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Grieving the Loss of an Adult Son
A Mother's Tears
No grief is worse than that of the loss of a child. The famous Pieta, the marble sculpture by Michelangelo, depicts the grieving Mary holding the body of her son, the crucified Christ, in her arms.
I recall marveling at this masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance when I visited the Vatican at age eighteen. 'How terrible,' I recall thinking, 'to lose one's son at the age of thirty-three.' Little did I know that forty-one years later I, too, would be mourning the loss of my son -- just weeks shy of his thirty-fourth birthday.
A Lifetime of Grief
I sometimes think I was born grieving. Nine years before my birth, my parents lost their baby girl Joan to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. My brother, Paul, was two-years-old at the time.
Throughout my childhood I was aware of my ghost sibling. Whenever I was seriously ill, I felt her presence. (Mumps, chicken pox and measles were common occurrences throughout my 1950s childhood.)
I was a college freshman when my brother broke the news that our dad, at age fifty-one, had died of a heart attack. My brother himself was to die of a heart attack at age forty-two. One day after my forty-fourth birthday, my mother died of cancer. She was seventy-one.
I was an adult orphan without siblings.
After all this loss, including a battle with an aggressive breast cancer, I felt I had paid my dues. Surely nothing more would wreak havoc with my hurting soul. Or so I thought...
Sons are the anchors of a mother's life. -- Sophocles
A Premonition Followed By...
...The Phone Call Every Parent Dreads
On a Thursday night in May 2011 my husband called from Tucson, Arizona where he was visiting with our son. He informed me that our son, Adrian Paul, had decided to skip his Bible study class to meet up with a friend.
I wanted to say 'No, don't let him go. Say whatever you need to to talk him out of it!' But the words would not come. I felt my throat tighten and a shooting pain go through my heart.
I hung up my phone. I told myself I was over-reacting. I turned on the TV and happened upon a documentary on near-death experiences.
The next morning I received the phone call every parent dreads: "Your son is in the ICU. The next twenty-four hours will tell."
By the early morning hours of Sunday, Adrian was gone and his organs were already transplanted into five people -- A ray of hope amidst the unspeakable sorrow.
Several days later my husband returned home, our son's cremated remains in his carry-on luggage. Having grieved the untimely deaths of my father and brother, I did not want to see our sweet boy laid out in a casket.
Seven Choices: Finding Daylight After Loss Shatters Your World - by Elizabeth Harper Neeld, Ph.D.
Following Adrian's death, I found myself reading the Bible, my book of Catholic devotions -- anything that I felt would help see me through this nightmare. "Seven Choices" turned out to be the best of the books given to me by friends. The author was widowed at a young age. Her journey to regaining a "new normal" is pertinent to all types of bereavement, not just the mourning associated with the death of a child.
A road map for all who bereave. A variety of parents who lost children comment on each step of the seven choices -- 1. Impact: Experiencing the Unthinkable. 2. Second Crisis: Stumbling in the Dark. 3. Observation: Linking Past to Present. 4. The Turn: Turning Into the Wind. 5. Reconstruction: Picking Up the Pieces. 6. Working Through: Finding Solid Ground. 7. Integration: Daylight. Included is an addendum on helping children and teens deal with loss.
Fathers and Sons - By Ivan Turgenev
Novels by the great storytellers of nineteenth - century Russia -- e.g., Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky -- have always spoken to my soul. Without exception is Ivan Turgenev's masterpiece "Fathers and Sons." Students of Russian will know that Turgenev originally titled his book "Fathers and Children." However one translates the title, this moving story of the relationships among two friends and their respective fathers offers hope to those mourning the death of a child, in particular the loss of an adult son.
