Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare.
I know, because I’ve lived it.
Ten years ago, my beautiful daughter Molly died in an accident, aged 13. She was the middle of our three children, leaving behind an older brother and a younger sister. On a very ordinary day, our world suddenly stopped.
When a child dies, people don’t know what to say. Many people kept away, others were thoughtful about helping take care of life admin, or delivering a home cooked meal. Always just when we needed it.
There are other people who we’ve still not seen. Perhaps because they never knew what to say, but I’d rather they’d stayed in our lives and admitted they couldn’t find the right words, than disappeared completely.
I’ve come to realise that as a society, we don’t know how to speak about death. It’s still a taboo topic, and one we’re not trained to deal with.
I still feel pained by some of the thoughtless words people said to us after Molly died, not realising that it was perhaps better to say nothing, than to say something which would hurt. They’d ask about the details of her death, or make comments about how they could never cope if one of their own children died.
Obviously no one asks for this. But if you, too, are dealing with the loss of a child, please know that I’m sorry. I also want you to know, that there is life after death, even if it currently feels impossible.
When Molly first died, I didn’t believe I would ever feel connected with life again. I felt the weight would never allow me to feel happiness again, or to feel anything other than all-consuming darkness.
While connecting with life again is possible, anyone who says the grief will go away is lying. The grief and pain never truly leave, but they become part of your landscape. A constant presence. For me, I think of Molly’s loss as a mountain in my life’s landscape. Some days it looms large, dark and foreboding. Other days it’s there, I can see it out of the corner of my eye, but it’s not my main focus.
For our family, here’s what has helped:
We keep Molly present in our everyday: We speak of Molly often – both with people who knew her, and people who didn’t. We remember her, or talk about how she might have felt about a situation. We keep her name in the light, and want to feel her as an active part of our daily lives. We stay open to the signals and signs that help us feel connected to her, and we encourage our family to do the same.
Find a good counsellor: Eventually, after losing Molly, we realised speaking with a professional counsellor would help me and my husband, and also our children. We were connected with a thoughtful counsellor who made a huge difference. She encouraged me to meditate and sit in stillness with my thoughts of Molly. She also encouraged me to be open to messages from her, which still helps me now.
Sit with the feelings: I’ve learnt it’s better to sit with the pain, than to try to dull it or bury it. It’s a terrifying thing to do at first, as you don’t know where it might take you. But for me, learning to feel the feelings has helped me to move through them, and to reconnect with hope, love and happiness again.
Be ready for the pain of milestones: Every milestone – every birthday, Christmas or anniversary, will bring the pain back sharply to the surface. Try to be prepared for this, and be sure to have support around you at these times. Some of our friends still check in with us around significant dates, and this means so much.
Health is important: It’s easy to fall into unhealthy patterns, but there is huge value in eating well, reducing alcohol consumption, avoiding sugar, exercising, and sleeping well. Healthy habits lay a strong foundation for your overall wellbeing and will help you to cope better with the struggles of your grief.
This content originally appeared on yourloss.com.au and is published with permission.
YourLoss is an independent news and resource website covering many aspects associated with death, dying and the bereavement process. It’s a hub of information that is timely, relevant, and factual. It is supported by like-minded family-owned and operated funeral providers. Each has a passion for the open availability of information relating to this often-non-spoken aspect of society.
Linda Goldspink-Lord is an advocate for resilience and growth. Her own complex experiences in life, family and career have led her to a place of great understanding and awareness. Linda is determined to share her own life-changing experiences, as a way of empowering others. In 2022, Linda published her first book, Crawling Through the Darkness, which is available now from www.lindagoldspinklord.com
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