QUANTIFYING GRIEF

by dahl2013

Is a Grief Support Group useful for those of us who have lost children?

We didn’t attend any grief counselling.  I did ask if there were any local groups who could help but there weren’t any.  There had been a counsellor who travelled from Dunedin once in a while but that facility had been cancelled due to lack of use.  Perhaps this was indicative of the lack of trust we, as parents have, in the efficacy of a counsellor who has no first-hand experience of losing a child.  I am sure text books attempt to do the experience justice and those who set out to help others have hearts big enough to want to heal us; but it just isn’t that simple.

Losing a child is the loneliest, most isolated journey I believe anyone can experience and the only people who can come close to understanding and appreciating it are those who have shared this experience themselves.  It’s a bit like a ‘secret society’ – unless you belong you are true outcasts – and the cost of belonging is more than anyone would ever choose to pay.

Owaka have lost more than their fair share of children over the years.  For a small community, we have been astounded at the number of families who have been hit by the tragedy of losing children.  It is something we were unaware of until we joined this ‘secret society’.  Suddenly life-long members began to approach us with their stories of heartache and sadness; suffering and pain that they carry with them every day.  When I say ‘every day’, this is a fact.  We carry this pain with us every day.  There is never a day when we can forget the hurt that accompanies the devastating loss of a child.

We start the journey by counting the days, weeks, months up to the first anniversary of their death.

No matter how many years go by, there are two days every year when the hurt is exceptionally severe; firstly our children’s birthdays, when we continue to count their years and wonder what they would look like now; what they would be doing with their lives.  Secondly, the anniversary of our child’s death – a date indelibly engraved on our hearts and minds – one that sends chills several weeks out until the date has long past.  Rowie passed on Boxing Day!  We lose the whole Christmas and New Year season to grief.  Christmas Day – the last memories of him.  Boxing Day – excruciating pain of loss.  Chris’ birthday on 30th December, lost in the grief.  New Year’s Eve – was the day that we farewelled him.  New Year’s Day – his beautiful brother, Francis’ wedding anniversary – is yet another casualty.

So many people don’t want to mention our children to us.  Often, those who see us from afar feel a severe discomfort and this discomfort keeps you from approaching us.  It is a fact that talking about our angels gives us great comfort.  To hear stories from others about our loved ones’ antics and the memories that keep these souls alive in others’ heads gives us great comfort.  We like to know that they are still missed; not just by us, but by the wider community.

Our hurt can’t be fixed by you – we learn to get by – we even learn to laugh and enjoy things again; but our lives will never ever be the same.  We don’t hit a date that says “grieving over – move on”.  This is why it is so hard for those who don’t have this experience, to begin to understand the absolute isolation that we feel on the death of our child – and the despondency and vertical, greasy slope that we have to try to climb.

Mums and Dads who miscarry their babies join the same secret society.  So many people don’t realise the pain that parents-to-be suffer when they lose their unborn babies.  They suffer the same abject despondency that all parents suffer when they lose their offspring.  We tend to take these losses with a pinch of salt.  The unborn baby was an unknown entity – how can they feel such acute pain?  Again, unless you have suffered this loss it is very hard to understand the complete devastation experienced by mum and dad.  We suffered several miscarriages during our early married life.  Each one is permanently etched on our minds; each one mourned and remembered.

The fact of the matter is that our loss is wholly unnatural, deviant.  No parent should have to suffer the loss of a child and it is not easy for those closest to us who have to deal with us on a day to day basis!  We have good days; we have bad days.  As grieving parents, it isn’t always easy to go about daily chores with a smile and an attitude that belies the hurting that goes on inside.

The secret society stands by, watches and understands the pain.

The secret society stands by, watches and understands the pain.

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