The loss of a child can trigger a very deep and sad grieving time. But grief doesn’t need to last a lifetime. Death is a natural part of life. In fact the only thing that is certain is that we all will die. Yet the death of a child seems somehow wrong. As parents we expect to outlive our children, to see them grow and evolve. When this is cut short, a deep sense of shock and inner confusion arises. It just doesn’t feel right. The grief after losing a child has no set timing. We will all process our grief differently. It may even spark the beginning of an awakening to a whole different way of living. For me it was an awakening which led ultimately to deep peace.
Love and Responsibility of a Parent
Parenting is an all consuming and deep responsibility that we as parents willingly and lovingly dedicate a greater part of our life to. For some being a parenthood may even define a sense of personal identity. As parents we hold an unconscious expectation or belief that our children will outlive us. As such we feel a deep responsibility for the safety, health and indeed the life of our children.
Shock of Sudden loss of a Child
So when a young person or child dies suddenly and unexpectedly, the shock is very deep. As with that shock it is not uncommon to feel as if we have failed our child on some level. We may even feel responsible for their death in some way. I know after my son died suddenly and unexpectedly I found a way to blame myself. It was part of the process of dealing with the shock of an illogical loss.
Emotional Roller-Coaster of Grief
Grieving is an important process which has no textbook instruction. It is different for every person. So many different emotions can and do arise. Of these, five have been written about in detail by psychologists, they include; denial, anger, numbness, bargaining, guilt and finally or perhaps gradually acceptance. Yet this psychologically identified list is a poor attempt to pattern something which is deeply individual occurrence.
Initially reminding ourselves that this ‘too will pass’ can be helpful.
Anniversaries after Loss
The first year anniversary of losing a child can often trigger many deeper and unresolved emotions. Memories and stories around those memories may arise and pull one back into suffering. Our stories are the only way we can hold onto our loved ones. We attempt unconsciously to bring loved ones back to our present time life through these memories and stories. It can be a time where families gather and share grief or have a symbolic ceremony of some sort. This can offer support or may serve to reinforce or deepen grief.
Grief from a Non-dual Perspective
Grief is natural – continued suffering is optional. Being able ‘to be with what is as it is’ may sound simple. But when what is happening goes against everything we are programmed to do, immediate acceptance may be impossible. Every programming of care and love inside a parent will scream out against the loss of a child. Incomprehensible, the loss may seem surreal and the feeling of initial numbness is very common.
Grief is a process and one that can’t be rushed. It is important to allow our feelings to be felt and acknowledged. To let our grief wash us clean… so we can return to presence to live life fully again.
We are Not the Body
“There is nothing wrong with anything unless we think about it”
This is a powerful and very true quote. If we can disentangle our identity from thought which includes expectation and imagination then we can set ourselves free. Free to be fully alive, present and accepting of life ‘as it is’. It’s a tough line but it will set you free.
We are not the body-mind we have been led to believe we are. This identification leads us into so much pain and suffering. We are far more than this – we are consciousness itself squeezed into a body mind to experience life as we know it. And what a gift this is. Yet the body-mind also dies or passes. Consciousness however is never bound by that body mind. It is ever free.
Mindful of Present Time
Mindfulness can be helpful to release identity from the thoughts which exacerbate our suffering. The pain of loss is always ignited by thought.
The mind is a tool – it is not who we truly are. Yet it can draw our attention away from the presence or life into a past which no longer exists or into a future which is truly unknown. The mind can be likened to a run-away-train and we may find ourselves on those carriages looping from thought to thought. This is suffering.
As I overcame the grief of losing my son when he was only 17 I experienced an awakening that set me free. You can read about this in my book: Shining Through From Grief to Gratitude. I am so grateful my son Prem was with us for 17 years. He gave me the greatest gift in his dying by setting me on a deep inquiry into the very mystery of life. Death can be a gateway to freedom or become a continued suffering as we fight against the flow of what is.
Yes it is an old saying but I have found it to be true. Give yourself time to heal and time to inquire and then hopefully you will chose to Live Fully in the Present Time again.