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I know that there are many different forms of this out there however, I have added on to it to help others to imagine how we feel when we lose a child. I know grief and the pain of losing anyone close is hard but this is to help others understand how it is for a parent who has lost their child.
I am going to do an exercise with you called….
If you could only imagine
You say it's time for me to "move on" in my grief. Perhaps you're right or perhaps you just don't realize what you're asking. So, I want you try this little exercise and maybe it will help you get a better perspective on what I am going through.
To make this really hit home for you it should be practiced for at least 24 hours, the longer the better but we do not have that long so we will do it for a few minutes. This is kind of like blindfolding yourself to experience being without sight. I am doing this from a parents view point but if you do not have a child you can think of a loved one in your life.
So close your eyes think about your children or loved love. I want you to try to imagine the worst thing in the world, that your beloved child died. Whatever age or stage of development, whether they live with you or not, just imagine you won't ever see that child on earth again. let me explain to you the reality…try to imagine, if you can, never seeing your child again, never hearing their laugh, never hearing the sound of their voice, never smelling the scent you have come to recognize as your child.. never hearing them say "I love you"…nothing - just silence, emptiness.. now imagine never seeing your child's smile, never seeing him upset or happy, never watching him sleep…missing them so much that you are twisted up inside and the pain stays with you 24/7, you smell their pillow, their clothes, you look at their pictures and can only cry - what happened, why!?.. you have never felt longing like this in your life! longing to hear their voice, to see their face again,…and to know deep in your soul you cannot fix this. now imagine every single thing that used to give you joy and pleasure turns into hurt and despair overnight. not a gradual thing, but going from pleasure to hurt, from happiness to sadness, from peace to no peace, changing overnight. everything you loved now hurts like hell…
For example: music, I used to love music, it gave me pleasure, I didn’t realize how much music was a part of my life and how it is everywhere, now I cannot listen to it, it sears me like a red hot knife with the pain of losing my child, it cuts me wide open.. like the old song, the day the music died, that's me, and believe it or not, almost every song reminds me of the HUGE void in my life without my child, I am not unique in that pain - if you lost a child you would know. that is just one little example of how your life is affected by the loss of your child. Just ONE example!
The door bell rings you go to answer it only to see 4 police me…they say your child has died. Now imagine calling all your family and friends to tell them your child died. Now you get a call to ask you where you want the body to go. Body you say that is my child however you can’t even wrap your mind around this it just can’t be real.
Next, go to a funeral home and discuss caskets or cremation, markers, burial plots, etc. So many things to do you have to make it perfect and really should you be making these decisions so quickly are you in your right mind – Really? Pick out a favorite outfit for your child to be buried in and the flowers that lay at the alter. Sit down and write out the obituary for the newspaper and pick out the music to be played at their memorial. Get in the floor or closet of their room and cry until there are no more tears. Then repeat until you think you're losing your mind and your gut is wrenching.
If you made it through that part you are ready for the next step.
As good parents we were always able to fix things or make things better for our children.. this we cannot fix, we cannot make it better. so on top of everything else you are feeling, you also feel helpless..out of control and hopeless…and this is universal, every parent that truly loves their child will feel this. Are you starting to imagine now how it feels? Just think you are doing this exercise for a few minutes, imagine, really imagine, feeling this way 24/7 - day after day, month after month, and no matter what you are doing or who you are talking to, a tape of your child plays over and over in your mind. your child when he was a baby, a laughing happy little boy, a handsome young teen, a wonderful young man or women and it always plays in your head and you do not want to forget even a single second of your beautiful child's life…but that is a fear you have, that as time passes you will start to forget…so now, please add FEAR to the list of emotions. this is what it really feels like. a part of you has died, , FEEL this - died, gone forever… a real, beautiful, living part of you has died… and you are still living, left behind to try to pick up the pieces of your shattered life and not having a clue where to even begin. No wonder a high percentage of marriages break up, parents have breakdowns, turn to alcohol, drugs or a destructive way of life.