Part of the novel's finale reads: "There's a little village graveyard in one remote corner of Russia...Two feeble old people come frequently from a nearby village to visit (the grave) -- a man and his wife. They walk with a heavy step, supporting each other; when they approach the railing, they fall on their knees and remain there for a long time, weeping bitterly, gazing attentively at the headstone under which their son lies buried; they exchange a few words, brush the dust off the stone, move a branch of the pine tree, and pray once again; they can't forsake this place where they seem to feel closer to their son, to their memories of him...Can it really be that love, sacred, devoted love is not all-powerful? Oh, no! However passionate, sinful, rebellious the heart buried in the grave, the flowers growing on it look out at us serenely with their innocent eyes: they tell us not only of that eternal peace, that great peace of "indifferent" nature; they tell us also of eternal reconciliation and life everlasting..."
Links to Online Resources - May These Be Helpful to Those Who Mourn
In searching the internet, I tried to come up with helpful links to articles and/or webpages that may be of help to the grieving parent.
- Compassionate Friends
The number-one organization to help those grieving the loss of a child. Their facebook page tugs at one's heartstrings.
- Loss, Grief and Bereavement
Fellow squidoo.com writer Comfortdoc shares her professional and personal advice on how to handle the loss of a loved one. Highly recommended reading.
- Your Questions Concerning Grief
Hospicenet.org provides this excellent and most helpful series of articles on grief. No two people grieve alike.
- The Grief and Loss Exchange at webMD
Readers can share their grief experiences with others at this online exchange; however, loss not restricted to the death of one's child.
- Wikipedia on Grief
A general overview of grief as presented by wikipedia.
- Web Healing
You can talk in chat rooms or read about the different paths to healing.
- National SIDS Foundation
Helpful site for parents who lose their baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, formerly known as crib death in the U.S. and cot death in the U.K.
An internet community offering more than thirty-five e-mail support groups.
- Resources for Parents of Murdered Children
A link to the Cincinnati, Ohio organization Parents of Murdered Children
Jesus: a Biography from a Believer - by Paul Johnson
A few days before the accidental death of Adrian, my husband picked up a copy of Johnson's biography of Jesus. In the days following our son's death, we were both moved to tears by this book.
The night before my son died I had a troubling premonition. A week later I read these words from Johnson's biography: " We find it curious that Jesus's warnings against betrayal did not alarm the eleven apostles more: for their lives, too, were at risk...It might have been different if women had been present at the Last Supper. They were more sensitive to these hints: to signs and dreams, to sighs and evidence of worry on Jesus's part..."
If I have a monument in this world, it is my son. -- Maya Angelou
Your Soul's Plan - by Robert Schwartz
There are those who believe that our souls reincarnate, that we choose our future lives before birth. That is what this book explores.
I recommend this book to those open to New Age concepts. Its section on "Death of a Loved One" brought me comfort. Personally I gain the most comfort from the place where the circle of traditional Christianity intersects with the circle of New Age philosophies.
Letters from Heaven: Comfort for Those Who are Hurting - by Claire Cloninger
This treasure of a book was a gift from a dear friend.
A book of meditations and letters from God to his aching, grieving child -- the reader. A favorite: "My child, Take comfort in this fact: You are in Me, and I am in you. This is a profound mystery and a secret that is known only by those who invite Me into their hearts."
Rest in Peace, Dear Son
Adrian, you are loved and missed by many. We remember your natural athleticism, your inimitable writing style, your sharp wit. So many have spoken of your unconditional love. You are in our hearts forever. June 9, 1977 to May 15, 2011.
Heaven is for Real - grieving the loss of an adult son
In December 2012 I read this account of a little boy's near-death experience. I recommend it but with one caveat: Some readers may be uncomfortable off by the book's claim that one has to find Jesus to attain Heaven in the afterlife.
The Last Photo - grace and healing
On Dec. 21, 2011 -- the winter solstice -- I discovered this photo of Adrian on his computer. Dated Feb. 27, 2011, this lovely snapshot may be the last photo ever taken of our son.
Thank you for visiting my webpage on grieving the loss of an Adult Son.