness, I felt like they didn’t care and couldn’t be a friend when I really needed one. I was so angry with them for deserting us. I was mad at everybody. Grief and pain and abandonment disguises or displays itself as anger. When and if they eventually reached out to me, I had a hard time letting them back in my life, because I felt like they really didn’t know who I was any more. I didn’t trust them with my heart. If they didn’t care then, why would they care now?

Of course, with some perspective (and after dealing with my anger), I came to realize they simply may not have known what to do, as Melanie outlined above. That realization didn’t make anything easier for us when we so alone and hurting, and we walked away with many scars, but it did help in the forgiving process as time passed.

At her specific request, I have not written about most of what our daughter went through following her precious brother’s death. Oh, the stories I could tell. As Jenna said at the time, “People and the way they have treated us have made it 100 times worse.” (Sometimes “the way people treat you” can be that they simply disappear or that they “encourage” you to move on or that they ignore you when you walk into a room. Sometimes it can be much more than that, either by actions or inaction.)

Believe me, you would be shocked and grieved and mad, too, if similar things had happened to your child, your family. But, we were supposed to understand and be okay with all of it. It seemed backwards to me then and it seems backwards to me still. As a mother, it still hurts my heart just to think of all she went through – at 17 years of age. When other 17-year olds were hanging out with friends, choosing prom dresses and filling out college applications, our daughter was dealing with so much alone. She was looking at burial sites and helping choose music for her brother’s memorial service. She was finishing up her last year of high school with little to no support. It was a difficult time.

I really had to work at getting over my anger and forgiving people. I’m sure I missed some opportunities to connect with people because they didn’t understand my anger or guardedness. Once they tried and I didn’t respond the way they thought I would, they didn’t try again.

One thing that has become clear to me over the years is that most people simply don’t want to “go there,” even after all these years. They don’t want to hear about what we walked through after Jason died – not at all, not even now, not even one thing. If I bring up Jason or something we have walked through regarding his death, I can tell it makes people very uncomfortable. They either change the subject as soon as possible or are very relieved when I see how uncomfortable they are and change the subject. They must think enough time has passed to make it “safe” to be around us. As Melanie said in her blog, some people don’t want to risk entanglement. They don’t want to take the risk of entering into a bereaved parent’s pain and grief. It’s too uncomfortable. It’s too messy. It’s too painful. It’s too scary. It doesn’t matter how many years it’s been, most people simply don’t want to step into your pain.

I have been changed greatly by the people who hurt and abandoned us. I am scarred. I don’t trust people with my heart. I’m very guarded. If I do let my guard down and let someone in, they get one chance. If they blow it, my guard goes up and I have a very hard time letting it down again. I’ve worked hard at forgiving people, but I have truly been changed by this experience and have the scars to prove it. But, as Melanie said, I do keep on trying.

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Edited for clarity 9/5/2018

 

 

Website Maintenance

I had not actually accessed my website on my phone until last night. I’ve always signed in through my laptop directly to my personal site where I write as it’s much easier for me to work from. When I looked at the site on my phone, it took me to the site as a reader would view it, and I realized how many advertisements there were and how annoying they are to work around!! I hate working around ads!! I assume you do, too. Therefore, I have signed up for the WordPress service that will eliminate ads. My apologies for not doing this sooner!! I hope that will make your reading experience much easier. If you have any issues or suggestions, please let me know.

~Becky

Happy Birthday, Jason

Born on this day, 9 lbs, 10 1/2 oz, Jason David Carney – the most wonderful, kind, giving, empathetic, intelligent, friendly, loving, loyal, honest, level-headed, thoughtful son a parent could ever ask for. No matter the situation, he always handled himself with integrity. He always saw the good in whoever he met or knew. He always went above and beyond. He loved his family and friends unconditionally. How extremely glad and privileged we were that he was born into our family and how excited we were, looking forward to his future – graduation, marriage, kids, living and loving life as only Jason could. Oh, how I miss him. Happy birthday, my precious boy. I love you. Jason David Carney 7/29/82 – 3/3/02.

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Between a Rock and a Hard Place – After the Death of a Child: Anniversaries, Birthdays and Holidays

Jason’s birthday is on Sunday. He would have been 36 years old.

I can’t picture him as a 36-year old. He will forever be 19 to me. I don’t know for sure what he would be doing had he lived, although I can imagine – work, wife, kids. I know that, whatever he did, it would have been a life lived with love and joy, a life I would have loved to see.

By now, as an anniversary, birthday or holiday approaches, I have learned to recognize the anxiousness that arises from deep inside of me, the tears just below the surface that seem to have a mind of their own and fall at will, the fight or flight reaction I seem to have in response to stressful situations. Recognizing the approaching emotionally-charged day doesn’t lessen my reaction to it; it just reminds me to be gentle with myself and cut myself some slack.

