A parent who experiences the passing of a child takes on some very harsh, undeserved, self-criticism, particularly if the child is still a minor. It is the nature of the role of parent that we believe we are responsible for so much of what happens to our children, even beyond that which we have no control over. Along with the guilt of failure as a parent to protect our children, comes a deep shame. Of course, eagerly heaped on by those who sit in judgement of others.
Several months after Steven, my son, passed I had a conversation with a husband and wife who were part of the local church congregation. They were asking me about the circumstances of the accident. I explained that Steven was on his motorbike when he had a head on collision, on a blind corner, with a mini bus that was on the wrong side of the road. The husband promptly asked why I had permitted Steven to ride a motorbike. To this I replied that Steven was passionate about motorbikes and that I had financed his motorbike for him. I was totally gobsmacked at the husband’s next remark and will never forget it. He said, “So you killed your son!”
The circumstances surrounding the passing of my children, I believe, were as it should be. Even if I could have done something differently, it would not have changed the outcome. This assurance I had directly from my children and although I hate this cliché, it was their time….it was indeed as their souls had planned it. This fact is of little comfort during a heartbreaking crisis and I would not offer this as comfort to anyone newly bereaved. This view point is extremely individual and I would come to recognise this some years after the fact when I had a chance to logically and calmly work through everything that was done and said. Only then was I able to release that guilt and shame. The moment I was able to do that, I felt the weight lift and my load become a whole lot lighter.
The deep shame does not stop at the recriminations that we could have done something different to prevent their passing, but invariably the memories arise where we perceived our parenting as less than a loving parent in certain circumstances in the past. Every parent does, no matter who we are, have instances in the past where we regret what was said and done/not said and done to our loved one/ones, especially when it comes with anger or sarcasm. We are all human and all have emotional outbursts at some time or other. No one is perfect. This is where self-forgiveness is required. Should you feel the need to ask forgiveness from your loved one who has passed as well, that too can be done. Ask, they do hear you. Take note of the energy within your body at the time of asking. If you are in tune with your personal energy, you will feel a shift. If you do not feel any different, ask for a sign that they have heard you and have forgiven you. Our loved ones are desperate to remain in contact and to deliver any sign that they have indeed heard you. The response will surprise you.
Lastly, and this does apply to anybody going through grief and not only grieving parents, please be gentle with yourselves. You are going through one of the most challenging experiences ever. It is okay if you cry, forget things, need to be alone, do not eat or eat too much, don’t sleep well, sleep all the time….and above all else, you do not need to apologise to anyone for how you feel. This is your journey and yours alone. Obviously, there will be others in the family who are grieving too, and we would do well to respect their process and ask that they respect yours.
Releasing guilt and shame will not sever ties with your loved one and in to remain in guilt and shame is no loving way to remember or honour your loved one. You are hurting yourself and impeding the love bond we have with loved ones who have passed. I too, am guilty of thinking that releasing any pain would mean I am forgetting my children. Little did I know how much I was missing by existing in this pain. The love that has flooded my heart since then has brought overwhelming joy and bliss. When I call their names, I immediately feel the love fill me on an energetic level and most times it makes me catch my breath. I don’t need to see them, I feel them!
Grief is a process that we work through and as each emotion arises, we must face it, resolve the issues surrounding the root cause and then release it. Talk, talk and talk some more. If you have no one to confide in, then journal. If journaling is not your thing, then go talk to the trees and I do not say this lightly. Trees exude healing energy! Find whatever works for you. It all hinges on our intention……. remain in the pain or feel their love.