If your child were alive today, how old would they be?
There are many types of bereavement. As years go by we lose parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends. And some of us outlive our children.
It seems to me that of all these types of bereavement, it is the bereaved parents in particular who sit and calculate, trying to figure out how old their child would have been.
My son Pax would be 43. It’s his birthday today.
Pax died when he was 3 – that’s almost 40 years ago. What would his life have been in the intervening 40 years? What would he have done, where would he have worked or lived? Would he have married, had children? What would he look like? These are questions for which there are no answers.
We spend the time remaining to us imagining what if …
Talking about our children
It’s the most natural thing in the world to talk about our children. After all, that’s what most parents do on a day-to-day basis.
“How’s Johnny enjoying his new job?” “How did your Nancy get on with the house move?” “You must be so proud of Pam’s achievements.” “Is Derek visiting for the holidays?”
We too want to talk about our children. Just because they’re not here doesn’t mean we don’t still love them, don’t still think about them. They are still part of our life’s conversation.
Some people reading this will have also been bereaved of a child and you’ll know what I mean.
Say their name
Perhaps your child died a few months ago or within the last couple of years. You are deeply shocked and perhaps wondering how you’re going to live without them.
If you are thinking, “oh my goodness, this woman’s son died four decades ago and she’s still grieving”, please take heart. The nature of grief changes over the years. The intense grief that overwhelmed me is a less frequent visitor now.
Yes, I still miss Pax in so many different ways. Today I’m sorry I’m not going to meet up for a nice birthday meal or to the pub. Out of necessity, I have to find other ways of commemorating and celebrating Pax’s birthday. Today I went on one of my favourite Peak District walks. I’ll light a candle this evening and raise a glass to him.
And I said the name. Pax. You heard the name. Pax. In this way I keep his memory alive.
And that’s how as bereaved parents we get through and keep on living. We live our own lives, but we also find ways to live for our children. They will never be forgotten. I imagine you have your own special ways of keeping your child’s memory alive.
Pax means peace. I hope you find peace in your own journeys, living with your own losses.
I hope you are surrounded by friends and family who will still talk about your child. Failing that (and sadly, many people do fail at that), that you will find new friends – perhaps other bereaved parents – and places where you can talk about your child as much as you wish. (Such as The Compassionate Friends)
And I hope you will find the courage to keep on living the life you have now.