I belong to several online bereaved parents’ groups and they are truly a lifeline in so many ways.
I can speak my mind there without fear of rejection or correction or of hurting my non-bereaved friends and family. I learn from other parents farther along in this journey how they cope with birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and every day grief triggers.
Sadly, there are new members added daily. New parents are forced to join this “club” where the dues are higher than anyone would willingly pay.
I am horrified by how quickly the numbers jump week-to-week and month-to-month.
And usually the parent (when they are ready) will share a bit about the child that has run ahead and the circumstances of his or her death. It’s an important part of learning to live with this pain-learning to speak your story.
But when too many of the seasoned parents are silent and my newsfeed explodes with stories of newly bereaved parents, my heart can easily be ovewhelmed by the desperation, sadness and utter despair that swamps a parent’s heart when they first find out their child is not coming home again.
Then the sites turn into echo chambers where sadness calls to sadness, circles back around and calls again. Despair is everywhere and there appears no way forward.
Bitterness weaves a black thread through post after post after post:
No one understands,
everyone has abandoned me,
I am unloved, alone and hopeless.
That’s precisely how I felt in those early months and it is an appropriate response to the awful devastation of out-of-order death.
But if I’m to survive this life I didn’t choose, then I’ve got to also have a healthy dose of hope.
So I limit my exposure to the echo chamber from time to time, especially if I’m feeling weak and vulnerable. I might take a week’s break to let my heart recover a bit and then go back with fresh vigor, ready to participate, encourage others and be encouraged.
Life after child loss is a marathon, not a sprint.
I have to pace myself if I’m going to make it to the finish line.
Sometimes that means taking a break and sitting on the sidelines.