With Mother’s Day just behind us, and Father’s Day coming up soon, I’ve been reflecting on what a bittersweet job parenting can be.
A parent creates life, and then at some point has to release their most precious creation to the will of the Universe. In the toughest scenario, parents have to endure the death of their child. I remembered how I struggled when my two children hit their 20s and moved out of our home to permanent residences in their college town. It took me three months to stop crying and readjust my life. But no matter how sad I might be that my children have moved on with their adult life, they can still come back, fill my house with noise, and be a part of my physical reality. A bereaved parent’s options are far fewer.
Metaphorically, they can either learn to swim or drown.
While interacting with a diverse section of bereaved parents, I’ve found there is no time frame for healing. It’s not something that can be gotten over, like an illness. It has to be incorporated into your life. As a medium, I deal mostly with spiritual people, or at least those who are open to the idea of the afterlife. One common thread I see with parents who are thriving after a loss is their dedication to helping others. You might expect that it’s those parents who realize their child is still with them spiritually who move through grief most easily. But in all honesty, it’s those who reach out to others whom I see thriving instead of merely surviving. They haven’t necessarily changed their lives or careers, but they do take the time to help others. And in doing so, they inspire hope.
I liken this phenomenon to what I’ve seen in New York City. Folks from Manhattan get a bad rap as being tough, yet my experiences with groups there have been the exact opposite. Nowhere have I seen people come together in community as closely as I have in NYC. Whenever someone receives a message, every person in the room is just as thrilled as if he or she had received one. It’s a beautiful solidarity. My feeling is that the recent tragedies of 9-11 and Hurricane Sandy have helped create this bond between neighbors. And bereaved parents understand each other. The comfort one bereaved parent can offer to another is woven through with a deep empathy that someone who has not experienced this loss cannot comprehend.
Helping others get through the grief of losing a child can be a temporary thing you do for a few years as a part of your healing. Or it can be something to which you dedicate the rest of your life. The loss of a child creates a particular void, different from any other, and parents need an outlet for the nurturing energy they previously devoted to their child. Being an active parent to a deceased child is an arduous task! I always say, “A bereaved parent’s work is never done.” Instead of cooking, laundry and baseball games, the grieving parent’s work becomes spiritual growth, lessons in patience and faith, and often a dedication of personal time to helping others.
I asked a few bereaved parents what comforts them on days like Mother’s and Father’s Day.
Susie shares: “I think of earth as a school for learning love lessons. Our son "graduated" early and is home, in the loving arms of our Father, where we will all be reunited some day.”
Jan shares: "Almost every Mother’s Day, my departed son finds a way to give me a gift—if only I pay attention! This past Saturday, I visited my four-year-old niece Caroline, whom I hadn’t seen in a year and a half. She’s normally very shy. But as soon as I saw her, Caroline gave me a big hug and insisted on spending every minute by my side. I went away feeling cherished and loved. Later I realized that our son was whispering in Caroline’s ear, urging her to give me some loving. It worked—and completely changed my Mother’s Day weekend."
Marsha shares: “It’s been five years since my daughter, Molly, departed, and I truly think there is no way a mother’s heart ever returns to normal after such an unexpected loss. I believe a mother’s love for her child is immeasurably fierce and is matched only by God’s unlimited love for us. In my quest to find my daughter, I think SHE found me and has been wrapping her spiritual arms around me, encouraging me to take that love and do positive things with it. Like our children who have departed and still send us their love, it can be very comforting to find a way to plant something good where something so infinitely precious was taken."
©Mollie Morning Star 2015 Short excerpts of this article may be shared on the internet provided a live link back to this original source is used. Reproduction in print is prohibited.