Getting on with Grief
What do you do after losing your child?
People frequently ask me how I cope with the death of my son. Sometimes I want to scream at them. How do you think I cope? I don't know how they expect me to behave.
I have even been asked if I still think of him. Do they imagine I have forgotten? As if a few years could wipe out the memories of that terrible phone call, the 3,750 km dash to the far north of the continent, the dreadful hours in the hospital, or the final heart-breaking goodbye.
Oh yes, I still think of him. He still shows up in my dreams and, on waking, the relentless grief hits me again.
How do I cope? How does any mother cope? Because we do, because we have no choice, because there is no other option.
The Three Worst Things ever said to me
Please don't say this to anyone
Why do people say such things? These words have been said to me more than once. I know that they're meant to be comforting but they have the opposite effect.
- It's not so bad. You have other children
Perhaps you haven't noticed, but children are individuals.Just because you have a few doesn't mean you can manage without one of them.
- It's not too late for you to have more children
Even if I did have more children, one person cannot replace another. Can you replace your child? Children aren't commodities. If you lose one you don't send out for a replacement.
- He's waiting for you in Heaven
Even if I believed in Heaven, and I don't, I want him here with me now
Always a child
When my son makes his weekly entrance into my dreams he is always a child.
He never comes to me as the young man he was.
In those dreams I'm always trying to catch him as he falls, to save him from wolves (I know, there are no wolves in Australia but that's dreams for you) or to find him because he's lost.
I've come to accept that these dreams will always recur, that they will be with me until I, too, die but it's certainly a strange mental quirk that I never see him grown.
A couple of times I have tried to picture him, like prodding a sore tooth, but my memory baulks at the young adult. It stays with the little boy.
He was a born athlete
My son was born leaping. Right from the start he was a squirmer, a jumper, and when he began to walk he was off at a sprint. By the time he was three years old, I had trouble catching him.
He was a fabulous runner, he could leap over his pedal cars when he was two, although he picked up a few bruises before he perfected the technique.
From the time he was six, he entered the room leaping. It was such a trial to have him around, this constantly leaping boy. He landed softly and often I turned round to find him suddenly right behind me, breathing loudly, just having landed within 6 inches of the casserole dish in my hands.
He was an incredible climber. A top class swimmer, an agile roller skater, an excellent left boot goal-kicker and an all round adrenalin-rush freak.
It was his search for adventure that proved to be too much for him
On a lonely bush track in the Northern Territory my son Marcus was seriously injured in a car accident. He died four days later.
He was a great little footballer
There are plenty of mothers who suffer through the death of a child. I have since met a dozen women who share the same grief.
This is how I remember my son
Do you ever get over it?
You don't get over it. It's totally unreasonable to expect to get over it. Everything has changed. You're changed. The world looks different because it is different. You are forever different.
You don't get over it. You get on with it.
A truly valuable resource
A touchstone of sanity through difficult times
Does it ever get any better?
The pain never goes away but you can, over time, handle it better.
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