The death of a child changes every facet of the parent’s life. Nothing remains unaffected. The very essence of who I am has changed; my previous self no longer exists.
No two child-loss grief journeys are the same, but we travel similar roads. We share many of the mile markers, potholes, and rough sections. Others who insist on keeping their same patterns of interactions should not make our journey more difficult. We should not have to handle additional bumps on our road, so you can continue to do the same easy things that make you feel good about yourself. While this education is not a focus of my blog, I find it important to help others understand.
Holidays are a common difficulty for grievers that others tend to not consider. For example, I do not celebrate Father’s Day. Thanksgiving is difficult, and Christmas is a complex mess of emotions. Another griever may have a different set of tough days and the point is to be very gentle with a griever on holidays and other milestones until you are told otherwise by the griever.
Before losing children, we regarded Mother’s and Father’s Day as only a greeting card holiday. They catered to those who do not appreciate people in their life enough throughout the year. Then, as we struggled with infertility, these days became more difficult. The emphasis placed on them, especially at church, became too much. When Caleb died, his memorial was on the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend and thus crushing any remaining reason I wanted to celebrate.
When I polled other child loss grievers, they all had similar reasons for not wanting to celebrate certain days. Some of them fake a smile so those around are unaware, but that’s no excuse for people to not try to be gentler. For example, maybe send a kind, encouraging note to me instead of a “Happy Father’s Day” message. On the flip side, I would appreciate your understanding I am not making a mandatory statement. Do what you think best, but please consider if you are sure the person is okay with your approach or just politely dealing with the hurt in quiet.
Whatever you do, don’t tell the griever they are doing their journey wrong, but instead be thankful you do not know their painful road.