During all of this remember, the world hasn't stopped. If you have a job, you will have to return to it because it has been a week and that is all the time they give you for a loss of a child. The power company and everyone else still wants their payment each month. But you can barely get out of bed. So who care about bills don’t they know your child has died? You may have doctor’s bills, ambulance bills, and attorney fees if an accident was involved. If your child died at the hands of another, there will be a trial and publicity.
If you were blessed to have other children, you will have to deal with their grief as well as your own. They will still have homework, tests, reports, projects and the class bully. you feel the loss with every thought, every emotion, and the loss bleeds into every aspect of your life. even with your other children, you still love your other children just as much as always, but as hard as it is, even they hurt you now, because when you see them you feel the LOSS, the loss of the child that died not being with their siblings. it doesn't fit, there is a piece missing, your whole life doesn't fit anymore. everything that felt right, now feels wrong and of course there is always the missing, the horrible gut wrenching, out of your control missing…
Next comes the "firsts". Holidays, Birthday, anniversary of death and at first this is every month, it is not just once a year but every month on the day they died. When everyone is singing tra-la-la and jingle bells, you won't be. Your heart will be too heavy. The hurt will be so intense you will marvel that you can get out of bed each morning. Every morning when you take your other children to school you'll be reminded that you AREN'T taking one too. You'll see their friends going on with their lives and it will cut you to the quick. When they all graduate from kindergarten, middle school, etc., your child won't. When you start getting wedding or baby announcements in the mail for these other children, you'll be reminded again of your loss. Or will their friends even remember to include you or will they even still want to see you, or worse yet do they even remember your child? Do they still hurt from the loss?
Don't forget that when you go shopping you'll see things that you wanted to buy for your deceased child and many times you will still buy them anyway. You'll see places the two of you USED to go and sometimes sit in the parking lot and remember that special day. Sometimes you find yourself someplace you don’t even remember driving too.
At home when you prepare that favorite meal of the child who is gone, it won't taste the same to you. The pictures, cards they made for you or sent you, toys and other possessions of your baby will be both harmful and helpful. They are a link to the past, a way to remember more about what you've lost and at the same time they are a link to the past and a way to remember more about what you've lost and what you will never have again.
Funny, huh? That family portrait you were always so proud of? Well, it will take on a whole new meaning now. A part of you does not exist anymore and it is scary as hell.. that is why they say the loss of a child is like no other loss.. you cannot compare it to another loss, with other losses you grieve and you are of course sad, but when your child dies, a part of you ceases to exist, gone just like that, gone no warning, just gone.
When a husband dies you are a widow, when a wife dies you’re a widower, when your parents die you are an orphan but when your child dies there are no words because it is too awful to imagine. And the life that you knew, the things you always felt, the things in your life that made sense, that you held on to, that makes up who you are - are Gone!!!That is why when parents who have lost children hear "I want the old you back", "it's been a year (a month, 6 months-whatever), don't you feel better yet?" "You are doing this to yourself, you're making it harder on yourself", "grief can become a selfish thing you know", we can only shake our heads and feel sadness and hopelessness, because there is no way our lives will ever be like it was when our child was alive. No wonder bereaved parents isolate themselves, we are just trying to hold on.
Now open your eyes were you able to imagine what it must feel like? even for this amount of time it is too long to imagine the unimaginable, to feel the pain, I would not wish this on anyone, but did you get a sense of how life-changing it is? Imagine you feel this 24/7, not even getting a moments relief from it! Now go on and put on your favorite CD to listen to, enjoy the music..go home and hug your child or loved one, enjoy this moment because you can still listen to them laugh, watch them smile, smell the scent that you know is them but please do not tell me how I should feel or that I am holding onto this, or that my friends/family must be tired of watching me go through this, because if you haven't lost a beloved child of yours, you can’t understand and I would not want you too.
But when you hear these words "the presence of his absence is everywhere", will you finally understand?
Believe it or not I could write dozens of other things for you to imagine. Fortunately for you, this is only an exercise. I live this every day.
Thanks for doing this with me I hope you never have to walk in my shoes and I hope that now maybe you will be able to better help a friend or loved one in their loss.