Something dreadful happens to your confidence when you lose your child. It disappears like bathwater down the plughole, draining away and leaving you feeling like a hollow shell. I well remember that time in early loss, being quite incapable of making the simplest mundane decisions, yet I had to arrange my son’s funeral, a traumatic task that defies comment.
But the good news is (you knew there would be good news…) you will in time become a reasonably similar version of who you were before.
I remember reading an article by American grief counsellor Mitch Carmody in which he spoke of the bereaved parent living life a heartbeat behind everyone else; it is as though our timeframe has slipped slightly, but that sensation does lessen over time.
I believe that being at the very brink of endurance imbues the bereaved with a different kind of strength. We have all read of superhuman feats…. “man lifts car to save passenger”… and looked in awe at the Iron man challenges undertaken by athletes that push them to the absolute limit.
It strikes me as very interesting that so many bereaved parents go on to achieve things in their lives which require strength, and above all, confidence.
I know several bereaved parents who now express themselves as writers and artists.
I know those who have challenged authority and won, those who campaign with organisations overseas and make a difference.
I know those whose fundraising efforts in memory of their children are tireless.
I know some who have moved to a different area to successfully make a different life.
Others conquer phobias and say, “Now I feel more normal” … whatever that means!
Nothing that life throws at you afterwards is ever going to be as bad as what you have faced and survived….and when you conquer things, large or small, that make you anxious or nervous, you are drawing on many new strengths. For some their strength may come from faith or spiritual beliefs. For myself, it tends to be a little bit of everything (after all, everyone knows I have a toolbox for my grief…) and undoubtedly the love and support around me, both seen and unseen, ensures that I hold my head high and walk through life with greater force and purpose these days.
I have said before that it is hard to find any kind of gift in loss but perhaps this new strength and confidence is the gift we should harness and embrace to take us forward in our lives…. without our beloved children.