I remember the night of Dominic’s visitation-a few of us, including our pastor were there early and prayed together for strength and for God’s Presence.
In that circle of loving friends and family I was overcome with the need to kneel. My body had to acknowledge the fact that my heart was humbled as it never had been before. I was in the dust and ashes were my food.
What could be worse?
But in the days and weeks and months that followed, as the fog of disbelief lifted and the reality of pain, sorrow and missing became undeniable, it did get worse. Part of the “worse” was a sense of shame.
A sense that I should have been able to protect my son, keep him safe, make sure he lived-but I couldn’t.
The pain of child loss is often accompanied by shame:
Shame that I couldn’t save my child. Shame of suicide, addiction, being in the wrong place, with the wrong people at the wrong time. Texting while driving. Not wearing a seat belt. The shame of missing something. The shame of waiting to intervene. The shame of pushing too hard.
The shame of just not being there when it happened.
The list is endless…
Often that shame keeps bereaved parents from reaching out, imprisons them in their own minds and sometimes in their own homes.
But it shouldn’t be that way.
Child loss is a tragedy, not punishment.
It highlights the fact that I am not in control-and neither are you. It happens even when a parent or a child does “everything right”. And some kids survive to old age even when they have done “everything wrong”.
Shame tells me that I am unworthy of love and unworthy of belonging.
And that is a lie.
It “erodes our courage and fuels disengagement” (Brene Brown) If I allow shame to overwhelm my heart it drives me away from the very help I need to make it through this awful Valley.
I have to shake it off.
I have to refuse it’s cold creep into my soul, toss it out and bar the door so that it can’t come back inside. I will name it and drag it from hiding for others to see.
It cannot survive the light of day.
There is NO shame in burying a child.