I Am A Grieving Parent
I am a grieving parent. My child died nearly 17 years ago. Most people would expect all the unfinished business and emotion surrounding her death would have long since resolved itself and been settled. They would be wrong. I have learned through experience the assumptions of others who have not experienced this loss regarding the life span of my grief are often the opposite of my reality.
One of the biggest misconceptions from those fortunate others about people like me who have not had this loss is that we “should” be working toward being healed. They tend to think of grief as an outcome-based process with benchmarks we “should” achieve. Their expectations for us about the steps and stages we must got through on their timetable cause many of us to withdraw or cease communicating about our loss.
Advice given to me about my grief from those who haven’t experienced both the incredible high of witnessing their child’s first breath, and the unimaginable low of knowing their child has taken their last breath holds little significance to me. Frankly, I am happy those who speak in ignorance don’t have to live this experience and I am also a bit jealous of them as well.
Most people walking in my shoes end up making peace with the world of fortunate others who will never “get it.” In my early years of grief, I would often confront insensitive comments or try to educate every pompous intellect who had an opinion about my grief journey. Today, I rarely waste my energy, it is no longer a good use of my time.
Instead of trying to inform those misinformed folks who really weren’t open to my lecturing, I shifted my energy toward being compassionate and kind to all in honor of Ashley. I can’t tell you how much better I felt once I removed myself from this verbal combat zone where I was always hyper sensitive and on guard for the next “stupid” thing someone would say.
It was in this process where I realized something which has served me quite well over the years. People tend to understand grief and loss to the level they have experienced it. We can’t expect people to know what they have not experienced. I soon began to chuckle inside at some of the ridiculous things people would say in their ignorance. One example I give to woman in my workshops on this topic is the next time someone tries to tell them how they should grieve, imagine me standing in front of them trying to explain what it feels like to give birth to a child … this always brings a laugh.
I live with the loss of Ashley every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My love for her is forever woven into the fabric of this new life I live since her death. Ashley’s life sent my life on a trajectory in which I expected to live my lifetime with her in it. Her death changed that trajectory, but that does not change the fact that I will still live the rest of my life with her in it. I am her hands, her voice, her feet. My compassion and kindness reflect the love that lives on in my heart. I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing, and that keeps me deeply connected to her.
I am a bereaved parent, but I am alive and well. I do not need you to understand how or why I grieve so loudly after 17 years. It is my journey; my choice and I am blessed to dedicate my life to advocating for all who walk this difficult path. No, I am not healed and no, I am not over it. And because I am not healed or over it, my life is both manageable and beautiful. Ashley’s life and death have shaped and colored my world in ways I could have never imagined. It is all bittersweet. I accept that, I embrace that, I am a bereaved parent, this is what we do.
© 2018 by Alan Pedersen
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