Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Broken Hearts - Grieving a Child

Read Charlotte Canelli's column in the January 16, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

This column might be troublesome to read.  I know.  It was difficult to write.

The unthinkable has happened once again to our extended family, one that has been especially saddened by the loss of now four children.  That incomprehensible loss touched us again just days after Christmas when my husband Gerry's sister's son - and another extended family - lost their precious 2-year old child, Noah.

It was only two years ago that Gerry had suffered the loss of another nephew – gorgeous John, a candidate in a PhD program in California and a young man who made a room smile simply because he walked into it.

Words penned by Samuel Rutherford, Scottish theologian and author, sustained us in this time of sorrow, a time so soon after the festivities of Christmas, hovering on the promises of a New Year.  That child, Rutherford wrote, “is like unto a star, which going out of our sight, doth not die and vanish, but shineth in another hemisphere”.

And yet, after this recent death we could not begin to comprehend it and it will remain a struggle for all of us forever.

Many books in the Minuteman Library catalog provide advice and help to parents and others so that they can begin to understand, or at least cope with, the loss of a child. Many of these books are more than ten years old, although there are more recent ones. 

“Gone But Not Lost: Grieving the Death of a Child” by David W. Wiersbe (revised in 2011) is a suggested offering to a family that has lost a child.  Pastor Wiersbe has included all the issues and questions needed to cope with this grief in his short book of only 128 pages.

“The Death of a Child” is a compilation of chapters written by those who have observed or experienced the loss of a child.  It is edited by Peter Stanford, an English journalist.  Whether the person stricken with grief is a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a grandparent, there is much to be found in the wisdom in this book written by those who have experienced it. 

“A Broken Heart Still Beats: After Your Young Child Dies” (2000) is edited by Anne McCracken and Mary Semel, two mothers who experienced this profound loss.  The book is full of poetry, essays and stories that may comfort someone who is coping, and healing.  Classic authors include William Shakespeare, Judith Viorst and William Faulkner.  Well-known parents include George McGovern, Winston Churchill and Eric Clapton.

One might be put off by the pragmatic and deliberate title “Healing a Parent’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas after Your Child Dies” (2002) by Alan D. Wolfelt. Still, sometimes just doing something deliberate and practical can be helpful.  Advice in this book ranges from writing a journal or letters to creating a Web presence of the child who has been lost.

The message is that compassion towards oneself, as a parent, can be healing.

“Beyond Tears” Living After Losing a Child” by Carol Barkin (2009) includes the journeys of nine mothers who have lost children.  Bereaved parents sometimes need to hear reassurance from others of hope and life beyond their grief.

A book written in the past decade is “The Grieving Garden: Living with the Death of a Child” (2008) by Suzanne Redfern and Susan Gilbert;  both have lost daughters.  Others are “I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping, and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One” (2008) by Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair and “Surviving the Loss of a Child: Support for Grieving Parents” (2010) by Elizabeth B. Brown.

Some older books, “When the Bough Breaks:  Forever after the Death of a Son or Daughter” by Judith Bernstein (1997) and “The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child” by Barbara Rosof (1994) both explain that grieving is individual.  Men and women grieve differently and in different stages.  “After the Death of a Child: Living with Loss through the Years” by Ann K. Finkbeiner (1996) agrees that there is “no recovery” after the loss of a child but learning to live through and with the pain.

Websites such as Compassionate and SUDC (Sudden Unexpected Death in Childhood) have online resources and referrals.  However, your library might be the first place to go if you know someone who has lost a child and you feel the need to understand the most profound grief there is, the loss of a child.  Tuck this column away in your family bible or another inspirational book and it will be there should you ever need it.