Adversity is something all of us experience in our lives. We can all relate to those tough times. When a child dies, the pain and devastation of loss can feel desolating. And as we go through the cycles of grief, denial can shield us against the full impact of the loss. To anyone who has ever experienced the loss of a child, my heart goes out to you. Losing a child is the most devastating event a human being can go through.
A mother bereaved over the loss of her son asked for my council recently. I felt her heartache. I, too, lost a stepdaughter to a drug overdose. Having gone through painstaking years of grief, I knew I had to face the question that had been haunting me. How do we ever recover from such a tragic loss?
When we lose someone we love, we embrace those around us with greater awareness and gratitude. When we share our story, we reach out to those who too are suffering from isolation by empathizing and connecting and saying out loud, “I know how you feel.”
Sharing our stories can bring remarkable benefits. The most powerful gift we have are the words from our heart.
This is my story to share:
Years ago I loved a man Donn, his young daughter, Evann, and his son, Dane. His children became my children. I didn’t give birth to them, but I raised them for six years. They called me their second mother.
Evann died young at age twenty-seven from a drug overdose. There is no wrapping my mind or heart around the enormity of her loss. No one should ever outlive a child.
I remember the painful duty of speaking at Evann’s memorial service. As I talked, a painful memory came to me: Evann and I used to take long walks together when she was about ten. She was a sensitive, intelligent child. She would me ask the most remarkable questions:
“Who am I?”
“What is the meaning of me being here?”
“What is my soul made of?”
“What does my soul look like?”
“Why am I always afraid?”
We would talk for hours. I answered as candidly as one could. Once, I turned the tables by asking her, “What do you think we live for?” And she replied, “We live to love.”
So many people in grief ask me, “Will I be able to feel love again?” And that’s why I am grateful for the true wisdom of Evann’s answer – We live to love.
Her father and I did not turn out to be partners for life, but coming together to mourn was an incredible gift to both of us, as if Evann had willed us to heal.
There is an ancient Chinese adage: “Pain instructs the heart.” Coming together in grief is not just an aspect of loving but in many ways the central reality of love. Our stories can have a remarkable impact on our psychological and physical health.
The grief journey has many emotion phases, some more painful than others. It’s important to reach out and find a connection to someone special who will hear your words. Share your story and help those on their journey.
The Compassionate Friends – Supporting families after a child dies.