The New Paradigm

 
 

No parent is prepared for the death of their child. It's virtually impossible to conceive of and even harder to talk about. More than likely, it never crossed your mind and you never saw it coming. We prepare for the lives of our children from before their births until we send them out into the world. Resources abound on everything from birthing choices to selecting the right college when the time comes. Understandably, fewer resources exist for dealing with the death of your child. This is not something we talk about casually. In fact, most parents assume it's something they will never have to face, and thankfully, most parents won't have to. Parents die before their children. Usually. But some of us will face this devastation and when we do, we may find ourselves untethered from all we thought we knew. How do we live with such a loss? How do we even get through the day?

If you have suffered the loss of a child, please read on. This site was written as a response to my experiences after the loss of my son. It is intended to be a forum where grieving parents are encouraged to give voice to their journey, but my hope is that it will also provide immediate comfort, insight, and guidance. The stories will encourage you to keep your heart open and stay in touch with your emotions. We'll look at many of the issues that surround loss and grieving, not with the intention to direct your healing, but rather to provide a framework upon which you can build your own personal recovery. It is a long and arduous journey, and our goal is to support you as you try to put your life back together in a world that no longer includes the presence of your child.  Along the path you will be offered shelter for your spirit and food for your soul, you will receive guidance from people who have walked before you, and you will have the company of people who walk with you now. Somewhere on this path you will begin to heal. Please consider this site as your own; a place where you will be embraced by a community of kindred souls, a place to find resources, inspiration and advice, a place where you can tell your story and know you are being heard, and most importantly, a place of hope and healing. These words are only the beginning, a jumping-off point for the many voices who have so much to share. The more voices we hear from, the more potential there is for healing.

Early on it may take all you've got just to keep breathing. Hold on and and let some time pass. Take a breath, then take another breath. Repeat. When you are ready, join us on the Grieving Path.


 

The site is divided into sections offering progressive steps that will help you navigate the aftermath of your loss. Early sections are short and easy to read, demanding nothing from you but a few minutes of your day. First offered are words of timeless wisdom that can breathe light into your darkness. Next you will find a list of books and guided meditations that are designed to bring you hope and inspiration. 

 

 

We will raise awareness about the many pitfalls that you might find yourself in after the loss of your child. These include; how your loss affects your marriage, its affect on the other children in your family, the toll it can take on your health-both mental and physical, how to get thru the first long year, how to celebrate holidays in the midst of profound new grief, how to deal with hurt and regret, as well as how to survive the always difficult conversations that take place when people unaware of your loss ask casual questions that have no casual answers.

Further on you are guided to identify your thoughts and feeling with just a few words in a simple writing exercise. Later on, upon reflection, as your thoughts and feelings evolve, you will have tangible evidence of your healing, evidence that grief indeed changes and thankfully, eventually softens. We will also look at how working with a therapist can be a saving grace for you and your family, how meditation can provide a quiet place to heal, and how keeping a journal can help bring you clarity.

We will consider how to honor your child’s memory, and how to meet the challenge of staying connected to your life while keeping your heart open.

The last section is reserved for your story.  Should you decide to share it with other parents on the grieving path, know it will be healing not only for you, but also for each person bearing witness  to it. 

What you have to say may be exactly what another needs to hear. Tell us the story of your child’s life or death, share your sweet memories, post a picture, leave a memorial tribute or write a diatribe. It’s your story-write whatever your heart demands.

Grief is not unlike a teacher you may have had who was especially hard on you; one who wouldn’t let up until you learned what it was you needed to know. You will learn from grief and one day you may even be wiser, but the lessons learned and the wisdom gained are hard won and costly beyond words. Let your family and friends carry some of the weight of your loss.  Eventually, you will regain the ability to appreciate the love that still exists in your life, which includes the love you will always have for the child you have lost, alongside the love of the family and friends who stand next to you.  If you’re a relative or friend of someone who has suffered the loss of a child, the greatest service you can do is to listen. Don’t judge, don’t edit and don’t try to fix things. You can’t.  You can however let them know they are being heard.

