Aside from my miscarriages, I have never lost a child. Knowing the pain I endured physically, mentally and emotionally and the grief I went through with those pregnancy losses, I can not imagine something as profound as the loss of a child I had held in my arms and whose personality I had known. And even more so, I can not even begin to fathom what it feels like to know your child will die and leave this earth soon. Earlier this week, I linked to this article which has since been making the rounds on the internet. Today this one was shared with me as well. My heart and prayers go out to those parents who know not the day or hour but know it is close. Painfully close.
Grief is a strange and terrible thing but also terribly necessary. But our reactions to it vary greatly. Recently, an interaction on facebook I saw reminded me as to how greatly it can vary. Someone this past week on facebook made a negative reference to mother-of-deceased-soldier-turned-anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. It took me back to a very specific event from when I was working in corporate America.
I had a co-worker, who happened to sit right next to me, who was virulently political and who was (in his words) “disgusted” by Ms Sheehan. It was actually against corporate policy to discuss politics, so I would politely listen to his rants and not respond. More often, I ignored him and did my job. Regardless, shortly after a new group of people moved into the desks across from us, he started in again about Ms. Sheehan calling her “worthless scum,” “moronic” and “in need of high speed lead therapy.” A woman sitting across from us stood up over the partition and introduced herself to him. She asked if he had any children. He said he did, he had two. She asked if he was a Christian. He said yes. (Since he was already in violation of the no politics policy, he surely couldn’t be offended by someone asking his religion. ) She asked if he or either of them served in the military. He said no. She opened her desk drawer and took out a picture of a handsome young Marine in his official portrait.
“This is my son, F. He died early in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. I don’t know Mrs. Sheehan and my reaction to the loss of my son was different than hers, but she is acting out of grief and each parent’s grief is unique to who they are. I cannot sit in judgment as her loss is hers and it is profound, no doubt, but every parent I have met who has lost a child in war reacts differently. You wouldn’t understand our pain, our suffering and how it could drive someone to do things that others deem “crazy” or “moronic.” I dare say, instead of threatening her life or making ugly statements, as a Christian, your time would be better spent praying that her grief is relieved and she can try and rebuild her life. ” She quietly sat back down.***
Her words hit me hard. As they no doubt did my co-worker who sat in stunned silence. Just as there is no “right” expression of love, there is no “right” expression of grief. It irks me to no end when someone says that a grieving widow or parent isn’t “crying enough.” It is easy to sit there and be critical when you are not the one enduring so profound a loss. And even if you have lost someone in a similar fashion, your reaction is appropriate to you alone no one else.
I look at my children and could not imagine my life without them. I could not imagine what it would be like to watch them slowly being taken from me or be taken all at once either. I could guess there would be tears and anger and sadness as I continue to learn the hardest prayer of all “Not my will, but Thine, be done.” In the mean time, I will love my children with all that I am and I will pray for those who have lost a child and remember I do not and cannot understand their loss, nor their grief.
(***More recent behavior of Mrs Sheehan’s suggests she either still has not dealt with her loss or has become so consumed that she cannot dig herself out which is very tragic. She still needs lots of prayer. And I don’t mean to relate this story in support of anything Mrs. Sheehan stands for personally or politically, just as an example of a parent’s grief at the loss of their child.)