When Someone Young Dies
My twenty year old son and I attended another one of his childhood friend’s funeral last week. We live in a town of five thousand people and in two years, my son has lost two good friends. Both deaths came as a total shock. Both deaths were immediate and initiated by unforeseen medical problems. As I sat with my son at the funeral last week in the midst of all the collective pain, loss and my own sadness, I wondered what must it feel like to lose two friends at so young an age?
From kindergarten these were the boys with whom his life was intertwined. They went to each others birthday parties, camped in each others backyards, were in junior high and high school plays together, petitioned the city council and built a town skate park together, and attended each other’s high school graduation celebrations. Now, before they have barely entered young adult life, their shared experiences to come have been whisked away forever. Despite the fact that my own child was hurting over his friend, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the shock, numbness and disbelief his friend’s parents were feeling.
One of the most humbling experiences of my career was when I facilitated a grief group for the sole purpose of helping parents who had lost a child. When I met those parents and began to work with them, I felt as if I might have come close to understanding the meaning of courage. The courage of the parents was not just in letting the physical body of their child go, nor the accepting of a drastic change in their hopes and dreams for their son or daughter. Their greatest courage came in finding the will to go on themselves, of being able to find some purpose and meaning for their child’s death and renewed meaning for their adult lives.
What I have learned is there are no words of comfort adequate to the tragedy of losing your child. Last week there were no words of comfort I could give my son or his friend’s parents. Writer Ann K. Finkbeiner lost her own teenage son. The following quote from Ms. Finkbeiner comes as close to comfort as I know. “In the end, I learned two things about the long-term effects of losing a child. One is that a child’s death is disorienting. The human mind is wired to find patterns and attach meanings, to associate things that are alike, to generalize from one example to another, in short, to make sense of things. Your mind could no more consciously stop doing this than your heart could consciously stop beating. But children’s deaths make no sense, have no precedents, are part of no pattern; their deaths are unnatural and wrong. So parents fight their wiring, change their perspectives and adjust to a reality that makes sense. The other thing I learned is that letting go of a child is impossible. Our children are in our blood, the bond with them doesn’t seem to break, and the parents found subtle and apparently unconscious ways of preserving that bond.” Perhaps all anyone can do when a young person dies is to take comfort in one another’s presence.Tags: finding the will when you lose a child, losing a child, no words for tragedy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor
- Dorothy Molczyk, LMHP LADC, provides individual, family and group therapy at Wholeness Healing Center. She is experienced in serving children, adolescents and adults. Her areas of specialty include substance abuse/dependency, healing from traumatic events, recovering from loss, and behavior disorders in children and adolescents.
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