July 9th will mark three years since my beautiful daughter Joran went to be with the Lord.
This month I was able to let go of most of her things that I had put away stored in a closet. Her bright colored high top Pastry shoes (which were her signature style) and Victoria Secret t-shirts; I donated to my church thrift store. I held back on donating Joran’s Hagan Road Elementary School staff t-shirts. It’s not easy to let go of a part of your child that made them unique.
This is what I have learned about Grief after losing a child.
- The grief and pain never go away, because the love you have for your child does not go away, but you will get stronger to be able to deal with the pain.
- Grief is the price you pay for loving someone so much.
- Grief is love not having anywhere to go.
- Grief is about the depth of the relationship that you had with a child or the person you lost. The closer you were to the child and the deeper the relationship at the time of the loss the deeper the pain and emptiness.
- Grief comes in waves. You will have good days and bad days, eventually, the good days will outnumber the bad days.
- When you lose your parents you’re an orphan, when you lose a spouse you’re a widow or widower but when you lose a child there is no word for it because It’s an out of order death, parents are not supposed to outlive their children.
I lost my brother who was my best friend, my dad, my sister and most recently my mother, and I grieve for them and miss them but even those losses combined do not compare to losing my child.
Some Do’s and Don’ts if you have a friend or family member who’s lost a child;
- When you lose your brother, sister or parent; don’t tell a parent that you know how they feel when they lose a child.
- Don’t ask how their child died; as much as you want to know, if they want you to know and they are ready to share it, they will tell you.
- Don’t tell them that God needed another angel. Or that their child is in a better place. Heaven doesn’t need any more angels and parents feel that the best place for their child is with them.
- Don’t tell them how to grieve or how not to grieve, or judge them and tell them that they should be over it until you have lost a child you are not in a position to know what it feels like. What is right for you may not be right for them.
- Don’t be afraid to mention their child’s name and any good things or memories you remember about their child. A parent wants to talk about their child and remember the good memories.
- Do call once in a while to see how they are doing and let them know you are thinking of them and praying for them.
- Do See if they are ready to get out for lunch, go to a get-together or see a movie etc.… If they are not ready yet don’t give up on them.
- Do listen to them when they are ready to talk, no need to say anything. There is nothing you can say that will make the pain go away. Give hugs instead.
- Do be gentle and forgiving of us. As a parent who has lost a child, we are just trying to survive day to day.
- Do allow them to shed a few tears; it is healthy for them to let them out. Tell them you’re sorry for their loss and give them a hug.
I was Listening to a pastor speak on Moody radio about his conversation with his wife after losing their child. He said he was told that after the funeral that everyone will leave within six weeks you will be alone and most people will move on and forget about you. He said it only took four weeks for that to happen, and you will be lucky if one or two people will stick by you through the grief.
My husband says he doesn’t think I will ever be the same, that I’m not the same person I once was. He’s right I’m not, I would only be the same if I could have my daughter back. Grieving can also be very stressful on a marriage and family relationships (more on this in an upcoming post).
Grief is isolating. You have a hard time being around people and act like you are happy when you are not, and they have a hard time being around you. When I first went to the grocery store I notice my neighbors would go the opposite way so as not to run into me. Finally one day I decided to stand in front of one neighbor when she was not looking. When she looked up and saw me I told her that it was okay that I understood it was hard for people because they don’t know what to say, that just saying I’m sorry for your loss and a hug is all that is needed. She said she was so sorry and it was true and then gave me a hug. Show mercy and grace to others as they don’t know what to do.
I found that during the presidential election people were so passionate about their political party and their candidate that they will unfriend you if they think you are not in agreement with their political beliefs.
The same thing can happen after you lose a child. A mother I know who lost her son had her only “friend” say to her to call her after she was through grieving. She told her that she would never be through grieving so she would not be calling her again. Most people are not that cruel, heartless and blunt to say something like that. They may not even realize that they have cut you out of their life and why they are avoiding you but believe me it has the same effect and impact.
When you have a disabled child people may secretly feel it was a blessing that they died. How do I know? My mother told me so. Believe me that any parent of a disabled child will tell you that their child is special and adds so much love and joy to their lives. My daughter had such a great sense of humor and we fun and laughed every day. I will miss that bond and our relationship every day and will the rest of my life until I see her again in heaven.
After my daughter accident, my home was filled with caregivers, family, friends, neighbors and church members and pastors. After Joran died there was no one there and even my cats who grieved for her died also. The house was just filled with sadness and emptiness.
And being a caregiver of a small child, special needs child or adult is the worst kind of loss because you not only lose your child but you have now lost your daily routine, your job and your propose for living, along with daily love, hugs, and kisses.
Every grieving parent I have spoken to goes through the “I wish I had”, “I should have”, and “why didn’t I”? I wish I had not let her/him take the car or I should have talked to her/him that day, I should have done this or I should said that, why didn’t I see this coming?….I know also that “the would have”, ” should haves” guilt and shame can kill you. I saw it with a friend who lost her only daughter and then died three months later of a broken heart. Don’t let this happen to you.
When the inner me or the enemy is attacking you, know that this is not from God. Don’t let the enemy occupy your mind instead turn it over to God; lay down the “whys” at the feet of Jesus.
After hearing of the celebrities in the news that had committed suicide, I thought why? They had so much to live for and amazing lives and they have money and fame that most of us don’t have. I thought what do I have that maybe they didn’t? The only thing I have that maybe they didn’t is my faith to sustain me. Money and fame do not buy happiness, and the most important thing in life is relationships and our most important one is with Jesus Christ.
It’s not that I have not thought of suicide or that I am stronger than they were. In the beginning, all I wanted to do was to be with my daughter I heaven. I feel I’m still here for a reason that God still has a purpose for me to fulfill. On the bad days when I feel I can’t take it anymore, I pray to God for strength to just get through the day. I also have Godly friends to talk to and they strengthen me with Gods word and prayer.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me Strength”. Philippians 4:13
If you don’t have at least one trusted friend to turn to when you are feeling that you can’t take it anymore please call the Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK.
I know I need to be an example to my living Daughter and grieve in a healthy way and try to find joy in life again or she may not be able to find joy and happiness for herself (more on healthy grieving in an upcoming post).
If you are reading this because you are grieving I hope and pray for comfort and peace and for you to be surrounded by Gods love and kindness.
If you are reading this because you know someone that is grieving I hope this will give you wisdom and understanding to help them at this difficult time.
I would love to hear your comments on what you learned through the process of grieving.
Katheryn De Wolfe-Walker took care of her daughter Joran after a traumatic brain injury for almost six years before her death in 2015. Katheryn is a blogger, designer, photographer and artist, living in Lake Worth Florida and practices healthy green design and barrier-free handicapped design. She is the author of a book Nutritional and Spiritual Healing for the Brain, to help other families through the maze of healing after a brain injury. Call 561-364-0074 for more information.
Or follow on Facebook at praying for you @ hopeforjoran