What I would say to someone who has lost a child?
I’m so sorry. I don’t really know what to say, but I want you to know that I feel deeply for you and your family and I only wish I could do more. I will be thinking of you. It must be impossible to absorb the tragedy of losing a child this way.
Very few people spoke to me this way when my son took his life, and those who did, probably had no idea how good it made me feel to hear their honest and meaningful words. It was so good because they did not ignore all reference to my child. They opened the conversation for me to talk about him at my own pace which helped a great deal. Nothing that anybody said could alleviate my pain but there were things that eased my heartache somewhat.
Being in the company of others who have experienced the same pain and loss, really made a difference. My family stayed home for the seven days of mourning which is a Jewish custom when dealing with mourning and grief after a funeral but, when that week came to an end, I had to reacquaint myself with the world of the living – with ‘NORMAL LIFE’ … whatever normal life was, and that was a frightening prospect. I had to figure out how to live with a huge hole in my heart. I wasn’t really ready for that. I still had more grief to process. I was afraid to attempt normal living in my damaged condition. I needed more time, so this is what I did.
I donned a pair of sturdy rubber gloves and started spring cleaning, moved heavy furniture and waged chemical warfare against any living creature that dared enter our home. In short, I scrubbed my life down to its bones. I needed the physical workout, but even that was insufficient, so I went out into our large garden and dug and weeded till exhaustion left me unable to think straight.
Much later, when I collected the mail, I found flyers advertising tombstones – singles or doubles, black or white, decorative or plain. A friend who dropped in to see how I was, advised me to dump them in the garbage bin, saying: When you are ready to deal with tombstones, you will choose one, but now is not the time. How right she was.
That same friend took me food shopping and from time to time, persuaded me to visit a mutual friend but, we always found more than one guest present. What I needed to hear was; Meet my friend, Jill who lost her son recently, which would have freed me from replying to the dreaded question; How many children do you have?
That question preoccupied me as well as my late husband, as most people tend to ask that question at some stage. My heart raced when I sensed it was on the agenda and I wondered what I would say/could say. ‘ I lost a son but have two daughters, OR I have two daughters.’ But that felt as though I were deleting my son’s existence. We never managed to resolve that issue.