I’ve been dealing for years with this issue of people not knowing how to talk to me once they find out I’m a bereaved mom. Given it’s been over fifteen years now, it’s getting a bit monotonous. And I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. There are plenty of other bereaved parents who struggle with the same reactions I get once people find out I’ve lost a child. In fact, I’m certain many bereaved people routinely experience the discomfort of those with whom they have shared their loss, no matter who has died. People in general, just don’t know how to talk to the bereaved.
While it’s rare for me to talk about my daughter with just anyone, it isn’t because I don’t want to. It’s because I learned early in my bereavement that I had to take extreme care in choosing who to share my loss with simply because of the overwhelmingly reactions I got when people found out I’d lost a child. (Usually this was in response to them asking me how many children I had). All of them wanted to know how she had died, which only made their discomfort even worse because it was a suicide.
When I first became bereaved in 2005, after the suicide of my daughter, I felt confused and distrustful of everything. My entire world had fallen apart. I had no idea how I would ever live without my child and was terrified something else really bad would happen to my family. I couldn’t imagine what I could ever do again that would feel worthwhile. I felt isolated and different from everyone else and in pain so extreme, I didn’t think I could survive it. I felt powerless. There was no relief in sight.
But I did survive. More importantly, I’m starting to truly live again through a healing process I can’t wait to share with others.
Though I wish everyone reading this the absolute best for this new year, I’m not going to start this post off by saying how glad I am to say goodbye to 2020. In fact, and with the greatest respect and compassion for all those who have suffered hardship during 2020, I am grateful not to have been impacted negatively by the Pandemic. Nor was any of my family. We were spared.
Whew! I do not want to endure any further hardship in my life. In fact, I am so happy to say I am finally doing a darn good job turning things around in my life when it comes to healing and embracing positive change.
However, for those newly bereaved who have suffered loss of a loved one, economic hardship, unwanted lifestyle changes, a relationship breakup, family separation, or their hopes and dreams, all because of something way beyond their control, it’s a new year. You can have a new life by developing a new mind set. Change your thoughts. Change your life and all that. Or can you?
Wow, these past few days, news outlets have been reporting the deaths of several high-profile people from suicide, accident and illness. Deaths that have included people young and older, but none that would have been expected because they were a suicide, weird accident or someone we would consider way too young to be dying from disease or illness.
My spiritual practice over a span of four decades has taught me (and millions of others) that we choose our manner and time of death. While there can be different exit points throughout our life, it is the final one we must respect as what any person chooses as the way and time that is right for them to end their physical existence on this planet. At any age.
Any life event that has uprooted you in some way may be keeping you stuck in pain. This could be from a childhood trauma or as an adult, the loss of a loved one, relationship, job, money, health, lifestyle or friends. Pain is pain, no matter where it comes from. It can feel just as devastating for everyone, dependent on what we are here to experience.
A few days ago, I came across this article that shockingly (for me, anyway) told the story of a young Norwegian woman who tracks Instagram’s dark web for anyone at risk of attempting suicide. This young watcher (she is only twenty-two) scrolls through her Instagram feed looking for signs of imminent suicide attempts on the more than 450 accounts she’s been given permission to follow. She intervenes when she believes it necessary to do so based on the type of content posted. Despite not being formally trained in mental healthcare, she alerts the police and ambulance services requesting them (sometimes pleading with them) to further investigate those individuals she identifies as critically at risk of suicide. Some of these professionals don’t always take her claims seriously. Sometimes lives are lost.
Here’s an interesting news story. After “mysteriously vanishing from the spotlight” two years ago, RCMP Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound, a twenty-two-year veteran of the RCMP and for six years, the “public face” of the integrated homicide investigation team (IHIT) in Metro Vancouver, is emerging as the RCMP’s new face of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here’s my take on the story. Is she really? Or, is Pound the chosen one to finally get the media’s attention (and stay there) to highlight just how broken the system is when it comes to the RCMP providing support and resources to its mentally injured members? Here’s part of her story.
I’ve just returned from a month-long mini round-the-world trip that took me and my husband to Asia, Indonesia and Europe. Now, while most people who love to travel would probably have been excited planning, counting down the days to departure and actually travelling, I found myself, as always, in a state of neutrality more than I did excitement. More than neutrality, it is the state that anyone who lives with PTSD struggles with, not having the ability to feel excited about much of anything (which as an aside, is different from being able to feel gratitude). As such, I honestly could not rouse myself to feel anything more than hopeful that all would go well on each leg of the trip (which it did) and as much excitement as I could feel reuniting with our son in various locations for some quality time together. If anyone can drum up excitement in me, it’s my son!
It is interesting that we are commonly known to survive
loss. We are thought of in our grief as surviving loved ones. We are called suicide
survivors after losing a loved one to suicide. But what it means to truly survive
loss is not well understood or even talked about at all. It’s just a word
that’s been assigned to the bereaved.
The literal meaning of the word “survive” is to remain aliveafter the death of someone or the cessation of something under adverse
or unusual circumstances. And remaining alive versus living are two very
different things. I’m sure everyone would agree that losing a child is the
least favourable circumstance to be in and is unusual and adverse in every way
imaginable. For most if not all bereaved parents, surviving their child’s death
is about the only thing they can do. But it’s also true that many grievers in
general simply remain alive without much or any feeling at all after losing a love
of their life. Without hope and loss of direction, some people may never feel
I came across this article in a Canadian newspaper recently where a New York supreme court judge gave permission for the parents of a deceased son without his prior consent to use his sperm to produce a male heir. Cultural differences aside (they are from a culture where male heirs are important), they stated they were desperate for a part of their son to live on, which is universal to all grieving parents.
As a bereaved parent myself, the story left me wondering whether this case could set a precedent giving every parent the right to produce a grandchild from their deceased child without consent, all because we want a part of them to live on. This raises all sorts of questions about the ethics and ramifications of this extended arm of assisted-baby making techniques; not only for bioethicists, but our culture at large. It also left me wondering whether I would have done it if I could when my child died in 2005. The answer?