"We know that the acute grief we feel after such a loss will come to an end, but we shall remain inconsolable, and never find a substitute. Everything that comes to take its place, even if it were to fill it completely, nevertheless remains something different. And this is as it should be. It is the only way of perpetuating the love which we do not wish to renounce." Sigmund Freud, written to a friend whose son had died.
"Reinvesting in life" - it sounds so difficult, perhaps cold and impossible. If you have recently (or perhaps not so recently) lost your baby(ies)/child(ren), finding the strength to move on or to create a "reinvestment" in your shattered life may require more energy than you can muster. Your goals and priorities have drastically changed, and the biggest challenge for you is just getting out of bed in the morning. For those of us who have already traversed that long road of grief, we know that you will find the strength to find new goals and new reasons to live. Discovering these new outlets is how you reinvest in life. With time, your pain will not be as raw, the bad days will become fewer, and you may begin to see joy in life. To help start moving towards the future in a positive way, here are some suggestions of how other parents have "reinvested in life." Some have channeled their energy into enormous projects while others do something simpler but just as meaningful. You need to do whatever makes you feel comfortable.
As many of you may have discovered, writing is a powerful release of feelings. Many of the best books for bereaved parents were written by bereaved parents. For example, Terry Griffin spent countless hours compiling and editing her wonderful book, "Letters of Hope," after her son drowned. Following the stillbirth of her son, Sherokee Ilse wrote and self-published several books as well as founding a national organization devoted to pregnancy loss support. Ann Mullen wrote and self-published the entire account of the delivery of her twins following malpractice. One of her sons died shortly after birth and the other was left severely handicapped and drowned in a pond just before his sixth birthday. She is also very active in a victims' rights group in her state. On a smaller scale, keeping a journal or writing letters to your child can be very therapeutic.
Many bereaved parents become involved in starting and/or facilitating support groups such as SHARE and The Compassionate Friends. Jean Kollantai started a group specializing in the loss of one or more babies in a multiple birth following the stillbirth of one of her twin sons - a much-needed resource. I used my grief energy to start Pen-Parents. Gina Burns helped to start the Group B Strep Association to distribute information and help promote research into the causes and cure of Group B Strep infection.
Another way to reinvest is to start a scholarship fund or other charitable fund in memory of your child. Beth and Frank F. started a fund to assist parents with children requiring special medical care after nearly going bankrupt from medical expenses during the lifetime of their daughter. Kendall and Derron I. started a fund to purchase an emergency transport bed for ill newborns. Kay G. started a fund at a local summer camp to provide scholarships for needy children. Her son spent many special summers there. Sunny Seabrook used a fund to build a children's park in memory of her twin son who was killed in a bicycle accident. Jan B. started an engineering scholarship at the university where her daughter was studying before her death.
George C. was responsible for getting his state legislature to change the drunk driving laws after a drunk driver killed his daughter.
Linda J. says her son's life and death has given her the confidence and courage to go back to college to become a labor and delivery nurse. She never had the courage before.
Debbie B. has made preemie gowns and hats for preemies in the NICU where her son died. Amy T. volunteers her time in the NICU to hold babies whose parents live too far away for frequent visits.
Because of insensitive treatment at hospitals, funeral homes and/or cemeteries, many parents have used their experience to educate these caregivers on proper protocol for bereaved parents. Unhappy with the treatment you received? Tell somebody so that the next parent will receive better attention. What a special way to pay tribute to your child!
Donna M. sends letters on to parole boards on behalf of parents whose children were murdered and the criminal is up for parole. Many murderers have remained behind bars rather than get an early release because of letters like Donna's.
Julie Fritsch created beautiful sculptures of her feelings following the death of her baby son. She shared these with her support group as a way of saying thank you. Pictures of these sculptures have been made into a book called "The Anguish of Loss."
There are many ways to reinvest in life. Some of these ideas may help you think of something meaningful for you to do. To find new meaning in life after tragedy, you must make a conscious effort to seek new positive activities in which to focus your energy. You didn't have a choice in losing your baby, but you do have choices in how your child's life and death affects the rest of your life. It takes energy, but your choices can be positive, healthy ones. Your child would want it that way.
© Maribeth Wilder Doerr. All Rights Reserved.
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