We share something, you and I.  We belong to an exclusive club we never asked to join.  To qualify for membership, you have to have suffered the unimaginable loss of a child.  At the beginning, surviving the rite of initiation into this club feels improbable, if not impossible.  We have been blinded by our loss.  In trying to understand why life that is so lovingly given to us is at times so cruelly taken away, we ask questions that can’t be answered, not in this lifetime.  When we stop asking and start listening, we can begin to see.  It’s not about finding answers; it’s about believing and having faith. Even so, as time passes, we still struggle to accept that when the phone rings, our son won’t be on the other end, or when a car pulls up in front of the house, he won’t be getting out.  He won’t be sharing his wit, his wisdom, his energy, his enthusiasm, his love or his light.  Or will he?

My resolve is to take a leap of faith, believing without benefit of proof and learning to see with my soul and listen with my heart. So, I talk to my son and he hears, I smile at him and he sees, I believe in him and he knows. He’s always been gifted.

 

 

 

There are names given to people left behind after a death.  A wife who loses her husband is called a widow.  A husband who loses his wife is called a widower.  A child who loses his parents is called an orphan.  But there’s no word for a parent who loses a child.

 

 

 

We all experience loss during our lifetime, no one is spared. However, the loss you can reasonably anticipate, like the death of an aged parent, although heart-breaking, falls within the realm of what most of us would consider to be the natural order of life. A parent’s death severs a life-long connection to the person who first gave you unconditional love, the person who created a refuge where innocence could unfold into wisdom, the person who gave you legs to stand on and wings to fly.  I thought my heart would break when my parents passed.  But parents die before their children. You always knew it would be so.  

It’s said that when a parent dies you lose your past, but when a child dies, you lose your future.  The future you always envisioned revolved around your child being alive and well, laughing, loving, learning, growing up and growing old.  But that future is never to be.  It died along with your child.

I still walk the grieving path, maybe slightly ahead of you or maybe slightly behind, even so I can’t say that I know how you feel.  Every experience is as unique as the life that was lost and the family left behind to mourn.  If you are willing to walk through your grief, one day you will walk beyond it.  The loss of your child will remain at the core of your being, ever present, ever felt, ever known, ever more.  But in time, as your perspective evolves, you can begin to embrace the memories of your child’s life with less grief and more love.  Getting there takes time, but I can offer you hope.  One day you will awaken to see that the veil of grief has parted, ever so slightly, and reveals just a hint of desire to more fully inhabit the life you now own.  Just keep breathing and keep walking. Take a step, then take another and another...

When all is said and done, I hope to leave you with hope...
Hope for eventual healing,
Hope for the ability to step back into your life with renewed purpose and joy, and,
Hope for staying connected to your child in a real and loving way.
If successful, we will have given you tools you can use as you take this journey on the grieving path, the hardest journey a parent can take.


 

By telling our stories and sharing our loss, it is my belief we will all feel a sense of recognition, acceptance and validation for what we are going through now, or in days past or in days yet to come. Some experiences are universal, even when the details are not. 

I’ll begin by telling you the story of my son’s death.

Mason had recently moved to Houston from Austin and had not yet chosen a local primary care physician or dentist. When a crown became loose, he chose a dentist close to his home and made an appointment to be seen a few days later. What should have been a quick procedure to reattach the crown, became a lengthy and costly one when the dentist unwisely decided to do full-mouth debridement during the same visit. With that decision, Mason’s death was set into motion. The bacteria that had accumulated under the crown while loose was forcefully introduced into his bloodstream and caused the following devastating, life-threatening conditions that eventually cost him his life; gram negative sepsis, Lemierre’s Syndrome, liver failure, kidney failure, fusobacterium endocarditis, ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and stroke.  Mason spent three weeks in one of the best hospitals in the country, intubated, sedated, paralyzed and fighting for his life.  He passed shortly before his 35th birthday without ever regaining consciousness. Our son had been healthy and happy, full of love and life, with his future spread before him like a feast. Or so it had seemed.

Take a young man, in the prime of his life, add a poorly-timed procedure, likely motivated by greed, and the result is his death. Where do we go from here? What do we do with the anger? What do we do with the hurt? How do we live with the loss?

We begin by taking the first step on the grieving path.

 

 

Surviving the Challenges of the First Year:

 
 

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