to help bereaved parents?
So sometimes I get inquiries from well-meaning care givers, family, or friends of bereaved families who are living after the death of a child. They will pose questions to me about what to do as time passes. They want to know how to help these families after 4 or 10 or 20 years have passed since the date of the child's death. They say things like, "Shouldn't they be over this by now?" or "Why do we need to do anything special when this should be behind them by now?" Or sometimes they are actually of a more sensitive nature and really do realize that they should do something, but they honestly cannot think of what to do.
This article is my answer to all of you. My son died four years ago this month. While I am a "highly functioning" individual, this month still sucked and I still miss my kid. And the people in my life did *AMAZING* things to offer support to me and my husband. So I'm going to let this article serve as a model for all of you -- and function as a memorial to my son. The following are precious gems that we were given this month in honor of our son's life, death, memory. You, too, could do something just like this to offer comfort to a family you know who is enduring the rest of their lives without one of their children.
Snail mail gifts
Kota CD primped up - a collection of songs that other bereaved parents put together to showcase music that functions as "memorial" or "comfort" in the hard times. We got an extra copy of it in the mail from a family who made fancy labels for the cd, the jewel case, and just wanted to make it specific for Dakota's birthday.
Grief beads - handmade, stunning piece of art, made of the tiniest beads I've ever seen. The delicate nature of the beads is to represent all our tiny children who are dead, but remembered everyday. It is a beautiful piece of art that I can keep in my pocket!
Signed, framed print of
an angel by Nancy Noel -
this amazing print holds
an image of what I dream
my son would have looked
like at four years old,
and yet holds the reality
that he is gone. It is a
beautiful painting that
brings me comfort and acknowledges
all we've lost. Check it
A handmade bracelet of letter beads spelling out "Dakota" - this a wonderful little beaded bracelet, sort of like what we might have received if Dakota had lived. It's an amazing gift that lets me carry his name with me!
A hand written note saying our parenthood and our son is remembered - we got several notes from friends and family telling us that they remembered our son and that they were holding us in their thoughts and prayers this month. Most appreciated!
Graphics from a friend for our website - a talented friend sent us these graphics:
Award for our site - we were honored to get this award for our website and loss support work:
We also got many, many e-postcards with wonderful notes and beautiful pictures from lots of other bereaved parents, from family, from friends, from other loss support advocates around the world. We are so grateful for their kind words, thoughts, and prayers. Some of the letters were written to me and my husband, some were written directly to Dakota. I'm going to share the following emails as a sample of what support can look like if you REALLY WANT TO SUPPORT BEREAVED PARENTS! For the sake of privacy, I have left off the names of those who sent these to us.
Kara and Hawk,
(((Hawk and Kara))))
My thoughts are with you today on Dakota's 4th birthday! Many hugs to you both!!!
You and Dakota have been on my mind all day. Even when I was dealing with my own stuff, my mind always wandered back to you.
Lastly, both my mother and my step-daughter wrote poetry for Kota for his fourth birthday. My mom's poetry is in this issue under the article titled "Two for Kota from Nanna-Memoo" and I hope you'll click through and read her loving poems written for her grandson there. And then, the following is the poem my step-daughter, Bethany Jones, wrote for her little brother:
Can you see that it is not hard to help bereaved families as time passes? It is simple. It is an honest consideration for the fact that these people will live the rest of their lives without their children. It is an honest acknowledgement of their stunted parenthood. It has nothing to do with your inability to deal with your own mortality or the mortality of your own children. It has everything to do with getting beyond yourself to offer the bereaved parent some honest support. If you make the effort to get past yourself -- it is likely that the bereaved parent will see that and appreciate it and make every effort to get past their grief to acknowledge your life, too. It is called respect. It's called CO-EXISTANCE! It shows that their grief does not cancel out your children and life BUT your children and life do NOT cancel out their children and lives either.
You can try this or you can lose those bereaved parents all together -- because you know what? Bereaved parents have lost so much already that they will not have much difficulty in just cutting off from family, friends, and care givers who will not accept them as they are, where they are, and how they continue to miss their children over time. Your children come first, right? Why shouldn't their love for their children come first, too? Honoring the love and memory of their children will always mean more than putting up with well-meaning family, friends, and care givers who are determined to make them "get over it" or "move on" or "heal" in ways that will leave their children forgotten.
I offer this as one woman's perspective.
I offer this as a way for you to do something effective to keep bereaved parents invovled in life, to help them find ways of offering support back to the world at large, while honoring their parenthood even after the deaths of their children.
THIS KIND OF RESPECT IS THE LEAST WE COULD TRY TO OFFER EACH OTHER IN THIS TIME OF WAR WHEN THE US GOVT IS SENSELESSLY KILLING EVEN MORE OF OUR CHILDREN, THE BRITISH CHILDREN, AND THE IRAQI CHILDREN. Maybe with a little respect, we can stop killing each other, stop judging each other, stop causing hurt and pain.
Just two cents worth from a mother who is living the rest of her life without her child.