The Loss Of A Child Leads Bereaved Parents To Create Living Memorials
February 9, 2010 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Deep Grief: Creating Meaning From Mourning (Article from NPR.) How some parents have channeled their grief over the loss of their children into memorial efforts that provide for others.

In addition to the three memorial links posted in the first link's sidebar, Compassionate Friends offers support to parents who have lost a child.
posted by zarq (7 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for sharing this, the article is well written.

My son Sean died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 20 (1999). The descriptions of grief in this article are pretty accurate, it takes years to begin to feel normal again, but the memory of his life, and his death, is a daily event.

Many parents get lost in the grief, it tears their world apart, things fall apart, divorce, job loss, suicide... some never pull it back together.

Parents such as those in the article deserve our respect and admiration.

And, Compassionate Friends probably saved us... it is a wonderful group.
posted by HuronBob at 6:00 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have met and worked with Dr. Doka, he is an incredibly kind man. He solicited me to write an article for a Living with Grief book (mentioned in this article) on cancer and hospice, and interviewed me for this teleconference, speaking about a subject I can't shut up about - my daughter Vvienne's short life, and death. Next Wednesday will be the one year anniversary of her passing.

This is a beautiful article, and highlights not only some of the individual feelings parents have on loosing a child, but some of the ways in which that loss can be good for the world. I hate the idea that my daughter dying was good for the world, because it was horrible and sad and aching, but it was. I've tried to help others, with donations, with education, with charity (please support the Childrens Brain Tumor Research Foundation - not a self link but I am a member - and don't make me go into my speech about the underfunding of pediatric cancers).

The comment I would make, is that many of the statements in this article don't describe my grief at all. It's so individual - and parents who lose children have some things in common with each other, and nothing in common with others, sometimes. Telling parents how they will feel is often not comforting, instead it seems to box your feelings into a certain meaning. The five stages of grief are almost a joke in my family - are we in denial today because we managed to laugh at something? Is this anger or bargaining? Why would I even want to reach acceptance?

When we knew Vivienne was going to die, and in the months afterwards, I received so many books and pamphlets and concerned notes about what parental bereavement would feel like, and none of them described my experience. I was on antidepressants and in shock, but not denial, and spent hours with my grief therapist expressing guilt for not feeling like I was supposed to. There is a balance between sharing individual experiences and building a box that defines how grief will feel. I don't think this article is on the wrong side of that balance, but I also worry deeply about telling other parents how to grieve. I get emails, notes, calls, blog comments, etc., from other families who have lost children, particularly to cancer, asking me for help. What do I say? How do I help? I feel as if all I can do is (a) listen and (b) refer people to the same resources that people sent me, which weren't helpful.

Almost the only thing that anyone said that was helpful for me, reminded me that the pain I feel on the loss of my daughter results from love for her. If I didn't love her, it wouldn't hurt. I would rather love her and hurt, than not love her.

The uniformly positive thing I will say, is that a few very rare people have silenced me in some way - told me that discussion of my daughter, her cancer, and related subjects are not welcome. So I want to thank you, zarq, for making a space to talk about that, and linking to an article giving parents resources and examples that it is positive, loving and good to remember and talk about ones' children.
posted by bunnycup at 6:12 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


the photos are beautiful...

In answer to your question "how do I help"... let me share this... if you've managed to survive to this point, that alone is/will be a light in the darkness for someone else.

A few weeks after Sean died, I ran into someone whose path crossed with mine frequently professionally.. as we were walking from a meeting, she expressed her condolences, and shared that she had lost a son 7 years before. I stopped walking, for a moment not able to believe that anyone could survive 7 years of the pain I felt..... and left that encounter with a glimmer of hope...

posted by HuronBob at 6:30 PM on February 9, 2010

I hesitate to post this next because I have not suffered the loss of a child. But as a parent I can begin to glimpse how utterly devastating it must be. Channeling the grief and guilt into something that results in a positive outcome for others seems, to me at least, a transformation of personal loss into societal gain of the highest possible order.
posted by mollweide at 7:46 PM on February 9, 2010

The mother of my former student, Nicki Leach, started The Nicki Leach Foundation ( "to provide necessary funding which might include car expenses, clothing, help with college cost, as well as special funding that might include help with the purchase of a special trip, a camera, a computer or a new cell phone." Their "goal is to help with the things you wouldn't normally ask for but would love to receive."

Nicki really was an amazing girl. She died 2 days after she finished her last exam of the semester in her first year of college.
posted by whatgorilla at 8:25 PM on February 9, 2010

Thank you for posting this. A friend of mine lost her 2-year-old daughter the day after Thanksgiving. Today she posted a status update on Facebook about dreading the process of choosing a memorial plaque for the grave site. Personally, the past couple of months have been very difficult for me because of what happened. I am truly in awe of my friend and the other parents out there who have lost a child and find the strength to carry on and make the world a better place.
posted by puritycontrol at 11:05 PM on February 9, 2010

Oh thanks. Lately I've been thinking a lot about this.
posted by nicolin at 9:47 AM on February 10, 2010

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