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
As a bereaved mom of a daughter who died by suicide in 2005, I have long been a proponent of change in how we view difficult loss and grief in our culture and the importance of understanding trauma and PTSD associated with certain types of loss. Not only for grievers, but everybody supporting them through their grief process.
It’s not only child loss that can traumatize people, but keeping it to bereaved parents for a moment, I am certain there isn’t one mom or dad out there who hasn’t been traumatized by the loss of their child, no matter the cause of death. They may even have PTSD and not know it. Little to no information is available on the topic. Despite the lack of information on the risk of PTSD for bereaved parents, it is encouraging to see that a quick internet search pops up a number of articles and studies done on PTSD in parents coping with a critically ill child, which is progress. (As an aside, there is even research for traffic accident victims who have PTSD). I remain astounded at the apparent lack of information and interest to take up this cause for the grieving.
As I have often said throughout various writings and at different times over the years, trauma in grief is not talked about. This needs to change. Not only for the benefit of grievers, but for those wanting to support the bereaved along their healing path, whether in a personal or professional capacity.
For years after my daughter’s suicide in 2005, I felt all alone in a struggle I didn’t understand. Though I saw doctors for chronic ill-health, beyond diagnosing stress as the obvious root of the problems, they didn’t know what to say to me knowing I had lost my daughter (understandable) or how to help me in my grief. I know now that almost 90% of what I struggled with was directly related to symptoms of PTSD that I was diagnosed with in 2014, and proved to be a game-changer in my ongoing healing.