Suggestions for Coping with
Your Child's Days
By Elizabeth B.
Estes, Augusta, GA TCF
days of each year stand out as the pits for most bereaved
parents--the anniversary of their child's death and their
child's birthday. Over and over parents ask How
do you get through these two painful times?
The response is the same as the question How
do porcupines make love? -- Very carefully.
I read somewhere that even if your mind forgets the
anniversary of traumas you have experienced, your body
remembers. Pneumonia was the final cause of our
daughter's death in September, 1984. Each September and
each February, her birthday month, I developed pneumonia,
although I had never had it before in my life and was not
consciously thinking of having it. The year our TCF
chapter started broke the pattern and I haven't had it
Knowing you will remember, here are some practical
suggestions garnered from reading and listening to others
talk. Sometimes the anticipation of how awful the day
will be adds to the torture. Plan something away from
home, a shopping trip, a business trip. You won't forget,
but distractions can help from focusing on agonizing
Seek out a special friend who will let you share your
memories and distress, who will permit you to cry if you
must. Talking and crying are catharsis and a part of
Think of something you can do for someone else in memory
of your child. Give a pie, a book, a bouquet of flowers,
or a visit to a person, who is lonely (another kind of
debilitating pain). You don't have to tell the person you
are doing this in memory of your son or daughter, the act
can be a secret between you and your child. You are
passing on some of the love you shared.
Take flowers to the cemetary and talk with your child.
Does this sound like lunancy? I hope not because every
time I go to the cemetary I talk with Tricia. Whether we
admit this to others or not, don't we all talk to our
deceased children at times? If someone sees my lips
moving at the cemetary visit and fails to understand,
that is his problem, not mine.
Say thank you aloud or as a silent litany during the day
to God (or whoever) and to your child for the beauty of
his/her life, for the enriching opportunity to experience
the unique being that was your child.
If you stay at home with your grief then, by gosh, wallow
in it, if you want to. Suffer your misery to its depths,
cry, rant, rave, be resentful--make yourself sick, if you
have to. We are brainwashed with look on the
bright side and the power of positive
thinking. I personally believe that periods of very
negative thinking often release a residue of emotions and
feelings which makes eventual positive thinking possible.
Even Jesus had Gethsemane. As with a physical wound, pain
is a part of healing. Pain signals that your body is
still alive and is working on this affront to its mental
and physical health. Later when your wound is healed or
getting better, part of your pleasure at the release
comes from being able to remember how much it hurt.
For ten Septembers I have not been able to erase Trici's
death-day from the calendar, but each year I face it
better. Some time I still have a tightening in the chest
and a lumpy, leaden knot in my stomach, or I permit
myself to ask a few sad, unanswerable questions. Allowing
myself to feel whatever my true feeling dictate, I have
finally learned to flow with the sting of grief, instead
of denying it or fighting it. Her birthday has become a
time of happy remembering. Often I wear something of hers
on that day and let my love flow out to her, wherever she
is. I'm so thankful I had her, even in the face of loss.
How do you get through these anniversaries? You simply
live through them as best you can, sometimes using them
as a yardstick for measuring your personal healing. Maybe
you can say Last year I cried all day, but
this year I cried only a few hours. The
death-day may never be a good day, but we can't remove it
from the 365 any more that we can bring our child back to
life. And that, of course, is why the anniversary days
are so painful; they intensify our great longing to erase
the death. Each anniversary faced can be a step in
acceptance and healing.