Overheard in a psychiatric hospital;
“Some people cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”
One of Oscar Wilde’s quotes.
WHAT I WOULD SAY TO SOMEONE WHOSE CHILD DIED …
“I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say but I want you to know that I feel for you and I only wish I could do more. I will be thinking of you.”
A few people said this to me when my son died and they probably had no idea of how good it was for me. It was an honest statement. It was meaningful because they did not ignore all reference to my son. They opened the conversation for us to talk about our David at our own pace which helped a great deal. Nothing anybody said could cure the pain but there were things that helped a little.
Being with other people who have been through the same pain and loss really made a difference. Support groups helped me too. We stayed home for the seven days of ‘shiva,’ the Jewish custom of dealing with grief straight after the funeral but when it came to an end, I had to reacquaint myself with the world of the living, with ‘normal life’ – whatever that was and it was a frightening prospect. I had to figure out how to live with this hole in my heart. I wasn’t ready as I still had more grief to process. I was a bit afraid to attempt ‘normal living’ in my seriously damaged condition. I needed more time so I spring-cleaned, moved heavy armchairs, waged chemical warfare against any living creature in our home. In short, I scrubbed my life down to its bones. I needed the physical workout but it wasn’t sufficient so I went out in our garden and dug and weeded till exhaustion left me unable to think.
I collected the mail only to find flyers advertising tombstones. Singles or doubles, stone or marble? Choose a price range and we will provide whatever you choose. I tore them up. We would deal with that in our own time.
Then I went shopping and slowly agreed to visit friends. What I needed to hear was “Meet my friend, Jill, who has just lost her son,” which would have freed me from answering the dreaded question; “How many children do you have?” It was shocking how this preoccupied me. My palms sweat while I wait for newly introduced people to ask it. My heart races when I sense it’s near. What do I say? I have lost two sons; one an infant and an adult son but I have two daughters?
I had to make a conscious decision not to give up on life. I wept, but seldom in public. My pain was so personal. I had to be careful not to become bitter. I had to find a safe place to express my rage, fear, pain , hurt and confusion. I knew that the death of a child has destroyed many a family. Often the fate of a family hangs by a thread. Only love and understanding worked for us.
The friends who kept in touch on a regular basis gave me a feeling of normalcy. Therre is no prescription for this, but those who gave us support on a regular basis, helped the most.