The thing about an approaching emotionally-charged day that a bereaved parent may be experiencing is that the world still rolls along, and we have to be able to function and cope in that world. Time doesn’t stop for our grief, and grief doesn’t exactly work around our (or anyone else’s) schedule. I can’t sit at my desk at work and cry. I have to carry on and do my job, whether or not Jason birthday or death day anniversary may be approaching. I’ve learned that the days approaching Jason’s birthday and the day he died are usually harder than the actual calendar day itself, but I still have to be able to function in my daily life and then grieve in an appropriate, safe place.

This has been a difficult and stressful week at work, full of fried motherboards and computer glitches galore. I’ve had to sit still for a few moments now and then to concentrate on breathing deeply in order to manage my emotions. What I really wanted to do was drive away to really beautiful place, think about my precious boy, and cry because I miss him so much. That’s not exactly a very practical thing to do in this hustle and bustle world, and is something few people would understand.

“The show must go on,” as they say. And so, I do my best to distract myself and to keep myself occupied with some perceived important task at hand until I can take the time to grieve as I should. I say “grieve as I should,” because it’s entirely appropriate and necessary for me to acknowledge this great loss and to grieve the death of our son, no matter how long it’s been. I will always miss Jason with all of my heart.

I love you, my precious boy, and I miss you.

~Mom

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

 

Between a Rock and a Hard Place – After the Death of a Child: Trying to figure out how keep on living

 

 

3ba6f4816f1b8a7144239926911e1bc9I recently got a text from a friend whose co-worker’s daughter committed suicide. When I told my husband about it, he said, “I don’t understand why anyone would commit suicide. Why would someone not want to live? Why would they want to die?” Joe is a very black and white person, while I have always been a person who sees both sides of a coin. When Joe was a young boy, his grandfather (the person for whom Joe was named) committed suicide. Suicide has never been something that he could get his head around.

After sitting there for just a moment, I told him that I could understand why someone wouldn’t want to live any more. Sometimes the pain is so great that it reaches a point where it seems no longer bearable. I told him that, right after Jason died, there were a few times when I just wanted to drive in front of a semi truck to end the extreme, crushing pain in my broken heart. I told him there were also a few times when I had to specifically and determinedly take just one sleeping pill that the doctor had prescribed and intentionally put the pill bottle away, because, when the pain and agony of losing Jason were so great and so overwhelming, I really wanted to take the whole bottle. I could hardly stand the pain of Jason’s death. It just crushed me. I had to specifically, determinedly, intentionally choose to live when the pain was so great that I just wanted to die. I realized that dying was not an option for me. Dying may have ended my pain, but I would have passed it on exponentially to those I loved and that was one thing I could not do.

I had to focus on living. There were days when remembering Jason, the wonderful, beautiful person he was and his love of life were the only things that got me through. There were days when only the thought of our daughter, Jenna, got me through. There were days when I had to find something of beauty to focus on. There were some days when I struggled to find something to focus on, but I kept on trying.

When I told these things to Joe, he said, “I didn’t know that. Why didn’t you tell me?” I didn’t tell him because I didn’t want to add to the burden of grief he was already carrying. I don’t like feeling like I’m a burden. It’s taken me 16 years to actually say these things out loud to him.

I know that I am not the only bereaved parent who has had the thought of wishing to die following the death of their child cross their mind, whether it’s just a passing thought or actually becomes a struggle to choose to live.  It’s just not something we talk about.

No one tells you that you may want to die. No one tells you that you may lie in bed and pray for your heart to stop. That even your most cherished and beloved children and husband may not be able to rouse you from the depths of your sorrow. That even the breathtaking sunrises and majestic shooting stars above won’t give you pause.

No one tells you this.

(Although written about the death of a sibling, this is equally true – if not more so – about a parent whose child has died.)

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/cora-neumann/no-one-tells-you-this-about-loss-so-i-will_b_10154122.html

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Parents of children and adolescents who die are found to suffer a broad range of difficult mental and physical symptoms. As with many losses, depressed feelings are accompanied by intense feelings of sadness, despair, helplessness, loneliness, abandonment, and a wish to die [28]. Parents often experience physical symptoms such as insomnia or loss of appetite as well as confusion, inability to concentrate, and obsessive thinking [17]. Extreme feelings of vulnerability, anxiety, panic, and hyper-vigilance can also accompany the sadness and despair.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK220798/

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Research on the impact of bereavement as a trauma has emphasized significant negative psychological and health outcomes. For instance, Stroebe, Stroebe, and Abakoumkin (2005) found that bereaved persons, especially those with extreme emotional loneliness and severe depressive symptoms, are at risk for suicidal ideation. Li, Laursen, Precht, Olsen, and Mortensen (2005) found that bereaved parents, especially mothers, were at increased risk for a first psychiatric hospitalization as compared with nonbereaved parents. In fact, maternal risk of hospitalization remained significantly elevated 5 years or more after the death. Using Danish national registries, these investigators also found that mortality rates were higher among bereaved than nonbereaved parents, particularly for deaths due to unnatural causes (e.g., accidents and suicide) within the first 3 years after the child’s death (Li, Precht, Mortensen, & Olson, 2003). Bereavement was associated with long-term mortality due to illness (e.g., cancer) for the mothers, presumably because of stress, a weakened immune system, or poor health behaviors (e.g., smoking, alcohol consumption).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841012/

Now, I’m not saying that all bereaved parents (or even some) are going to want to die or will have to be committed to a mental hospital or anything like that. What I am saying is that it is not an easy thing to do, this figuring out how to keep on living and finding meaning in life when your child has died. Besides my own experience, I can give three examples from my own life of people I personally knew who struggled following the death of their child.

