How do you speak of the unspeakable?
How do you constrain the earth-shattering reality of child loss to a few syllables?
How do you SAY what must be said?
I remember the first hour after the news. I had to make phone calls. Had to confirm my son’s identity and let family know what had happened.
I used the only words I had at the time, “I have to tell you something terrible. Dominic is dead.”
Over, and over, and over.
Until others could pick up the chant and spread it to the ends of the earth.
And then silence.
Such a deep wound requires silence. Because there are no words for the ache inside a mother’s heart, the pain that burrows into her bones, the sorrow that sucks the breath from her body.
It was some months before I found a community of bereaved parents who began to give me a vocabulary for my experience.
And it was more than helpful, it was liberating!
As I began to speak aloud what was hidden inside, it broke chains I didn’t realize held me hostage.
As long as my feelings are secret, they trap my heart and mind in an endless cycle of regret, fear, sorrow, pain and anxiety. When I speak them aloud, I can recognize them and fight them and overpower them. And when I share them, I find that I am not alone.
Others come alongside and say, “Me too!” Validation makes me stronger. Understanding makes me brave.
I hate the fact that my son is dead.
I hate the pain that his death has inflicted on me and on my family.
There are days I wish I could run away and hide, that I could pretend this never happened, that I could undo the broken that permeates my life.
But I can’t.
There’s no way through but through. I have to face the awful truth, I have to consider the ways it is changing me and remaking who I am.
I need words to process the pain because that’s how I can disarm its power over me.
It’s tempting to try to ignore the hard parts of our stories thinking that we are getting away from them.
But we aren’t.
The harder the season, the more profound the wound or bitter the struggle the more time it takes to process.
The first step is learning the words and finding community in which to speak them.
Here are links to three online communities for bereaved parents:
While We’re Waiting-Support for Bereaved Parents
Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child
TCF-Loss of a Child (The Compassionate Friends)
If you have lost a child and are looking for a place to learn the language of grief and loss, a safe space to share your pain with others who understand it, see if one of these groups might be the place for you.