Saying Goodbye to a Child
The hardest thing a parent ever has to do is to say good-bye to their child. Most of the time it’s because they are going to college in another state or joining the military service or are getting married and are moving away. Saying goodbye to a child that is dying causes more than just the pain of separation; it makes you feel like your heart is breaking and that it will never be whole again.
The sudden death of a child is traumatic and brutal but does not compare to the devastation of knowing in advance. That first phone call that alerts you to the possibility of a problem starts the process. You worry from that moment on. Then there are the doctor’s appointments and the tests that leave you in limbo while you wait to have your worst fears confirmed, praying that they aren’t.
When the news finally comes, you accept it stoically and sometimes even gracefully because it’s important that your child sees a strong front. You go through the motions of gathering information trying to find the best course of action that will stop the inevitable; only to find there isn’t one.
The waiting begins. You wish for a miracle that will spare your child what’s about to come. You pray for the strength to stand beside them, reassuring them that everything will be okay, that there’s still hope. You talk about the benign as if any of it still mattered. You move through the days functioning on autopilot.
One day you find yourself wishing for it to be over; not because you no longer love your child but because the waiting is taking its toll. You want to be done with it because it has consumed your life and you want it back. You discover that you have become angry about what’s happening to your child and the powerless feeling you have because you can’t fix it.
Then you feel guilty for being angry and for wanting the end. If they would just finish dying you could grieve and then move on with your life. Through the guilt you realize self loathing; it comes from the need to start over, the need to breathe.
By the time the funeral arrives you have been dealing with your grief for some time. The tears that you shed are from relief because it’s finally done. Yes, you will miss your child and a part of you will be forever empty but at least now there’s peace.
The truth is no parent should ever outlive their child. Doing so is one of the hardest things imaginable. As a parent we would rather face countless terrors and torture than to lose a child, but it happens. We deal with the conflicting emotions to the best of our abilities while hiding the feelings we fear the most. The gamut is vast and diverse in its range leaving a parent exhausted from the act of living. One truth to be found amidst the chaos is that there is no right or wrong way to survive a child dying.
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