This afternoon I sat peacefully in a coffee shop with my book. My youngest child was in her 45 minute ‘Best Start’ interview ahead of starting school later this week, my older two happily in class for the first day of a new school year. Little did I know another mum’s World had stopped turning …
Never far away, my phone jangled and I was excited to see it was a friend I haven’t heard from for over a year. She asked after the children, asked after the business and then told me she hoped I didn’t mind her making this call. Perplexed I implored her to continue – I am an open book and an open heart to everyone.
Knowing my story, I was the first person she called. A colleague at work sat beside her in tears and told her that last night her cousin’s 2 year old son died in his sleep. The loss of a child is pure tragedy – nothing else. He was wanted, he was loved, he was theirs and now he is gone. A beautiful child the triumphant result of years of trying for a baby.
Their World has been shredded apart and they sit bereft, amid friends and relatives but so alone – unsure how to proceed, unable to wind back the clock and grieving the loss of a child. Everyone wants to help and no one knows what to do. So while railing at the heavens, they search for someone who understands, who knows, who can help. And so they call another mother who has walked in their footsteps.
The reality is that no one can truly ‘help’– the definition of helping these beautiful parents cope with the loss of a child would be to change the course of events that brought them to this point. The definition of helping would be to bring their son home and announce it was all just a joke. But this is never possible. Their son is gone and all I can do is ask my son to take their son’s hand, wherever they both are, and care for him.
Upon the loss of a child, the reactions are always many and varied. The only constant my husband and I experienced was that everyone wants to do the right thing; everyone wants to help. They want to make it easier and they need to see us ‘getting over it’ and ‘looking a bit better today’. They don’t understand that the death of a child is irrevocable and leaves behind hearts that have been shattered into a thousand pieces.
It’s hard to define a list of what is helpful to someone living through the loss of a child. It is such a personal journey and it’s different for everyone. Some people will want everyone around them, others won’t. Some will want to preserve their child’s room and belongings forever more and others will want to pack everything away as quickly as possible.
My advice to anyone trying to help someone through the process is to open your heart and offer them whatever they need. Understand it will change daily and hourly. Understand if they scream at the wind, they are in pain and understand that if they retreat into a hole, they need to be there. When a parent is grieving, all they need is love and space and permission. Permission to feel, permission to ache and permission to do whatever they can to honour the precious life they once held in their hearts and hugged to their chest.
The point of my writing tonight is to send my love to a mum in need, a mum who is hurting and ask with all my heart that she be guided on her path and allowed the freedom and given the strength to take her journey any way she can.
I will share however the most helpful book that we were given only hours after our son Noah died. It is a relatively short book but filled with clarity and detailed information on the process of grieving – emotional and physical. Both my husband and I took different thoughts away from the book and we reread it many times.
The book is called Coping with Grief and was written by Mal McKissock and Dianne McKissock. It is widely available at ABC Shops and online.
So in half an hour when I talk to my friend’s work friend, we will just be. She will attempt to process her cousin’s loss of a child and I will share my story and my details in the hope I can help in some way. I will share what I wish I could change about the early days after Noah’s death and hopefully that will provide some direction or some kindly sent intentions.
So tonight, may all our children who have gone before us play happily in their playgrounds and touch our hearts with theirs while we sleep.
Have you experienced the loss of a child? What did you find useful in helping you process your grief? Is there anything you wish someone had done for you?
Much MoM Love,