So, Say My Name
One of the most poignant things I hear from the parents that I counsel is that their friends and family no longer say the name of their child. July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month.
Bereaved Parents Awareness Month
Many people find it challenging to talk openly about grief. Folks are especially at a loss for words when it comes to addressing parents who have lost a child. It’s widely accepted in our culture that it is unnatural for a child to die before their parents, but the reality is that many children do pass away before their parents. When using the term “child” or “children,” we typically think of someone under the age of 18. Those older parents who lose adult children experience loss that can be equally as devastating. We will all experience death and grief, but not all will face the loss of a child.
NationalToday states that by age 70, 15% of parents in the United States will have lost a child.
Dealing with the Death of a Child
Any death of a child is stressful but sudden/traumatic losses are particularly cruel to parents. Over the past few years, traumatic deaths from gun violence in our major cities, at our schools and recently, even at a 4th of July parade, have made these horrific deaths a more common occurrence.
Parents’ grief lasts for the rest of their lives. One of the goals of this monthly observance is to raise awareness about the intensity of this type of loss and to share resources that can assist families when a child’s (big or small) death does occur.
Being able to talk about this loss and having friends and family willing to be present for them is crucial. Many people avoid bereaved parents out of their own fears about what to say and feeling uncomfortable in the weight of that unknown. Many parents have expressed to me that someone showing up for them is comforting. No words can fix this loss.
Something Positive Out of a Parent's Loss
The loss may never get “fixed,” but the pain of the loss can evolve. What does help grieving parents?
Meaning making is an important part of the grief process, as it focuses on allowing something positive to unfold from something tragic. Finding meaning in the loss can empower the griever and make them feel less of a victim. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a classic example of how one mom, Candace Lightner, created a non-profit organization after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 1980.
In a small town on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, there is a memorial race every September to honor the legacy of a Navy hero killed at the Pentagon on 9/11/2001. The Captain Gerald F. DeConto Memorial Scholarship 5K Run & Walk is in its 21st year. This event allows the family, friends and the greater community, to remember a Naval officer who died for his country. The funds generated each year go towards a college scholarship fund that is awarded to a local high school graduate. Something good was created to help everyone in my (Cindy’s) hometown deal with this terrible terrorist attack and the personal loss of a longtime “townie”. This is what is meant by “meaning making” and it serves to bring a sense of purpose to what otherwise seems like an inexplicably painful loss.
When We Grieve Together, We Heal Together
Sure, we can grieve alone. However, when we mourn together, we heal as people, as parents, as families, as communities, as a nation and as a citizen of the world.
The following is an original poem that I wrote and read at a community memorial
event in Sarasota:
"So, say my name... The name I came into this world with – The name I had when I left this world – Still, my name. Because my name evokes memories and love and laughter… Connection between you and me. So, say my name – For all I was, and for all you are yet to be – forever linked with me… So, say my name." - Cindy Gourley (All rights reserved.)
Let Us Help You
The team at SoulSpring Counseling is here and ready to help you heal. You can also check out the website, www.nationaltoday.com for additional information on how to assist someone that is facing the death of a child.