Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Grieving Parents Hold On To Memories Of Lost Child

March 17, 2003

I am telling a sacred story, the story of parents who endure one of life's greatest tragedies - the death of a child. This story is best told by using the words of parents who have been down that awful path.

Helpful responses from others. "I wanted people to come over and talk about my feelings."

"My friend would say the 'wrong' things sometime but they were right because she really cared. Someone close to me said all the 'right' things but it didn't matter because the caring wasn't there."

"The people who have had experiences with death are really nice. We'd get together and cry. Some people don't have one ounce of sensitivity. One woman spent the whole time telling me about her kids. I didn't want to hear what they were doing."

"When comments were made with the intent to soothe, the words didn't matter. We took it for the intent."

"One of the nicest things that happened was the response of the community. The house was full for five days. They showed they really cared. The cards meant a lot. Especially the ones where people took the time to write notes about our son."

"It made me feel like I wasn't all alone. I like to think that other people miss him. It takes the hurt away from me: I like comments about him. It is nice to know that somebody else loved him too and misses him. When someone shares with me their hurt, it makes me feel better."

"I am glad when other people mention him. The elderly and the young weren't afraid."

"We appreciated the cards and notes from complete strangers. That made us feel good."

What is not helpful. "People don't want us to be sad so they don't bring it up. Just a comment or so would help. I don't want it hushed up. I made it a point to mention him. I don't want to pretend he didn't exist."

"One woman close to me didn't say a word. She never called. We appreciated any sincere thing that was said. Anybody can do that."

"People would say 'We should be over it.' They want things to be back to normal. What a bunch of crap. We don't have 'normal' anymore. Let us cry! We remember the people who cried with us. Let us talk. Let us talk about our child, our feelings."

"My relatives stopped talking about it. They kind of gloss it over. They could mention it. They don't know how to talk about it."

"When perfect strangers ask, 'How many children are there in your family?' I don't like to say two. We have three children because we do. I don't want to stop and explain myself to them or play upon their sympathies. Part of the family is not with us. I am not sure myself what to answer."

"If I mention my son died, ask me questions. Don't let there be dead silence."

"The first time I didn't mention my son, I felt disloyal. I looked at my husband and I hoped he'd understand. I didn't forget. I just didn't want to explain it to strangers, that's all."

Keeping the memories alive. "I had to tell somebody through my poems. I typed them up and gave them to relatives."

"He was a great person. Everybody loved him. There was nobody like him."

"I wanted things (the funeral) just so. It meant a lot to me. The little things had to be right. I had to have the right songs."

"I was blessed with a gift of composure and power to honor him. It had to be done. It was so important to talk about his life - so essential."

Writing is necessary. It is not easy. I am glad for the pictures and our journal entries. It is very comforting. We don't want to change the past. We want to remember his songs and expressions."

Missing their child. "What I remember was that little boy I hugged and held on to. The other children are growing away. There are no more hugs and kisses. It is normal for them. I needed more of that. He was my little boy. The others think they are all grown up. They don't need their mother anymore. It hurt. You never forget the one you lost. It would be nice to have a new one to cuddle and love."

"I had a burning desire to have a baby. To hold it in my arms. To have a little child I could raise myself. Not to replace the son I lost but to fill an emptiness, fill that void. I remember his preschool years."

"I watch his classmates grow. I'm losing touch with him. I don't know what he looks like anymore. He is growing vague. I can't see him as a teenager. He is not as real. I don't like that."

"I miss his friends. Now they are strangers."

"I miss not seeing him grow."

"He would have been good (a basketball player)."

"We won’t forget."