There is perhaps no loss as devastating as the loss of a child as challenging times we face in our lifetimes as adults. We never expect them to precede us in life. We have fixed and firm opinions about how life is supposed to proceed. And yet, when we are faced with the loss of a child, a nephew or niece, a grandchild, or your best friend loses their child—what can we do to help them cope in those times?
As all of us know who have spent time searching through cards in stores, few sympathy cards even begin to touch what we want to say, how we feel, and how much we love those who are sustaining the loss of a child.
This passing can happen prior to childbirth, or in infancy due to unexpected illness, or to other circumstances that we don’t even want to imagine. If you’ve ever been through this in your lifetime you know that there are no words anyway that can make things better. Only time, and the presence of loved ones around you, encouraging you, just being there without saying anything special, can make a difference.
Whenever a parent can find the voice to discuss the loss, as a relative or friend, simply listening to them share their memories or their hopes, dreams, and expectations of what life could have been like for their loved one will be a beginning in the steps toward healing.
Remembering the child’s days of birth and passing each year and marking it with your loved ones in a way that is respectful, yet it shows that you are remembering with them the loss of their precious child can help to ease the memories.
Photographs that exist can be combined into collages if the child lived through young adulthood. Memory books help to organize their life into permanent history for the family to have and hold forever. Audio and video recordings that are preserved and collected comprise an important part of the history of that member of their generation and who occupies an important place on their family tree.
To be remembered is so important—that a young person was here, impacted the lives of his or her parents, grandparents, aunts, siblings, friends, and strangers alike is to have made a solid imprint on the face of the earth. Knowing that this imprint is permanent and will not be forgotten is so important.
At Callaway-Jones, we often ask the question, “How will you be remembered?” And by that we mean how can you describe how different your life is because the one you love lived here on Earth for as long as they had here among us? Who did they impact? Whose lives did they enrich by their sweet countenance? Does a sibling know they were influenced and impacted by the example their sibling once had shown, to help guide their way?
As our children grow, each day, we can see how fast they have learned the lessons of the day, whether at home from us, at school from teachers and students alike, at work, from bosses and good examples of leadership, and finally, as they grow to become parents themselves, possibly. Put together, every life we meet makes a difference in this world. You mean the world to someone just as they are to you.
With the passage of time and the progression of life, the number of people in our immediate surroundings grows and expands to meet the number of things we are learning and doing. So many examples of how to have faith in the loss of a child around us. They’re our neighbors and friends at school and at church. They work with us in our jobs every day and we don’t even stop to think about their loss until we sustain one of our own. It’s important to reach out for help to those with the experience that is the same as ours, which we never might have considered otherwise. When you have someone to walk down the same path as you are walking, it makes the journey a little easier.
If you have experienced the loss of a child, as you heal—only with the passage of time and the grace that comes from learning to focus on the time you may have had with your loved one on Earth—will peace evolve. It may come and go for a while. A memory, a song, a sight, or an incident may trigger a flood of memories to handle out of the blue. And our coping mechanisms become more sophisticated with time.
For those of faith, there is the element of prayer that we can count on. Time, as we all know, works its way through the fabric of our lives and offers us consolation and memories. The holes in our hearts may never go ‘away’ but love fills the gap until the healing is complete. Your presence in the daily lives of those who have lost a child, is “enough” to make a difference, to help, and to heal. Your faithful friendship is irreplaceable and immeasurable and will always be appreciated.