by Rod & Mary Cassidy
8 Things the Loss of Our Daughter Has Taught Us!
There will never come a day, hour, minute or second we stop loving or thinking about our daughter. Just as parents of living children unconditionally love their children always and forever, so do bereaved parents. We want to say and hear her name just the same as non-bereaved parents do. We want to speak about our deceased child as normally and naturally as you speak of your living ones.
We’ve noticed in our culture, that people become uncomfortable since they don’t have an answer, it’s not something they can fix. Thus, they would rather withdraw and not talk about it.
How to Relate: Do not avoid those who are grieving if you meet them in the grocery store, at church or wherever. Do not let your uncomfortableness hold you back from comforting a grieving parent. Be present and allow the grieving parent to know you are there for them. You don’t have to have ‘an answer’ to fix the situation; just listen to them, minister to them.
We love our child just as much as you love yours—the only difference is ours is resting in the grave until resurrection. We’ve noticed that our culture is not so supportive about hearing of children gone too soon. But that doesn’t stop us from referring to our daughter’s name and sharing her love and light everywhere we go. Just because it might make you uncomfortable, doesn’t make our situation any less. Our daughter’s mortal life was cut irreversibly short, but her legacy of love lives forever and ever, for this type of love cannot die.
2) Bereaved parents share an unspeakable bond.
In the time (12 months) we’ve been bereaved parents, we are continually struck by the power of the bond between bereaved parents. Strangers become kindreds in mere seconds—a look, a glance a knowing of the heart connects us, even if we’ve never met before. No matter our circumstances, who we are, or how different we are, initially there is no bond connection like that of parents who understand the agony of enduring the death of a child. It’s a pain we suffer for a lifetime, and unfortunately only those who have walked the path of child loss understand the depth and breadth of both the pain and the love we carry.
3) I will grieve for a lifetime.
Period. The end. There is no “moving on,” or “getting over it.” There is no fix and no solution to our heartache. There is no end to the ways we will grieve and for how long we will grieve. There is no glue for our broken heart in this life. There is no escaping the painful emotions daily we experience. There is no going back in time. For as long as we breathe, we will grieve and ache and love our daughter with all our hearts and soul. There will never come a time where we will not think about our daughter, how she would have lived her life or the impact on others she would have made. Oh how we wish people could understand that grief, especially from an untimely death that lasts for a whole lifetime. The loss of a child is not one finite event; it is a continuous loss that unfolds minute by minute over the course of a lifetime. Every missed birthday, holiday, milestone—graduations; weddings that will never be; grandchildren that should have been but will never be born—an entire generation of people are irrevocably altered forever.
How to Relate: Though the above sentiments are reality in this life; yet through our grieving process now, we are assured of the presence of Christ with us who has experienced this already. However, one should never be insensitive and awkwardly state things such as “everything happens for a reason” or “she is in a better place”, or "You're lucky to have other children”.
“No one knows how to react so they come up with these meaningless platitudes that are either dishonest, untrue or express statements in a flippant manner regarding consolation. The silence of people not mentioning her late daughter’s or son’s name, can be deafening. With most people it’s their own discomfort that stops people from talking about them.”
This is why grief last all during this lifetime. It seems as though the bleeding never stops. How can it until we are reunited with our loved ones again?
4) It’s an “Unwelcomed Privilege” to be a prisoner of grief.
This unwelcomed experience of losing a child is one we never leave, yet it has granted us access into meeting some of the most shining souls we could ever know. And yet we all wish we could jump ship—that we could have met another way—any other way but this. Alas, these shining souls are some of the most beautiful, compassionate, loving, individuals we’ve ever had the honor of knowing. They are life—changers, relentless survivors and thrivers. Warrior moms and dads who redefine the word brave.
Every day parents of loss move mountains in honor of their children gone too soon. They start movements, change laws, spear head crusades of tireless activism. Why? In the hope that even just one parent could be spared from joining the ranks of this ‘unwelcomed experience’. If you’ve ever wondered who some of the greatest world changers are, get acquainted with a few bereaved parents and watch how they live, see what they do in a day, a week, a lifetime. Watch how they alchemize their grief into a force to be reckoned with, watch how they turn tragedy into transformation, loss into legacy.
