Our Journey Through Grief

Murray and Joni Bouchard

Grieving the Loss of a Child

It is well documented and believed that there is nothing worse for a parent than losing a child.  It is the “unimaginable” and goes against the natural order of things.  As parents, we all expect that our children will outlive us because that is the way it is supposed to be and most of the time this is true.  Sadly, however, it doesn’t always happen that way and in what seems an instant you can become part of the club that no one ever wants to be a member of.  This club is that of grieving parents.

 

 There Are No Words

We have thought much about how to explain the pain of how it feels to lose someone that is a part of you from their very being; a little acorn that takes root from their parents and grows into a seedling, a sapling, and then a tree that needs constant nurturing and love as it grows and matures.  Hard as we try, day after day, month after month, there are simply no words to explain this pain, this devastation, this unimaginable loss.  It is debilitating in every way, shape, and form.  And, so the big question is, “how do we survive after this kind of loss?”

 

How Do We Survive Our Loss?

I speak for myself here, and what I (Will’s mom) know for sure, is that I could not have survived without help from a variety of sources.  First, of course, there is my husband and my other two sons.  When I look at my husband, I see a man and a father that loves Will as much as I, and I am grateful that I have him beside me through this painful journey of learning to live without one of our children.  I would not want to make this journey alone and I think often of those that have no choice but to.

Me and My Three Boys (Justin, Will, and Ben)

Then there are my other two boys, both older than Will as he was the youngest of our three sons, and when I try to imagine what it would be like to not have them in my world, I’m pretty sure my will to survive would not exist.  I believe as a family we need each other in ways that only the human heart can truly understand.  It is an all encompassing need to be a part of what fundamentally for me is the most important part of my life, my most important work here on earth, and that is being a mother.

 

Then there is my extended family, my friends, my community and, thankfully, a handful of “extra specials”; those that have cried with me, carried me, lifted me, organized life for me, walked with me, talked with me, sat with me, hugged me, called me, and expected nothing of me… and, it has not stopped.  They continue to be there for me in every way, at any time, without hesitation and without them, I don’t know where I’d be.

 

There is no question that losing a child, or anyone that you love for that matter, tests your belief system, your faith, your everything.  I can only say that I have searched and questioned and do ultimately believe that I will see Will again.  Believing this is what gets me through the hardest of moments.  The difficult part for me is the wait; not knowing when this will be, and knowing that I must finish my work here on earth first.  BUT, I believe that I will see him again.  And when I do, it will be forever.  I believe that when I see him it will be as if no time had passed.  We will pick up from the moment he passed and no one will ever be able to separate us again.

 

Grief Support

There is another important facet to our survival and it comes in two parts.  One is through the professional counselling that we have found through grief support that was offered to us through our employers and through Alberta Health Services.  The other was through the six week Parent Support Group that was recommended to us, again through Alberta Health Services.  Our group of parents continue to meet monthly outside of the professionally facilitated program for continued support and friendship. Through this process and the counseling that we have received we have learned much about the grief associated with the loss of a child and have a better understanding of what our journey through grief might look and feel like as we somehow try and go forward.  The frustrating thing is that there are no answers and there will never be answers to those really hard questions.  What we need to accept is that we will never truly accept the loss of our son; we will only learn to live with it.  The “how” seems impossible still, but day after day, we try.  Being with others that share these same feelings and that are walking in the same pair of shoes offers a level of comfort and safety that cannot be found anywhere else.  Grief is a foreign place for all of us in the group and the fact that we all speak the same language brings us great comfort.

 

What has worked for me?

Grief is a very intense and individual journey. It is different for everybody so these observations are just what helped me (Will’s dad) and not necessarily what might help others.  If somehow this can ease the pain for others then I am only too happy to share.

Murray with Will (left) and Ben

  1. Cut yourself some slack.  Focus, motivation, effort, and performance are all impacted by grief.  I found I just could not function at work the way I was used to and was often frustrated and hard on myself.  A friend that experienced a similar grief event told me “don’t be too hard on yourself” and that was good advice.
  2. Don’t run from the pain but turn right into it.  This was a suggestion from the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  I found this to be helpful even though it is very painful to face grief head on.  The premise is to really focus on the pain, feel it, live it, and embrace it.  It means you really cared deeply for your loved one.
  3. Talk, talk, talk.  To friends, to counselors, to family members.  You can’t bottle up the pain inside and I found it helpful to talk about Will even if it made me bawl.  Afterwards I always felt  better.  I found if I didn’t have a fairly regular good cry, I would find myself short with others, situations, or just frustrated about everything.
  4. Be open to showing your emotions.   Those close to you feel your pain and being open with your emotions shows it is ok for them to be emotional to (if they want to).  I found this really connects you closely with those that care about you.
  5. Be open to help from many sources.  People will try to help in any way they can.  Food, financial support, tasks around the home, etc.  I often said, “no thanks I’m good” thinking I didn’t want to be a burden.   What I came to realize is that allowing them to help assisted them with how they dealt with the tragedy.  I found we became more closely connected and the truth is I really did need the help and came away with an incredible sense of gratitude.