I have spoken before about the ‘Secret Society’ that grieving parents belong to. No-one confesses to belonging to this society until they are dragged kicking and screaming through the doors. There they meet others who suddenly appear; people who they may have known for years but not intimately enough to know that they belong to that same exclusive club. You recognise in each other the pain, sorrow, anguish that you each live with.
There are certain things grieving parents don’t want to hear from people. Members of that exclusive club are very aware of these forbidden statements. They have a deep-seated abhorrence of these well-meaning platitudes and dismissive turns of phrase.
‘At least……’ is something I began to dread hearing. People trying to be kind but turning Rowie’s death into a triviality. The worst one was ‘at least it was quick…..’! Hey! It certainly was. Not a second to think about it!
I heard others say that their nightmare was the ‘time heals’ statement! No! No – it certainly doesn’t! Four years on Boxing Day since we lost him and time most certainly hasn’t healed the hurt. I still get that panicky, breathless grasp of fear when I think about Boxing Day and the days that follow it. I think about the hurt our close-knit family had to endure and I am angry, tearful, agitated. Pleasure is something that no longer really exists for us in its pure sense; it is always tempered with a sadness that we can’t share the fun together as a family. When I think of Rowie’s accident I am still appalled, shocked and troubled by the visions that are created by this thought. No. Time most certainly doesn’t heal the hurt.
People who say ‘you need to have a faith’ make me very angry. I have a faith; maybe not a mainstream faith, but I have a faith nonetheless. But tell me, how does having a faith take away the hurt of losing a child that you have loved and carried for a lot longer than their actual years; a child that was dreamed of long before they arrived? Okay, he’s moved on – he’s in Heaven. Why should that make me happy? He should be here with Chris, Francis and I. In a way this throwaway statement is quite critical and cynical. It is stating that if you had a stronger faith you would fare a whole lot better in dealing with curved balls! As if we haven’t enough to berate ourselves about without having to deal with a statement that only serves to increase your self-criticism in allowing such a heinous thing to happen to your beautiful child.
‘Everything happens for a reason’. Now that is a statement I can personally relate to. I am pretty sure that we all have a ‘death date’ – a time and date set by ourselves before we reincarnate. I believe that there are no coincidences and that everything does indeed happen for a reason. I firmly believe that if Rowie hadn’t gone down to the Chaslands on Boxing Day, he would have died anyway – in one way or another. For me this statement has resounding truth but for others it will cause immense angst. There is no reason in Heaven or earth that is good enough to allow a much adored child to be torn from its parents’ arms. I have lost count of the amount of times I have said that a parent should never have to outlive their child – it just isn’t a natural course of events. Ask any parent what their very worst nightmare is and I guarantee they will all whisper the same thing; too scared to say it out loud.
What can you say to help a grieving parent?
I’m not sure. We are still learning.
Something I do love is to talk about Rowie. I love to hear other peoples’ memories of him too. It takes no encouragement for me to talk endlessly about him. He gave us so much to remember; he was unique; there will never be anyone like him. Encouraging us and allowing us to talk about our lost children is probably the most helpful thing you can ever do.
Christmas is just around the corner. My stomach has been leaping and ducking and diving for the past few weeks with apprehension. We have surprised ourselves for three years in a row now; we have managed to survive the festive season and come out the other side relatively unscathed. As this season approaches again I always wonder if we will survive the next one. I guess we will come out the other side as before. It’s hard to explain to people when you turn down invitations to celebrations that we really wouldn’t add anything to the party spirit. It’s not that we have given up or that we are mourning. It’s just that it is extremely hard to laugh, joke and be merry at a time of year that holds so many horrendous memories.
2017 just around the corner. I hope it proves to be a cathartic year for everyone – one that begins to heal any hurt and pain that each of us might be feeling for one reason or another. Let’s hope that it proves to be an amazing and healing year for the whole world!