Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday's Woe - “How Many of You Wanted to Die?”

Wednesday's Woe

“How Many of You Wanted to Die?”

A couple of months ago, at The Compassionate Friends (or TCF, a group for parents who have lost a child in death) meeting, the group leader asked a room full of about 25 people, “How many of you in here, at some point, wanted to die? Or maybe you just wouldn’t mind if God would take you on Home to be with Him?" The entire room of grieving parents raised their hands…



This time last year, a darkness came over me I couldn’t shake. The pain that came over me was a sadness and despair that was so consuming, it felt to me that the only relief from it would be just to go ahead and die. I didn’t seem to have the ability to bounce back; I wasn’t able to come out of the hole.

The grief had been to this degree for two years, and I had not been able to counter the sadness, despair, and depression. After these first two years of grief over losing Merry Katherine, the sadness was getting worse, not better. At that time, I opted to go on an anti-depressant which I continue to this day, a year later. If I miss my medication for a few days, the sadness and despair return with a vengeance.


I didn’t actually want to die. I felt dead already (from the heavy toll grief was having on me) and wondered how I would ever live again. I do remember thinking if God wanted to take me on Home, that would be fine with me.

All I could do was cry, grieve, pray, read my Bible, be with my husband or other intimate family. A year ago, to compound this emotional devastation, I had a serious bike wreck. I probably would not have survived had I not had a helmet on as I was traveling quite fast down a rough mountain trail, hit a root with my wet tires, and my bike threw me off face-first. I did not have time even to break the fall with my hands. As it turned out, sharp rocks gashed a hole in my face. I also broke my shoulder blade (which I’ve been told only happens in severe crashes). However, I was very thankful to be alive and to be able to walk to meet the ambulance as far as it could come down the rough trail.

But the shock of such a fall sent shots of cortisol through my system. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can wreak havoc with you physically and/or emotionally. Emotionally, I regressed. Any medications I was already on to manage depression and hormone swings were nullified. I had a severe setback emotionally.

My setback seemed to trigger a correlating setback in my husband, on top of the severe darkness he was already experiencing. And of course, when my husband saw blood streaming down my face with a gash over my right eye, and then saw the cracked helmet, he too had cortisol shooting through his system. And riding his bike behind me, watching me as I was thrown face-first onto the rocky path with other bikers riding fast behind us, he thought he was losing me right before his eyes. He was traumatized to say the least.

We were a mess. We had gone on the bike trip to try to soothe some of our hurt, and now our emotional pain was compounded severely. God had to take us by the hand to walk us through the morass. We could barely be there for one another, we were both in so much agony! Somehow, with God’s help, we made it through, though still quite shaken that we could have such a setback in the middle of already devastating grief.

I too make sure I don’t miss any of my medications, or I know I’ll be thrown headlong into dysfunction...


In the words of a fellow-griever in last Sunday’s TCF meeting,

I was unprepared for “the long insanity” that grief (over the loss of one’s child) throws you into. Grief impacts every way you function; everything is now on shaky ground. I never imagined it would be so painful that grief even would impact normal behavior (normal day-t0-day routines).


A "New Normal"?

So, during this same meeting, I asked our leader,

What do you mean when you say we will (over time) find our "new normal"?

Can you tell us what a "new normal" would look like?

Our TCF leader’s description of a “New Normal” for grieving parents who have lost a child included these dynamics:

Ø When you wake up in the morning, you no longer want to die.

Ø You accept – the old you is gone; it will never be back.

Ø You accept that grief’s pain will always be a part of your life now.

Ø You are able to set some goals in your life versus not really caring what you do.

Ø You can laugh again and not feel you are being disrespectful to your child.

Ø You find some meaning in your child’s death and your resulting grief.

Ø You realize you could not control the loss that happened to you, but you can decide what you want to do with what happened to you. (Our leader and his wife decided they wanted to help other grieving parents, and so they are here faithfully, graciously helping us grieving parents month-after-month.)

May God bless each of you as you work through your potentially-debilitating child-loss grief…

TCF - The Compassionate Friends

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