Well meaning family, friends and the general public have several misconceptions about your grief over the death of your child. Don’t be surprised by it and don’t accept their misguided perceptions as truth. My wife, Iris, and I fortunately have not encountered as many of them as many bereaved parents do. Here are a few of the misguided expectations people have of how you should deal with your grief. Don’t listen to them!
- Avoid talking about your loss because it will just cause you pain. How wrong that is. Other people tend to avoid talking about your loss and your deceased child because it is uncomfortable for them. They are afraid it might make you cry…so what? Crying is not a bad thing for people in grief. Talking about your deceased child is something you want and need to talk about, even after many years. I heard it said that, “your child’s name is like music to your ears”. How true that is for me.
- Your grief should not be a long process. Everyone grieves differently and at a different pace, but grief is not something you put a time limit on. Unfortunately many people who hear of “stages of grief” falsely conclude that after a period of time you should have made it through all the stages and be finished with your grief.
Time does have a healing effect but it doesn’t eliminate your grief. “You need to get over it and move on” are not helpful words at all. Yes, we do need to move on with our lives, but that does not mean we “get over” our horrific loss. Our goal is not to get over our loss for that would imply that our loss is not that great and that since our child is no longer here, he or she is no longer precious. I believe most parents would say that losing their child was the most painful experience of their lives. I know for me and Iris nothing else even comes close to the pain of the death of our precious daughter, Crystal.
- Not crying is a sign that you are handling your grief well. No so, especially in the first year. Giving the appearance of having our grief under control is usually not true, nor is it healthy. Of course there are extremes but not many grieving parents go to extremes. On the other hand, lack of crying is not necessarily a sign of inadequate mourning. Some people are not criers.
It is natural for you to be upset, be angry, and have trouble focusing for a period of time.
It is helpful to learn how other parents cope with their grief, but don’t try to pattern your grief after anyone else’s grief, and don’t listen to those who would try to impose on you the false expectations noted above.
A Scripture that has been helpful to me is,
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 NIV
I have been comforted most by others who have suffered a loss of a child and I have also found comfort in being able to share my comfort with other grieving parents. That is largely why I am now Director of BASIS.