We had our last bereavement group of the season last week. The group is ever-changing, but there has existed a core of 4 familes for a few months now. There is a kinship there that I've not achieved anywhere else. We all know. We all get it. Our children were different ages, different sexes, died of different causes, but the shared experience gives us an instant understanding of one another that few others will ever have.
Last week our moderator asked us to reflect on how we have changed, what we have learned, from our experience as a bereaved parent. There were several things mentioned, and much overlap as expected. These stood out for me:
1. We see the world differently now. Not better than we did before, but differently. We feel more now. When I used to read a news story about a tragedy, whether a child lost or a natural disaster, it was a news story. A bit of pity flashed in my brain, and was gone. Now I feel it. The tsunami, Japan's earthquake, the local teen who died of a seizure in the bath tub...those things hit me in a way they never did before.
2. Grief is what it is. You can't control it. You can't outrun it. You can't out-think it. My mind spent a lot of time trying to find a way to get away from grief. Nothing worked. Knowing this doesn't make it easier to deal with grief. I guess that's the lesson. Nothing does. It is what it is.
3. Finally, what I'm still struggling to learn: life goes on. Not his life, but everyone else's. And I need to make a decision every single day on how to deal with that. As one father put it, "My other children are still growing up." We didn't get the choice on whether or not our children would die, but we are blessed with having other amazing, vibrant children to love the rest of our lives. I cry that Henry never got to go to school, but I will go this week with my middling on her field trip. I don't want to miss out twice. And I don't want her to miss out on having a present mom.
Being a bereaved parent hasn't made me a better person, but I'm different than I was.