  • The first is a woman whose children were part of the homeschool group when our kids were in grade school. Among other things, they were in a grade-school choir with our children. I lost track of her after we moved to the north end of Seattle and our kids grew up. After Jason died, I heard that her son, as a young adult, committed suicide. Not long after his death, she chose to end her own life.
  • The second is a woman whose son died when he was struck by a train the year after Jason died. At the time, what I remember people talking about is how, in their opinion, she was drinking way too much alcohol. This was less than a year after Jason died, and I remember thinking it was so unfair to judge her for drinking and that, if I had been so inclined, I probably would have been drinking too much, too. I don’t remember hearing sympathy or discussions of ways to help; I only heard judgment.
  • The third is a woman from the homeschool group we were in when our kids were in junior and senior high. Her son was born the same year Jason was and was in some homeschool classes and activities with our kids. He came down with aggressive pancreatic cancer as a young man – 21 years old, married with two small children – and died after a short, horrific illness. Going to his funeral was so incredibly hard for me. I sat in the back row in case I needed to leave in a hurry. Four and a half years after he died, his mom came down with a similar and equally aggressive cancer, dying within a few months after diagnosis. Both of them are buried a stone’s throw from where Jason and Alina are buried. (Because I had written the earlier article following the death of the young man hit by a train, after this young man died of cancer, I heard from several people how helpful a resource it was in their efforts to support his mom.)

The loss of a child is widely accepted as one of the most profoundly painful, intense, and devastating types of bereavement. It has been associated with heightened risk for various poor psychosocial and physical health outcomes, including psychiatric illness, existential suffering, marital problems, and even mortality…Grief also tends to persist longer among bereaved parents than for other bereaved populations, often lasting in some intensity for the remaining duration of the parent’s life…This longevity of suffering largely may be due to the struggle parents frequently encounter in making meaning of their untimely loss. Prior studies have in fact demonstrated that parents’ difficulties with finding meaning often persist for years, and for those who initiate a search for understanding but fail in their quest, the risk for poor adjustment increases considerably…

Following the loss of a loved one, individuals are often driven to search for meaning in both the loss and their lives…The loss of a child can be especially disruptive to one’s meaning structures; it is often perceived as “senseless” …and can rattle a parent’s sense of understanding about the way the world works and his or her purpose in life. Forced to transform their identity as a “parent,” a bereaved mother or father frequently faces a unique existential crisis…A large proportion of these parents must somehow reconcile an event that challenges the expected order of life events and threatens their sense of identity, purpose, and legacy as well as the very meaning of their child’s life…

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3745996/ – Please see original for citations; removed for readability purposes.

The fact of the matter is that every day we have to find a way to choose to keep on living. We may struggle to try to find some sense in the senseless act of our child’s death. Perhaps we find that elusive “meaning” or “purpose.” Perhaps we simply do the best we can with what we have and live our lives as best we can.

No matter what the circumstance, if you are struggling with finding a reason to go on, I hope and pray that you realize that you are not alone. Talk to someone – a pastor, a friend, a counselor. Call the national suicide prevention line (1-800-273-8255).

If the first or second or third person doesn’t really hear you, keep on trying. There are a lot of uninformed/misinformed, fearful (of deep grief) people out there, professionals included. I talked to a counselor (no idea how to deal with deep grief, not every counselor can be an expert on everything), I tried to talk to friends (yeah, a lot I could say there). I went to a Compassionate Friends meeting (awful experience, never went back). I called and left a voicemail for Jason’s soccer coach (who had lost two children in a fire, no reply). I eventually stopped trying, although I really wish I hadn’t. It’s a very lonely walk when you feel like no one wants to walk with you.

If you are one of those people who a bereaved parent reaches out to, don’t be “that person” who turns a blind eye or deaf ear or just disappears. Read books or articles on how to help. You may not be equipped or know how to respond or help. Be honest. Ask how you can help. Listen. Don’t give advise; listen! Do something! If the bereaved parent doesn’t respond right away, try again later. And then try again later. And then try again. Don’t give up. And if the parent asks for help, do what you can to actually help or try to find someone who can help. If you say you are going to do something, then actually do it.

You have no idea how much effort it takes for a bereaved parent to actually reach out and ask for help. No matter how scared you are, the bereaved parent is afraid of this journey, too. No matter how exhausted you are, the bereaved parent is exponentially more exhausted. No matter how much you are affected by the death, the bereaved parent is affected more than you could ever imagine. It’s a long, difficult, lonely, scary walk. Don’t let them feel like they are going it alone.

You are in my thoughts and prayers. You are not alone.

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney