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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

When a friend extends support, whether it is a special day we once had with our deceased child or not, this is a helping hand along a journey filled with obstacles. Dr. Expert, you don't want to take that hand away. Grief is not to be denied, nor can you rush it. One can only go patiently and honestly through it.

As you know from the experience of the mother whose 17-year-old son died in the car accident, many who grieve try to be "brave," hold back the tears, and mask the pain. This only extends the grief. When a mother and father are both grieving, outside support is even more important. The husband may feel he needs to suppress his pain in order to be the strong one who consoles his wife. This may work for a while but soon adds stress and tension to the marriage.

Marital Pressures

Marital difficulties after a child's death are frequent. Studies point to added stress, even months and years after the death of a child. Granted, some of these relationships were having trouble anyway, but even the strongest can go into a temporary tailspin.

While it's difficult to witness the helplessness and hopelessness of the bereaved, this support is invaluable to the couple. On days of special significance, due to their different needs, they may find it difficult to support each other. Having someone else to lean on relieves pressure on the couple.

A father whose daughter was three when hit and killed by a car expressed how the lack of support his wife felt on their child's birthday and other times had an impact on her and on their marriage.

Well, my wife has been very broken up about it. She has cried a lot and is very angry and hostile because her friends have stopped talking to her about Amy. It's really affected her. She's angry at them for not calling her, helping her along, talking to her. She doesn't want to go to work. This lack of support has had a very negative impact on her ... on us. It's been tough for me in terms of watching my wife suffer, and her anger is being taken out on me.

Another father, whose son died at age 15 in a boating accident, addressed his frustration with the differences in the way he and his wife grieved.

She needs understanding and forgiveness, and I think I've tried to do that, but she rejects my advances — the way I do them. I don't have the right formula for getting in there. She hates God. She's so angry at Him. She's angry at everything, and it's very negative. I tend to be more positive. We're different. I don't know what to do. I wish we had friends who could help. We did at first, but I guess life goes on. People are too busy. We're pretty much alone now with our grief.

Finally, another father, a former client, discussed the problems he and his wife were having after the death of their 25-year-old daughter in a drunk-driving accident.

There's a real problem in our relationship. I tend to want to discuss things or behavior in an open, analytical manner and try — [but] my wife gets very upset. She deals with it more on the emotional level. It makes it hard for us to communicate, but I think something like what's happened has tended to divide us. It hasn't been fun. It's been very painful. We need others who can help us to talk in different ways. We have this a little, but I think it would be good for us to have it more.

Isolation

Since my own daughter's death, I have read extensively on the subject of death and dying. I suggest you do the same if you wish to help others. Kristen's death has been a real "closet cleaning" experience. Before her death, Dr. Expert, like you, I could believe anything. After her death, all my beliefs were challenged.

Since children represent society's hopes, dreams, and promise for the future, the death of a child is always difficult to accept. Society, significantly threatened by such a loss, may impose unrealistic expectations on grief-stricken parents. For this reason, the bereaved parent may receive little support, especially if friends have been ill-advised by "experts."

The support need only be a hug and a few comforting words to help the parent along. On the birthday of her 18-year-old daughter, who was murdered, a mother said,

When they just hug you, that shows they care. And I know they do and I know they are sincere because I have known them for a while. A gentle approach like that helps. And most of them don't say a lot, but they'll kind of come up and hug ya and say, "How are you doing?" Just a brief encouragement that way to let me know they're there. So that means a lot.

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