Everyone will be forced to grieve at some point in time. If you are lucky it won’t happen until you are old enough to understand it. I had a grandparent die when I was young and I had no clue what was going on. In elementary school, a neighbor ended his life in the driveway to his home. That was strange to me. I recall feeling terrible for his wife and teenaged son. When I was in high school a friend died in a car crash. That is when I first realized that some folks don’t get to grow up and grow old. It was a sad sobering thought. With the leukemia diagnosis of my son, I spent five and a half years at a children’s hospital viewing all manner of suffering. The children, the parents, siblings, and even the caregivers. Watching as children died and parents cried was again, very sobering. When my turn came I was devastated even though I had witnessed too many others. I tried to be strong for my daughter and my parents. In private I cried, railed against cancer and tried to process my feelings in a healthy way.
The whole process of diagnosis treatment and dying changed me and probably everyone in my family. The knowledge that your child can precede you in death is unnatural. The knowledge that you cannot alleviate your child’s suffering and in fact by the treatments you select, which can actually harm your child is humbling and guilt inducing. But the biggest change of all comes from grieving. You ache for the future without your child. Your heart is shattered into a million pieces that don’t fit together anymore even if you could puzzle them back together. Your world has changed. How you see yourself in that changed world can make your stronger or break you open.
Grief never goes away. You just adapt and endure. That is a nugget I hate to share with the newly bereaved…most especially newly bereaved parents. But it is a universal truth. Grief is the by-product of love and loss. If you are struggling, I hope you will seek out a trained professional who can help you. Grief is not a mental health issue. It is a condition caused by the death of someone you loved. Cherish your memories, speak of him or her often, know that you are not alone and embrace the new you. Let me know how you are doing. I care.