A few days ago, I learned that July is National Bereaved Parents Month. This was conflicting news to me. I myself have lost a child, 5 years ago next month, but did not know of this national acknowledgment in the month of July. It was a weird feeling to not know of a whole month dedicated to the loss of a child, your child – a topic that wholeheartedly affects me. I even questioned myself as a parent. Am I a bad parent for not knowing this? Am I a bad parent for not doing something to celebrate my child this month? What exactly is bereavement anyway?
I googled it. Here is what Webster told me:
What strikes me is the phrase “a period of mourning.” This, to me, indicates that bereavement is temporary, not permanent, not on-going. So, does that mean that National Bereaved Parents Month is only applicable to those immediately after a loss? I don’t think this is the case but makes me think of an interesting aspect in society – something that I personally feel and have felt. The acceptance of the idea of a “period of mourning.” When you lose a child (a common term I don’t particularly like; I would never lose him), the heart hurts in a way that cannot be described. I have had other losses, and not one has been the same or comparable. They are all different, all unique, and all heart wrenching and agonizing. But, a child… a child is part of you. Literally part of you. As a father, that child is your DNA – you. As a mother, the child is your DNA then you also get the honor of developing and carrying the child. This produces a unique love – a love that you don’t know about until you are a parent. Your own parents can tell you this, but it doesn’t click until you are there. When you feel this love, then have your child’s life taken, part of you is gone. Forever. I first witnessed this love and trauma when my mother lost a child, never to imagine that in a couple of years, I would feel it too. This brings me back to the phrase “ a period of mourning…” There is no “period,” you are in mourning as long as you are on this earth breathing. It is not temporary, it is permanent. A piece of your heart is missing; it literally painfully feels like it is missing.
I write this for a couple of reasons. First, I want to shed light a somewhat quiet topic. Bereavement is forever, not temporary. A child will always be someone’s child; that doesn’t go away. If you know of someone who has lost a child, acknowledge them. Do not be scared of speaking of them or about them. Knowing someone remembers your child feels heavenly and gives people the courage to keep going. Second, for other parents who have lost, you are not alone. I know, at times, it feels completely lonely. I also encourage you to speak about your child. I, personally, have struggled with both of these. I have been hurt by others not speaking of my child, and I have also wrestled with speaking about my child. I think I fear awkwardness and dismissal, but I shouldn’t, as he is part of me.
Though I did not know of National Bereaved Parents Month until recently, I am thankful for it. I am thankful for the community it brings and the acknowledgment of me and my child. For those who have suffered the loss of a child and are interested in joining a community support group, I personally recommend Compassionate Friends of Lubbock (they are also national). They helped move me forward from the immediate despair of the loss. There likely are many other great support groups here in Lubbock, but this is one I can personally share.