Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mourning A Lost Child - A Psychologist's Grief

~ By Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

Mourning a lost child never gets easier, but it might be comforting to know you're not alone in grieving the death of your son or daughter. If you're suffering through death of your child, you might not feel so alone if you gather with other mothers who are also mourning their lost children.

Here is an excerpt from Charlotte Mathes' book, called And a Sword Shall Pierce Your Heart Moving from Despair to Meaning After the Death of a Child.

When a child dies, we lose our commonsense faith in life's predictability. The unanticipated early death cuts through what we have formerly assumed is a natural order of things, shaking the very foundation of our living. When a son or daughter dies, all we believed comes into question and we feel as if we have no standpoint.

There is a saying to the effect that we only understand our lives after we have suffered disappointment: "Life is what happens to you after you make your plans." Once we had ideas about what coming years would bring to our family. After the death of our child, however, we find ourselves thrust into a period where, while there is no foretelling the future, we suddenly have no plans, and our dreams have been shattered.

How different this is from the sadness we feel when an older person dies. If she has lived a full life and dies naturally, we may miss her, reminisce about all she meant to us, and perhaps wish that we had taken more time to appreciate her. We also come to acknowledge that life brings a series of losses, and we may even understand that they are somehow necessary, or at least part of everyone's experience. But the death of our child attacks our understanding of life's rhythm and purpose, leaving us wandering in unmapped territory.

Grieving the Death of Your Son or Daughter - After John Kennedy Junior's plane crash, Lauren Basset's parents and Carolyn Basset Kennedy released the following statement: "Nothing in life prepares you for the death of a child." Though it had been twelve years since my son's death, I wept when I read those words, for they brought me back to when I was unprepared for my struggles with his illness, for his death, and for the challenging grief work required to once more be fully alive.

Today's women mature knowing much about how to deal with expected milestones: sexual experience, marriage, professional life, working motherhood, and even divorce, remarriage, and menopause. That which we don't already know, we feel reasonably confident of learning from abundant resources which are easily available to us.

Consequently, we don't anticipate a life-changing event -- mourning the loss of someone you love -- that puts the core of our being in doubt. Even those who have experienced much tragedy in their lives are unprepared for a child's death. Without self-pity, Ruth first summarizes her many losses before coming to her stark conclusion:

"My life has been full of pain. As a child, I experienced coming from 'the wrong side of the tracks.' My father and mother left me when I was thirteen and I had to find other caregivers. My little sister died when I was eight; my father died when I was twenty-two.

My oldest son had cancer of the bone at age eighteen. My first and only grandson was born with Down's syndrome. He had open heart surgery and was in critical condition for two weeks. My husband had open heart surgery and died two years after Tom committed suicide. None of this has been as devastating as my son Tom's death."

Excerpted from And a Sword Shall Pierce Your Heart: Moving from Despair to Meaning After the Death of a Child by Charlotte M. Mathes, LCSW, Ph.D. Copyright © 2006 Charlotte Mathes. Published by Chiron Publications (September 2005).

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