“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” — Terry Pratchett
Unless you are among those of us who belong, not by choice, to a group of parents who have lost a child, it is almost impossible to explain what it feels like, deep inside the hollowness of the heart. We belong to an unspoken, unnoticed group whose child is gone from us in a thousand ways and yet, they are more near to our hearts now than when they walked before us. Grief will never again let us take for granted the sweetness and angelic-like hugs and kisses that belonged to us in a way nothing else did.
Yet, without this void of emptiness, what would we have? So paradoxically, we grieve for the hollowness of our heart knowing full well without the grief, we would have nothing at all. We stop short of releasing them from the crevasse of emptiness. At least we are aware forevermore of the magnitude of their loss, empowered to speak their name.
We stand on memories as if each tile or chalk-lined concrete square represents a time so joyfully shared. As we experience memories, we are catapulted to a period of laughter and child-like togetherness.
At times, the hollowness becomes filled with activities, people, and situations of great comfort, bittersweet. But as it dissipates, the all-consuming hollowness takes its place again. We are forever the proverbial walking-wounded, our scars invisible to everyone but us.
Sometimes we find we walk with our chin a little too high as our eyes betray a disguise of peace. We keep ourselves and others at bay anticipating the same question that comes. We cringe at the thought of speaking our same response. As if to the wall, we are detached and play a recording of “I’m fine, thanks.” A tsunami of tears fall where we stand because it is easier to go with the flow then suffocate what we prefer to say, that “Today is the most painful day of my life.”
We listen to the triviality of life all around us. Our special group laughs inside at the unimportance of existing in the middle of it all. It’s not their fault, they can’t see the forest for the trees that have already fallen. Neither could we.
So What Are We Supposed to Do?
We are overwhelmed by an underlying current of a grief that never rests. Much like living with cancer, we become accomplished at ignoring the pain until a long-lost friend asks, “Oh, and how IS….?” We practice words we’ve not had to murmur for months or years. “She’s dead,” or, “He passed away last year.” How else do we articulate our loss? “They’re gone, damn it!” The truth is nothing we say no matter how appropriate, softens the stark reality they’re gone from us.
In acceptance of it all, we feel an odd comfort to speak of them and say their name, even as they are gone. As parents of our deceased loved ones, it is an honor to resurrect them if only for a few moments – as if doing so might fill up the hollowness of our hearts.
I hope you can appreciate the greatest of gifts you give us in asking about our children. By allowing us to share their love and life with you and others, we get to live vicariously through them and in them, as we will always be one with the other.