Motherís Day is very, very difficult for anyone who has lost a child. The ads for Motherís Day sales, the cards in the stores, the floristsí reminders, all bring the memories of the event back weeks before the Day itself. Grief counselors call this a land mine Ė something that can blow up and hurt you badly. The good news is that if you know about the land mines, and prepare for them, they are a lot less severe. So letís start.
HOW ARE WE GOING TO GET THROUGH THIS?
Answer: Agree to survive.
Honestly, that is the first step. Once the two of you have that common goal Ė we will survive Ė everything you do moves toward it. You will accept each otherís different ways of handling things. You will take small steps to rebuild. You will work together. You will continue to love each other. You will share. You will survive.
In case you hadnít noticed, men and women do things differently. Grief is no exception.
Men are not likely to talk things out. They want to DO something. They may immerse themselves in work, a hobby, or sports to cope. Their team becomes their support group.
Women need to talk. Rather than do, they prefer to just BE. They are more likely to seek structured support groups. Interestingly, women have fewer health problems during crisis and post trauma.
This may be a time a woman feels intimacy inappropriate, yet affection is crucial to her now. It assures her of her spouseís love. Men, however, feel love through sex.
Take care of each other. Survive. Itís going to be difficult to minister to each other when youíre both suffering. Agree to survive.
On the psychiatric stress scale, life events are assigned points. If you hit 300, your health and life are in danger. Losing a child is 125 points. You both have to be very purposeful about reducing other stressors. Let other people help. Agree to survive.
CAN OUR MARRIAGE SURVIVE?
There is a long held myth that the divorce rate among grieving parents hovers around 90%.
A few years ago, several national grief support groups called for scientific studies on this to get actual data. The source of the prior statistic could not be found! And, as one counselor said, the last thing these parents need is the stress of thinking they are doomed to divorce!
In actuality, among parents grieving the loss of a child, 12% get divorced. Among that small 12%, one fourth of them were headed for divorce before the child died.
The remaining 9% had two huge common denominators.
First, they did not seek or have support following the death. Support is defined here as grief support groups, family members, church family, a strong circle of friends, co-workers, clergy, neighbors. It may be hard for parents to accept involvement from these fine folks at first. But the statistics speak loudly in support of it.
Second is guilt. The couples who have one or two partners who canít forgive themselves are in that 9%. Guilt is even more destructive than blame. If one canít let go of guilt in a timely manner, please call on a professional.
WILL I ALWAYS FEEL ODD AROUND OTHER CHILDREN?
Not forever. It will help to realize that you do not dishonor your childís memory by loving other children. You are a parent, and so many kids in the world need you. Reach out to them in tribute to your angel.
Donít try to do this alone, itís just too big. Your Community and family exist for times like these. Let them in. Agree to survive.
And know that our hearts break for you.
So how will you spend Motherís Day? Itís so important to plan ahead. Suggestions: Light a candle and visit with your child. Look at photos. Find someone who will let you talk about the child. Volunteer at a shelter or pediatric ward. If you never had the chance, say goodbye to your child. Have a memorial get together.
Most important Ė tell someone you need help getting through it.
Perhaps reading one womanís story can help you realize youíre not crazy, or alone.
EMILY by C
A pastor asked me, when I told him that I didn't understand why my daughter died at 16 days old, what difference it would make if I knew why? I was livid! How dare he even ask such a question?!?! But, as the years went by, I grudgingly recognized that he had been right: there was NO explanation in this life that would have soothed this mother's heart.
People say things with the best of intentions--to ease the pain, both of the one who has suffered the loss, and their own pain. They think it's better to say SOMETHING than to say nothing. But they have no idea how their words will be received, and how deeply they can cut into a person who is so vulnerable from grief.
The people I remember most dearly are the ones who simply let me talk; to say what I needed to say when I needed to say it. They were simply present to me, to listen and BE there. They are the ones who carried me through.
I cried whenever we had sex for about 4 months. It was a connection not only with my husband, but an even deeper connection at that point with my daughter who was now gone. And the "goneness" of my daughter is what made me cry.
The following Mother's Days I had a daughter and son. I rejoiced that I had healthy children, and remembered the one who was not there to celebrate with us. Sometimes at mealtime, I would set an extra place at the table to signify her absence.
Emily died 28 years ago. It's somewhat true that "time heals all wounds." The huge hole in my heart has been crowded with many years of life experience, so that now, my life is no longer contained within that hole. The hole is still there, and I imagine it always will be. There are times when the hole swells again...at funeral services; when I see a newborn slightly older than Emily was when she died; on holidays when I'm reminded that one of us is absent; on the anniversaries of her birth and death. I allow myself to cry, to miss her, to wonder what she would have been like "if only..." And then I remember that my life goes on. I have been given many gifts in life...and one of the most important was Emily's life. I wear a gold chain around my neck with symbols of each of my family members...baby rings, a charm...and a little gold heart with a hole in the middle.
I knew that, whatever happened I would survive. I had already learned how strong I was by living through Emily's death.
It took nearly four years to feel human again.