So with powerlessness, one can feel powerless knowing that “I did not keep my child safe.” There is a wonderful book by Sukie Miller called “Finding Hope When a Child Dies”. She reminds the reader that the United States is the only country in the world where parents believe they can keep their child safe. Parents in other countries realize that an alligator can come up and grab their child, or that a snake, a sniper or a roadside bomb can take their child’s life. In the United States, parents still believe that they can keep their children safe, and when they don’t, they feel powerless. Stop, and ask yourself this question, “Can you really stop a tornado?” You know the answer is “no.” You can see a tornado coming, and perhaps, you can get out of its path, but you know that you cannot physically stop a tornado. Many times the things that happen and end up taking your child are unavoidable. Take the shooting at Columbine for instance. There was no way those parents could have kept their children safe in school that day.
In those moments of powerlessness, simply sit quietly in the sunshine, and remember that there is a voice within you which is saying, “Come back to life again.” “Grow and blossom.” “This world is safe.” “I am safe.” Allow the love of other people to be your nutrition in this time of powerlessness. Begin to feel yourself like a little seed sitting in the sunshine, coming back, growing, blossoming, knowing that you are safe and that this world is safe.
As a grieving parent who lost their child, I felt that yearning and longing caused by the separation from my son. Piaget, a French-speaking, Swiss psychologist and philosopher who lived from 1896 to 1980, was known for his theories of cognitive development. During that time of yearning and longing for my son, I realized as a speech language pathologist that Piaget had a gift for me. That gift was the concept of object permanence.
Object permanence is when the very young infant child sees a ball roll behind the couch, and he thinks the ball has disappeared. He may begin to cry, because he doesn’t realize that the ball is still there. As a parent who has lost a child, I had to realize that my child’s soul is still in existence. My job now is to start paying very careful attention and to awaken to those signs and symbols from my child that let me know that my child is still alive, still living in a dimension beyond me. I can’t see it, I can’t feel it, but my son is still connected to me and we have connections through images in the sky, in the shapes of cloud formations and in the swallowtail butterfly. Our son’s name is Reid, and when we found Reid growing up through the asphalt in a very desolate road in Nebraska that was our sign, another sign, and we could say, “Oh, yes, there is a connection here.”
It is very very important for you, as a parent, to say, “Okay, I’m not powerless. I am making a choice to begin to really notice him in dreams, and find him in stories that others tell about their experiences.” Reid’s preschool teacher was standing in the parking lot after his funeral, and saw a jet plane go vertically up in the sky. Then she said, “There he goes.” So, often when I see a jet climbing in the sky, I will feel hope from that.
Finally, the fear that people will forget your child is really the fear that you will forget your child, and yet, you know within your heart that you are always connected. When you begin to feel afraid, it is wonderful to take action in the form of a memory book that you can put together, or by placing a life size bronze statue of a soccer player in a park or in a soccer complex. Simply do something that brings you good memories of your child and that keeps them alive and near you. MacBook has a wonderful little feature where you can actually go and make a hard cover book. It is a wonderful thing for parents to do with their children to remember that child who is no longer present with them.
If you’re struggling with the emotional process of grief...
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