Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the fact that I live in a grieving home, and I am continuing to raise my children in a grieving home and that there is nothing that I can do to change that. It is just not the same place that it was two years ago. Don’t get me wrong – we still laugh have fun together, but the grief is always there. The tears are just around the corner, and I feel like my children especially don’t talk to me as they once did, fearing that they might ‘get me upset.’ My oldest daughter is moving to college in two short weeks and seems so anxious to get out of this house. I find myself wondering if she would be feeling the same way if her brother was alive and we were not so broken. Perhaps it would have made no difference, but I cannot help but wonder.
Today’s guest, Pat, grew up in a grieving home as well, although it took her over 50 years to realize this fact. She never knew her brother, Greg, who was born 6 years before her own birth and died at 4 months of age. She found out that he existed only by accident as a young girl. He was never talked about in the family by anyone. She found his gravestone in the cemetery by herself and would even visit and talk with him without the knowledge of her parents or siblings.
An interesting thing happened in 2012, however – the year that Greg would have turned 60. Pat’s mother, who was now in her mid-80’s, began to really open up and talk to Pat about Greg. She talked about what it was like for her to suddenly lose her previously healthy baby. She talked about her guilt, her anger, the lack of support from others and all of those other pent up emotions. With the sharing of her heart, Pat saw years of stress and tension just fall away. She witnessed her mom really begin the process of healing that had not really even begun despite the passing of 60 years. Pat began to realize why her home was always just a little more sad and a little more quiet than it should be with four kids in the home. Someone had always been missing, and no one in her family had ever acknowledged it.
A major turning point in her mother’s grief journey came during a trip to the bank where the bank teller innocently asked her how many children she had. For the very first time ever, she proclaimed, “Five.” Ever since Pat had been born 54 years ago, the answer to that question had been inaccurate. What a relief that must have been! For sixty years, that question must have pained her as it does me, knowing that the number that she was sharing was not really true.
These months of talking with her mom and grief changed Pat as well. She had always known that she was a good listener and had been transitioning her career to become a life coach. She soon realized, however, that she did not simply want to be a life coach. She needed to become a grief coach. She needed to help grieving people face their grief and learn to live with it, in order to help as many grieving homes as possible. Recently, she even published a book, How Do I Survive: 7 Steps to Living After Child Loss, which can be found free on her website, HealingFamilyGrief.com.
Yes, I am living in a grieving home and raising children in a grieving home, but isn’t everyone doing that to a certain extent? Grief is a part of life and love, and no one can truly escape it forever. Certainly, I would have liked to protect my family from having to live this way, but I could not. This experience will mold and shape them, but that molding and shaping is not exclusively bad. As I feel that I am a more compassionate person, the rest of my family will be as well. For Pat, growing up in a grieving home eventually helped her find her true purpose in life. Perhaps, it will do the same for my family.