There are no words. There is only life before and life after.
When your spouse dies you are designated a widow or widower, or if a child loses their parents they become an orphan. You may not know that a parent who has lost a child is known as a “Vilomah.” Vilomah is a Sanskrit word that means “against the natural order.” A very apt description for what is at the center of the deep grief response when someone’s child dies, “it is against the natural order.” Parents naturally consider their children will outlive them.
Whether one’s child is four or forty, whether through illness or accident, it is unfathomable to any parent that their child leaves this earth before them. The grief from the loss of a child never ends, and life never returns to “normal,” the new normal is characterized by emptiness, a pain that rarely stops, and a former life that can never be restored.
Each year, the month of July is set aside to raise awareness around parental death loss of a child. Known as Bereaved Parents Awareness month, this is a time to become more enlightened on the trauma of the unthinkable, parental loss of a child. “This special month was founded in 1989 by a group of bereaved parents who wanted to ensure that other grieving families were supported during this challenging time. Over the years, it has become a powerful movement that encourages people to come together and share their stories, as well as provide comfort and hope for those still struggling with grief.” https://www.holidaycalendar.io/holiday/bereaved-parents-awareness-month#:~:text=July%201%20marks%20the%20start,supported%20during%20this%20difficult%20time.
Several months ago, my dear friends lost their daughter in an unexpected death. While I have known many bereaved parents over the years, including my own, this loss has touched me deeply. Taking the grief walk with them over the past months has rendered my thoughts about grieving parents more personal. It has made my desire to help more acute. At the end of the day, I have done precious little to help heal their pain or restore their happiness. This is such an important lesson, as hard as one may try, as present as one attempts to be, as loving as we are, the burden that comes with losing a child will be carried until the bereaved parent is reunited in the next world with their child.
Grief can be a very lonely journey and it is common for bereaved parents to feel alone, they may feel no one understands what they are going through and think they must navigate grief on their own. While I admit that I do not know exactly what my friends are going through, I am committed to reminding them that they are not going through it alone. That they do not feel so alone is the most for which I can hope. Holding their thoughts, needs, and broken hearts close to mine is all I can do. Here are some simple ways I have tried to support my friends. I offer these not just as ideas for Bereaved Parents Month, but as continual best practices, because a child loss is a forever loss.
- Consider ordinary days may be as deeply painful as anniversaries, birthday, or other special occasions. Don’t just show up when it is apparent that they are grieving.
- Listening is more valuable than speaking. Active listening is required. That means we employ not only the gift to listen, but the courage to hear.
- Offer a presence that encourages re-membrance by making room in your heart, conversation, and events for their child.
- Strike the right balance between remaining close to them and stepping back.
- Honor that you are now not only in relationship with these parents, but you are also now in a relationship with their grief. Do not fear grief or them, do not try to dissolve, solve it, or ignore their pain. Embrace it like a newborn, it is a living sensation for them.
- It is uncomfortable when we are at a loss for answers to the tough question of why a child precedes its parent in death, but better to openly share it than to overlook it as it pierces their heart and mind.
So many times, over these many months as I have held my dear friends in my heart and mind, I think only this: there are no words, there is only life before and life after.
If you are a bereaved parent in need of resources to support your grief journey, please reach out to me at [email protected].
To all grieving parents,
Miles Funeral Homes offers you our deepest sympathies
for such an unspeakable loss. We wish you peace….