Facing life after losing your son

> How do I feel? It’s like a tsunami of the soul, a huge destructive overwhelming force that leaves nothing good in its wake and whose ripples surge outwards to touch all those who are near you.

As Paul puts it, in the affluent West we consider there to be a natural order of things. People die in the order that they were born. You assume that one day, you will attend your parents’ funerals, if you have not done so already.

> “No man should have to bury his son.” — *Theoden, Lord of the Rings.*

About a year ago, a 17 year old boy was killed in our town. He jumped over the barrier at the railway station because he was afraid of missing his last train home. He didn’t notice the train that was leaving the station, and it hit him at about 30mph. It happened right outside the house where we used to live. And all I could think about was his parents, and all that time and energy and love that they invested in him, only for him to throw it away.

This might sound a little morbid, but I regularly force myself to spend a minute imagining myself in the shoes of a parent who has lost a child. I read the articles that they write, not for pleasure or thrills, but because the danger exists and I do not wish to belittle it.

My mother always thought that my father was emotionally cold because he seemed, to her, so unaffected when his parents died. She would openly criticise him to me, and instruct me not to turn out like him. But as time has gone by, I’ve realised how wrong she was about him. He’s a rational man. He prepares for the worst, and hopes for the best, and if the worst does happen, then he’s the guy who keeps his head so that he can offer support where necessary. I realised that his reaction to his parents dying wasn’t due to emotional detachment, but because he had known that it was going to come, and that it was always a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

It strikes me that he probably also used to spend a minute every day thinking about the possibility that I, or my sister, would not make it to our 18th birthday. I don’t think that this would make him a monster. I think that it would make him a strong man, who isn’t afraid to confront the things that scare him on a daily basis. Like him, I want to be able to stare death in the face and acknowledge its power, and by doing so, also limit its power.

I know that it’s impossible to be prepared for such a tragedy. I don’t think that the human mind can possibly grasp the magnitude of the situation until it is drowning in it. But maybe I can take the edge off, slightly. If I’ve already simulated it in my mind a few thousand times, maybe it will make it easier to accept reality when all hope of return is lost. Or maybe I just do it to remind me to appreciate every day as if it is our last.

One reply on “Facing life after losing your son”

Interesting. I don’t read such things, but because my brother was killed in a car accident when he was 18 so, even though it’s decades ago now it’s too painful.

I think appreciating every day “as if it is our last” is one way of putting it. Appreciating each moment fully and thankfully is another. It’s what I aspire to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *