I have often been one who resents the words of others that try to comfort those who have lost children. But lately I have been thinking, maybe they say the things that they do is because they don't know our loss. They know loss on different levels, if at all. Their aim is mostly to comfort even though they have no idea what to say, maybe because they cannot imagine such a loss. As with most everything, humans draw from experience, or lack there of, when face with situations that they are unfamiliar with.
I had a chance to encounter this idea, then I stole time away from my resentment of these comments to truly ponder their origins. Angel Parents are so justified in their grief that they find fault in the sentiments of the very people who are trying to comfort. I decided to decode the common condolences that set us off.
I am so sorry. This is a common one as no one expects to hear that someone has lost their child. The truth is, NO parent should have to outlive their child. When someone asks me how many kids I have I always include Trey and the response is always the same, "Oh, I am so sorry.". The grieving Mommy in me is NOT sorry. I don't regret a second of his existence. This phrase is the first sign that the person has no idea what I have been through, therefore does not know how to react. Who could blame them? Isn't it a good thin that they have never experienced the loss of a child? No one expects to hear that someone's child has died. We always celebrate births and birthdays, yet Angel Parents only have the short lives of their children to celebrate and remember. People are "sorry" because they can't imagine the same scenario for their own children or grandchildren or they can't imagine their own children going through losing their offspring. If they don't have children, it is assured that they envision our reality as their future. Or maybe, it's just the only thing they know to say.
I remember when __________ died. Often times, people draw on past experience to help those who grieve. Once again, this is something humans frequently say to anyone who is grieving and it is their go-to response for those who are grieving their child. Many of them have never lost a child so they draw on their experience with grief to try to console. Who can blame them? I know that no death is the same, be it your Grandmother, dog, sibling, parent, mentor, or friend. What if the people who offer this sentiment truly mean to try to form a connection with a grieving parent in order to show empathy? The worst of this comment I have received is, "I remember when my dog died,". Her dog dying was grief, not the same kind of grief, but grief just the same. Even with trying to help other grieving parents, I am often at a loss for words. I don't know their journey. I don't know where their hearts and minds are/were. All I know is the same grief, I just try to listen to their story so that I can fully comprehend what support I can offer them. Trey was the FIRST death I experienced close to me. I always expected it to be my grandparents or my parents. My first death experience was a doozy so I can't pretend to know anyone else's. Those who have never lost a child can't either.
It was God's plan. This sentiment comes from those who find solace in their faith, or, once again, are trying to find something comforting to say. Those who come from true religious faith truly believe their message but it doesn't mean they like it. Our minister said that it was ok that we were mad a God, He was heart broken that He had to take a child to an eternal pain-free life in Heaven. It took me TWO years to say God did not take my baby. I believe nature made my baby the way he was and God saved him from a life of sickness. As an Angel Parent, I HATE God's plan, but I know that anyone who says this believes in a purpose. They don't like it but they have faith in the better things to come out of such a tragedy. This is the worst sentiment to me, yet I am grateful to those with religious faith because they have prayed for me despite the fact that I have shown hatred towards God and His plan.
You'll have more children. My first response is I WANTED THE CHILD I HAD!!!!!! Those who say this, I believe, only want to give us hope for the future. It is a hard pill to swallow when the future you imagine for your child and your family comes to a halt. We have to honestly ponder if they have ever lived with the void of a child they never got to enjoy experiencing every milestone life has to offer. I have parents who have reached out to me saying that they are more patient, understanding, and loving to their kids because they are afraid of losing them as I have lost my son. Those who have not mourn their child(ren) only know the lives of their offspring. They don't understand that having more children does not replace the one that was lost and thank goodness they don't.
Your child is in a better place. That may be true, but most Angel Parents might have their own interpretations of "a better place". These Angel Children are wanted and loved. I know I can't imagine life without our daughter and I worry about losing her daily. Children should be valued in this way, they are our progeny, our legacy, our family, our hopes, our dreams, and the very part of our being. There are times with every parent that they wished to have a moment's peace without their children, but the never imagine it in this way. Angel Parents have to live a lifetime before they see the children they have lost. Yet, aren't our children in a better place? Free from harm, the signs of the times, or the sickness that they have experienced. Angel Parents will protest to this saying we will always want them to be with us and we wish that what happened to them was non-existent. In our souls we believe this should not have happened to this gift of life we were given
Time heals all wounds. Sometimes it does, but when you're an Angel Parent, you can't put a Band-Aid on a crater. I have heard, and shared, that losing a loved one that is not a child is grief of the past, but losing a child is grief of the future. When a loved one, who is not a child, passes away, we have so many memories of them that we can carry with us always. Often, the grief of this kind of loss stems from missing happier times and the very traits that made us love them. When a child dies, the number of memories to be missed and personality traits to grow to love are SEVERELY diminished. The lack of memories is replaced by milestones and events that never got to happen for our children. We see kids of all ages and lament that our child never got to experience those stages of life. We as parents never got to experience those times either, even the more challenging times of a child's life. We would trade ANYTHING to experience a tantrum, let alone watch our Angel Babies attend their first day of school, teach them how to drive, take pictures of them before prom, move them up to college, plan their wedding, and hold their children.
While it is true for most that as the years pass the daily pain lessens, when the breakdowns come, it's like we lost our child all over again. Breakdowns can be triggered by our small list of memories including, but not limited to, pregnancy, the empty nursery, or items given to our child. The biggest trigger for me is seeing other children Trey's age and regretting not having that time with him. Those who have never lost a child don't the loss that Angel Parents carry with them for the rest of their lives and they can't begin to fathom it thank goodness.
Everything happens for a reason. While this is true, it does less than comfort anyone at any time of distress. There is NEVER a good reason for parents not to be able to raise their children and watch them live a long productive life. The truth is, reasoning has no place in grieving a child, the loss itself to us is much bigger than reason. People often use this go-to phrase to try to give others in peril hope for the future. Angel Parents put every hope and faith they have into the very idea of the children they want before they are even conceived. When that hope and faith is ripped from them it is no longer in site and far from their hearts. There is no happy ending to feel hopeful for when your child passes away. I believe that others have perfectly good intentions when using this sentiment because they want SO much for there to be a happy ending or at least something positive to come out of such a tragedy. Don't we all?
Through and through, those who know of our loss are sad with us and struggle to find ways to make us feel better, especially if they have never lost their child. I have to give it to them though, at least they try to say SOMETHING! Sometimes we would rather them say nothing if all that they could come up with are the examples above.
Thank goodness they don't know the perfect words to say. That means they have not experienced a loss so great. Recently friends of mine lost their son and even after 4 years since our loss and my advocacy for Angel Parents, I was rendered speechless, afraid of saying something that triggered negative feelings and emotions.
The truth is, this is an incredibly personal loss and there are so many things that will set us off. It is essential that we beat them, and ourselves, up with a feather not a hammer.
I may not like what they say but I appreciate where it is coming from.