8 years ago, as I sat in a circle of other bereaved parents at a group meeting, I couldn’t stop wondering how all the parents who were years into their grief seemed so normal. How could they talk so freely about what they missed about their child without crying? Why do they look so comfortable talking about the death of their child?
In the first few months, my stomach would start to get in knots as time approached Tuesdays at 7 P.M. Like many things in grief, those meetings were a mixed bag of emotions. I would walk in with a deep sense of dread and walk out with a small dose of hope. The meetings themselves turned out to be a place of refuge for everyone to say whatever they felt like saying without fear of judgment.
For those of you whose child has died, I’d like to share some thoughts with you over the next few days about what I’ve learned the last 8 years since Jacob passed away. The good, the bad, and the ugly - and yes, there is some good. I don’t mean for a second that any good came from our child dying. What I mean is there are good things that have come as a result of our experience of grief and walking through that sort of pain.
Today, I wanted to briefly comment on therapy. I’ve written a lot about this already. The reason I feel so strongly about it is that I’ve experienced the benefits of it myself. Yet, I know people are hesitant to try it. If you happen to find yourself feeling stuck, overwhelmed by sadness, depressed, or isolated - go talk to someone. This grief is not one you should try to carry alone. I truly believe God used our counselors and therapists to help heal us and get us to a point where we live a very good, joyful, and dare I say - happy life. There was a time, a very long time, I didn’t think that was possible. I didn’t even want it to be possible.
At first, you may find yourself not wanting to live without your child. Then, as time passes and grief subsides, you realize you are going to live and you have to figure out how you’re going to thrive and adapt to living a good life while carrying a whole in your heart. Additionally, the rest of your family needs you and its imperative that you carry on your life in a manner that is honoring to your child. This is no easy task which is why we always recommend to other parents they seek help of professional therapists and/or join a bereaved parents group.
The death of a child feels so isolating because it is so rare and unnatural. You couldn’t have imagined that it would ever happen to your family or child. One way to help your family is by making sure you are taking care of yourself by finding someone to talk to about it. Holding it all inside will only ensure it explodes outward in unhealthy manners.
If you don’t feel comfortable seeing a therapist, go to a bereaved parent group meeting. Go at least three times before making up your mind on whether your going to keep going or not. Give it a fair chance. At minimum you will find comfort in looking at a room filled with people who know the type of pain you are experiencing. You will quickly realize you are not alone.
Therapy is not a quick fix. It is not easy and it’s hard work - mentally. But, I think it’s been worth every penny and second I’ve spent. 8 years later we are living fairly good lives. A piece of us is missing and we will not be whole this side of heaven. It will always be incredibly painful. By God’s strength, grace, and mercy we have come a long way. I don’t go to group meetings any longer because it doesn’t work with our schedule at this point in life. I still go see a therapist on my own a couple times a month. For me, it’s just become like a good exercise habit. I’m not always excited about getting there but I feel much better when I’m done.
You will find joy again. You will smile again. If you can imagine it, you will even find yourself feeling guilty for feeling so good at some point. Wherever you are in your grief, just hang in there and keep taking one day at a time because one day you will be alright even if you don’t feel like you want to be right now.