Through this “unwelcomed privilege” of the loss of our child, we are greatly blessed in that we can enter the suffering of others and taste a bit more of the suffering of Christ for each of us, in this life.
5) The empty chair/room/space never becomes less empty.
Empty chair, empty room, and empty space in every family picture. Empty, vacant, forever gone for this lifetime. Empty spaces that should be full, everywhere we go. There is and will always be in this life a missing space in our lives, our families, a hole-in-our-hearts. Time does not make the space less empty. Neither do platitudes, clichés or well-wishes for us to “move on,” or “stop dwelling,” from well- intentioned friends or family. Nothing does. No matter how you look at it, empty is still empty. Missing is still missing. Gone is still gone. The problem is nothing can fill it. Minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after heart-breaking year the empty space remains.
As a result we’ve had to relearn ways of how to function with the loss in everyday living. The empty space of our missing child(ren) last a lifetime. And so we rightfully miss them. Nothing can replace the shape of the hole now present in our hearts which only can be filled by that loved one.
How to Relate: Allow the grieving parent to cherish the time they need to ‘grieve’ over their loss. Do not rush them, whether a month, a year or even years. Put yourself in their shoes, what if it were your child? Would you want to replace their memories by hastening the grief process?
6) No matter how long it’s been, holidays never become easier without our daughter.
Never, ever. Have you ever wondered why every holiday season is like torture for a bereaved parent? Even if it’s been 5, 10, or 25 years later? It’s because they really, truly are. Imagine if you had to live every holiday without one or more of your precious children? Imagine how that might feel for you? It would be easier to lose an arm, a leg or two– anything— than to live without your flesh and blood, without the beat of your heart. Almost anything would be easier than living without one of more of your precious children. That is why holidays are always and forever hard for bereaved parents. Don’t wonder why or even try to understand. Know that you don’t have to understand in order to be a supportive presence.
How to Relate: Consider supporting and loving some bereaved parents this holiday season. It will be the best gift you could ever give them.
7) Because we know deep sorrow, we have the hope of unspeakable joy.
Though we will grieve the death of our daughter the rest of our days, yet we have the hope and confidence of unspeakable joy when we see her again that great reunion day. We can have peace now, by the One who is our “unspeakable joy” who will give us that joy when we are reunited with our daughter. However, because of our loss, our life is richer now. We live in a deeper experience, a deeper appreciation of life and the Life giver.
Grief is a gift granted us from the One who has grieved for us. This is the reason we can appreciate others more, take less for granted and look forward to that day of ‘unspeakable joy’ when we see our daughter again.
8) Abandonment of Friendships –
Typically, after the loss of a loved one, friends within weeks stop visiting, calling or contacting the bereaved. For those who go through this “unwelcomed privilege” of losing a loved one, when the support drops off, it adds to the already ‘unbearable grief’ of those suffering with their loss. Thus, the loss is magnified two-fold. When friends “forget” about you, because they “get on with their lives”, we can’t get on with our life. We are frozen in a “space-in-time”.
How to Relate: It is critical then that those who are in this ‘space-in-time’ receive sympathy and friendship from others so that they do not experience feelings of abandonment. You shouldn’t stop reaching out to those after a week or month, for the bereaved party is forever affected adversely and they need that human support, forever.
We are still learning from this ministry of suffering and ask on behalf of those in this “collective family of grief” that you go beyond the superficial greeting and truly reach in and enter into their suffering.
Rod and Mary Cassidy write and speak as grief advocates who provide encouragement and support to those who are grieving the loss of a child. They have set up Brianna’s Wings of Passion Foundation to further their daughters legacy and hasten the day they will be reunited with their talented and deeply missed –Brianna.
Note: Some of the above was Adapted from Angela Miller's "7 Things I've Learned Since the Loss of My Child" and quotes from Dr. Gordon Livingston
Child loss is a loss like no other. One often misunderstood by many. If you love a bereaved parent or know someone who does, remember that even his or her “good” days are harder than you could imagine. Compassion and love, not advice, are needed. If you’d like an inside look into why the loss of a child is a deep grief that lasts a lifetime, here is what we’ve learned in our journey of grief thus far through the unimaginable.