‘Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.’ (Joan Didion)
The time after a death is often called the mourning period, and people are said to be in mourning or to be grieving or bereaved. Regardless of what this time or process is called, the death of a loved one is an extremely challenging time.
Although it may not feel possible at the time, life does continue. However, it is impossible for life not to be altered or at least to feel very different. In an instant, everything changes. It is as if a thick line is drawn, dividing life into before and after the death. Our sense of security and control can be lost. No one dares even think about is what would be like to face the death of their own child, yet it is something so many people have to experience, from the loss of a baby right through to the loss of an adult child. For some, when there is a terminal illness for example, the death is anticipated. For others, it is sudden and unexpected. It can be peaceful or it can be traumatic. Regardless, no two people will experience the loss of a child in the same way or in the same timeframe.
Anam Cara provides a range of bereavement support services throughout Ireland, including peer support and understanding to families who have experienced the death of a child. The organisation offers online and face-to-face bereavement services, from information on its website and online private message forums to local support meetings, family events, bereavement information evenings and remembrance events. All are free of charge.
The Anam Cara support groups provide parents with a safe, comfortable environment where they can meet with other bereaved parents. Meeting with parents a little further on in their journey can give newly bereaved parents some hope that in time, they too will find ways to cope with the intense grief and sense of loss.
If you have experienced the death of a child, remember that all reactions are natural and normal. Here are some Anam Cara guidelines that could be helpful:
> Go easy on yourself, you will not be able to do what you normally do. Grieving is exhausting and can affect our mental and physical health.
> Be patient with yourself and your emotions.
> If possible, avoid major decisions (like changing residence, changing jobs) for at least a year.
> Avoid making hasty decisions about your child’s belongings. Do not allow others to take over or rush you. Do it at your own pace when you are ready.
> Cry freely as you feel the need. It is a healthy expression of grief and releases tension.
> Find a good listener, someone who will just let you talk. Anam Cara can help facilitate this.
> Often talking to another parent who has lost a child can help as they are on the same journey as yourself, just a little bit further down the road.
Anam Cara is holding a bereavement information evening for parents on September 17, from 7.30 to 9pm in The Family Centre, Chapel Street, Castlebar. After this, monthly support meetings will be held on the third Thursday of every month at the same time and in the same location.
For more information, visit
www.anamcara.ie or call Anam Cara on 01 4045378
Printed in The Mayo News on 15 September 2015