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The wounds you can’t see

What bereaved parents feel

Losing a child is often unfathomable for a parent. It goes against what we tend to regard as the natural order of things, yet it does happen and in today’s gun-happy Bermuda more parents are finding themselves facing emotions and feelings they never anticipated having.

According to the American charity Compassionate Friends, the following are typical reactions:

l You find yourself in denial. Your child cannot be dead; you expect to see them walk through the door any moment.

l You see your child in the faces of others walking down the street.

l You wonder how someone can feel this much pain and survive.

l Thoughts of suicide briefly enter your mind. You tell yourself you want to die and yet you want to live to take care of your family and honour your child's memory.

l You want to know how the people around you can go about their day as if nothing has happened. Don't they understand that your life, everything that meant anything to you, has just ended? Your purpose in life is gone.

l You are no longer afraid of death as each day that passes puts you one day closer to being with your child.

l Thoughts of "what ifs" enter your mind as you play out scenarios that you believe would have saved your child.

l Your memory has suddenly become clouded. You're shrouded in forgetfulness. You'll be driving down the road and not know where you are or remember where you're going. As you walk, you may find yourself involved in "little accidents" because you're in a haze.

l You fear that you are going crazy.

l You find there's videotape that constantly plays in an endless loop in your mind, running through what happened.

l You find your belief system is shaken and you try to sort out what this means to your faith.

l Placing impossible deadlines on yourself, you go back to work, but find that your mind wanders and it's difficult to function efficiently or, some days, at all. Others wonder when you'll be over "it", not understanding that you'll never be the same person you were before your child died despite the passage of time.

l You find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over again trying to understand what someone else has written.

l You rail against the injustice of not being allowed the choice to die instead of your child.

l You find yourself filled with anger at your partner, a person you believe is responsible for your child's death, God, yourself, and even your child for dying.

l You yearn to have five minutes, an hour, or a day back with your child so you can tell your child of your love or thoughts left unsaid.

l Guilt becomes a powerful companion as you blame yourself for the death of your child. Rationally you know that you were not to blame; you most certainly would have saved your child if you'd been given the chance.

l You feel great sadness and depression as you wrestle with the idea that everything important to you has been taken from you. Your future has been ruined and nothing can ever make it right.

The list contains just some of the common thoughts and feelings parents who have lost a child experience.

If you, or someone you know, has lost a child and would like, or are in need of help to get through the grief, contact Robin O’Neil who is starting Compassionate Friends, a support group for bereaved parents.

For more information telephone 735-1676.

Robin O'Neil with her son Kevin when was he was a boy.

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Published January 22, 2013 at 8:40 am (Updated January 22, 2013 at 8:40 am)

The wounds you can’t see

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