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Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare

How My Daughter's Death Taught Me
The Meaning of Life

 

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CHAPTER ONE: DEAR DOCTOR EXPERT

Is the support important so long after my daughter's death? Of course it is. Parents will never forget a child's birthday, nor should they. Death does not erase memory; it only makes remembering more sensitive. With time and a lot of grief work, other days become easier, but this day, as well as Mother's Day, Father's Day, and the anniversary of the child's death, can remain painful forever.

That morning after reading Greg's remembrance, I put it to the side and prepared for my day. I went forward with my life, as you would recommend, but my day was made easier by the loving support of a friend. Life can ask a lot of us. That day I counseled many clients who were struggling with painful issues. I know I was more helpful to them because my friend had been there for me. Remembering does not mean the bereaved are not going forward. It means they honor feelings that already exist.

Your experience in this area is foreign to mine. For years, I have counseled and worked with bereaved-parent groups such as The Compassionate Friends, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) organizations, HAND (Help After Neonatal Death) and Parents of Murdered Children. Time and again I have found that expressing feelings with someone who senses what you are going through brings remarkable relief. There is a special bond in this common experience that gives parents hope and the needed strength and courage to continue on.

Far from macabre, these self-help bereaved-parent organizations are invaluable. Parents can attend meetings days, months, and years down the line. If they prefer not to be in a group setting, they can receive monthly newsletters or just have coffee with another bereaved parent whose child may have died by similar causes. While some may choose to forget as a way of moving forward, this is a small percentage. Forgetting is a defense, a way to avoid the pain.

The birthdays and death days are always remembered within these groups because every bereaved parent knows how important this is. I would suggest you ask to be on one of the mailing lists for these organizations. Better yet, attend one of their yearly conventions for a deeper understanding of the unique needs of the bereaved parent. This is crucial because the advice you are giving is hurtful.

While remembering can bring pain, it also brings healing. No parent wants his child to be forgotten. In fact, that's one of the greatest fears of a bereaved parent. If you forget — if anyone forgets that your child ever existed — it's impossible to "move on" in a healthy way.

Parents' Experiences

I would like to take a moment and share some experiences from the bereaved I've counseled. My hope is that it will give you and others wanting to help a better understanding of the importance of remembering.

A young father expressed this fear. He and his wife had experienced three miscarriages before the birth of their daughter. Sadly, the baby daughter died at 14 months of SIDS. He addressed the changes in his behavior since her death.

I may be a little bit more quiet and introspective. I've always been a quiet, reflective person but I think I am more so now. It's affected by how people interact with me because no one mentions my baby. It's as if my daughter never existed.

This is a statement frequently made by bereaved parents. Another is similar to that of a mother who said, "We have a new son now, so everyone has forgotten Billie. If I bring up the subject, they ignore me."

Still another parent comments, "I guess one thing that hurts is that other people forgot about Joshua. It's as if he was never here. But to Jerry and me, he was a very important part of our lives. Are we supposed to just forget him?"

Do you really believe, Dr. Expert, that it would be macabre to honor these parents' remembrances and erase some of the pain of their everlasting loss? Trust me, silence is their worst enemy, particularly on special days.

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