Jody Glynn Patrick
In response to a grieving parent’s comment
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
I received this note as an email comment:
“I don’t know where to start. My son, Gary, died January 8. He is a pastor, husband, daddy, son, brother. He is one of the best men I’ve ever known. I don’t know how to live with this. I am trying so hard to be strong for my grieving son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, all the time I’m screaming why, why, why on the inside. I don’t want to live. Why didn’t God take me? I’m ready. Why have I been left here to suffer? I live alone. My ex-husband is on his third marriage and we don’t even talk. We lost a child and we can’t even discuss it. I’ve tried and he won’t respond. I am so alone. I am retired, live alone and grieve. That’s all I do. I am avoiding people or some are avoiding me. I have fewer friends now. When Gary died, some “friends” quit calling. I’ve been to church one time since his death and cried the whole time, now I am avoiding even going to church. I know that this is not very hopeful, but just needed to get it off of my chest.”
Reader, you are in a place where you don’t have to arrive hopeful, but rather, we aspire to help you leave with hope.
Your child died. Your loss is very recent and you are in the first months of “firsts” since your son died. This will be the most difficult year ahead, and I won’t mislead you into thinking otherwise. However, you can do this one hour at a time, then one day, and eventually one week.
Your son was a pastor, a good man, qualities that suggest he also was a compassionate man with a belief in everlasting existence, and a reconnection with you. You were not left to suffer by some grand plan, yet you are suffering, yes. You were, however, left to live a life worthy of your son’s dreams for you, just as he was living a life worthy of your dreams for him in and through his faith. In this way, when you naturally reconnect, you will greet him with a blessing and not a burden.
Your ex-husband is not in a place where he can emotionally reach out to you or help. Your paths are not the same, and he is not seeking the solace of commiserating with you during this difficult period. He is letting you know that there is no solace for him in that scenario. Either he has another support system, or overriding other obligations, or he does not grieve in the manner you might have expected or hoped. So we must turn our eyes away from that option, and wish for him his best life. We respect for the fact that while the marriage ended, his parentage did not. And so he is hurting, too. But in this instance, one person in pain cannot lighten, understand or commute another’s pain. It is just too much to ask of him.
This leaves closer family and friends. I, too, lost some “friends” after Daniel died, and others I turned away from because I felt their interest was too difficult to bear (“at least you have the other kids” and other idiotic remarks) or suffocating (“you need a nap right now; go off and I’ll take care of your kids now” when I most needed to hold them close) or fabricated. This is an unintentional spring cleaning of friendships; you’ll find some no longer “fit” and that is disappointing, but it frees up your time to pursue more significant or relevant friendships in due time.
You are hurt. You are raw. This is a time to fall back on the resources you do have. Can you go to church when the congregation is not there, or with a trusted friend who will accept your tears? God is holding your son in his love; through God, you will find a bridge in belief. Perhaps you could worship with your daughter-in-law? Perhaps you both are being brave, one for the other, when together you could hold a hand and share a moment of companionable grief?
We hold you close and understand, and gently encourage. You can do this impossibly hard thing being asked of you. Do not bury the love you felt and feel for your son, but wrap yourself in it, and with that barrier and protection, take a step forward and move beyond your walls and into places, with people, who offer you grace and balm. If you don’t know them, explore the mental health options available to you, and the grief support groups in your area. Reader, you are in my heart. You are in our hearts, this community we make of grieving and healing understanding parents. We have walked our own difficult walks and now are here to walk with you.