Losing a Child---Watching My Parents Bear it

I am not sure that this post will be helpful to anyone, or if it will just kind of be some words occurring to me this morning.


When I was 19, just a few months shy of 20, my brother was killed in a single car accident. He and his friend, Jay, were on there way home from having 2 AM breakfast...sigh, boys. They had spent the day on the river, partying, drinking beer, and --I am sure-- smoking pot. Yep. My brother and his friends....


At just past 2 AM, I sat up in my bed, feeling desperate....I heard the crunch of gravel, the slow drive of a hesitant car coming down the driveway to my parents' country home. I heard a door slam, then a second. I sat, nearly holding my breath. I heard the knock on the door. My parents discussing who would get up to get the door....no realization yet, the pain was so deep, so grievous.


I heard the voice of the policeman. My mother's wailing, instead, hurt, deep wailing, like a bird that has just begun to dive squarely into the ground. It was the most painful moment.


Over the next year, everyone was numb. There is no other way to describe it. My sister and I were nearly invisible. It was all about my brother. The tears, the time, the items bought for his grave, the sadness, the absence of my parents. We were grieving as deeply as our parents, and there was no relief. No counselling, no physical contact, no special dinners, no birthday, no joy. It was the hardest time. It was 1979, just on the crest of the 80's. Journey, Van Halen, Heart. It was big hair, bright colors, colors of Benneton. It took me nearly the full decade to come to resolution. It took a solid six years for my live to even begin to resolve.

My parents....just barely begin to heal when disaster struck. Well, it had been striking already. Their marriage was shot. They divorced, and Mom became alcoholic. I watched her suffer so tremendously....she would drink, and cry. Drink and mourn. Drink and scream my brother's and my father's names. Drink, and get dropped off at my apartment. As a 20-something, this was nearly--but not quite--unbearable. I held down a good job, and tried so hard to just keep talking to Mom.

In 1983, my father was very critically injured in an accident of his own. To a large degree, his accident put both my stepmother and him in an early grave. In fact, he just died....May 2012.  Mom died October 8th 2011. That stepmother I just mentioned died January 13th 2005.....


I think that losing a child is the hardest thing in the world for parents...my father and I talked about my beloved brother some....but words were never enough. We would go there in language, and just fall silent...and feel it. Then move on. Mom suffered every day of her life, missing my brother...October 2nd of this year, I sat at her feet, looking up at her, and she mentioned that she was hurting to remember my brother, whose birthday was October 4th, 1960. Ten days later, Mom was gone...and I have had the most beautiful images of her with him.


It's been a rough year, losing my parents. Imagine, as the remaining child (I don't count my sister much, as she lives states away and has always been removed), having to sift through all of my brother's memorobilia. The jackets, the car toys, the keys, the boy scout caps, the photos, the little baby toys, the photo albums, the football jersey. Let me tell you, people, it has been a very hard time, having to look at those items that were my brother, and having to let some of them go.


My advice for parents who lose a child, as the child of parents who lost a child....

1. Don't drink or use drugs, unless you need anti depressants or sedatives for a short period of time. I watched my mother just sink.

2. Remember your remaining children, and pull them in with love. Thank God my parents remembered that my sister and I still existed.

3. Get as physically healthy as you can, even if you must do it through your terrible, numb pain. You must cross this terrible River Styx and come back...it is not your time.

4. Develop rituals that give you pleasure, even if they are a bit unusual....It is okay to see a medium if it helps you. It is okay to go to the cemetary for an hour a day. Don't let anyone tell you what is not okay to do.

5. Remember that each one of us has our own time....It is a terrible burden to lose your child when it is "his" or her time, but it is as inevitable as birth and love. And man, it just isn't right, fair, good, or anything positive. It is a burden for you, especially for you parents. I hurt to see your beautiful photos....


Love, Namaste, Peace---and I am here with you.





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Comment by Frank Andrews on December 7, 2012 at 9:39am


 Very touching and informative blog. You write as though you have been a counselor at some time. My brother is a retired high school guidance counselor and he has not given me the right support or guidance about my grieving that you give.  Of course, losing a child is so different from losing your parents or a long term spouse but the grieving process affects all of us in different ways. As you note, some turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of loss. I know some who have thrown away their entire lives because of this way of grieving.  Right now, I do not want to live a long life without her and would not mind if God called me in my sleep any day now. Like my wife and most people I do not want medical procedures, hospitals, medical costs, nursing homes, etc. You have worked your way through your grief and have found time to help others and I am happy both happened.

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