My article today is about comparing children. Not just the ordinary younger v older or boy v girl type of comparison, but the impossible and destructive assumption, that some grieving parents make between their deceased child and those that come after. I am writing this from a parent’s perspective – my own perspective in fact – not from the child’s, but I would also be interested in hearing the latter too. Maybe I’ll cover this in a future article.
I was prompted to write this, only today in fact, after a chance encounter with a woman in a graveyard. I was standing at the foot of my son’s grave when a lady, with her dog in tow, came up beside me. I wasn’t familiar with her, but she turned and said “I see you have a new little Baba . . . you were blessed.” I agreed as I looked in the direction of the car where Barbara was holding our baby Dean in her arms, playing gently with him with the side door open. The lady then made her way over to the car and as far as I could see, spoke with Barbara, for a matter of minutes. I turned and resumed speaking with Craig until eventually I could hear the lady and her dog coming in my direction once again. I turned around. She was wiping tears from her eyes as she looked past me to the large picture of Craig we have on the grave and then said something which I found quite uncomfortable to respond to. “That baba is your little Craig returned to you,” she said as she moved her stare between the picture and me. “Maybe,” was all I could think of saying in that moment. She said a couple of more things about how they looked so alike before making her way down the path and out of the graveyard. What she said . . . annoyed me, I have to be honest. Not so much that I couldn’t shake it off, or understand that her intent was noble and well-meaning. No, I just thought it was an unfair comment to make for both my sons, Craig and Dean.
I think it’s a tempting, but devastating, mistake for any grieving parent to believe that their newborn is the reincarnation of their deceased child. It’s just plain unhealthy and can only lead to a painful outcome for the parents – and the child especially. On an equally important note, but perhaps not as immediately damaging is the consequence this belief has on the memory of your deceased child. If I were to mistakenly believe that my son Dean was really Craig, back in my arms again, then it would be inevitable that I’d forget about the real Craig. It would cripple that natural mourning, grieving process and bury it under some unhealthy surreal delusion. Dean would grow up a confused and mentally disturbed boy with severe identity crisis and a grim future as a direct result.
But if that woman in the graveyard could say that to me, and truly believe it, then it’s probable that some poor sibling somewhere is unfortunately undergoing this destructive process. I can only hope that those parents can see the error of their ways before it’s too late.