Carol Goodman Heizer is an author who recently moved to Hood County from Louisville, Kentucky. She has had short stories and articles published in six editions of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. Her column for the Hood County News will appear every two weeks.

In the next few weeks, parents look forward to hearing from their children on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They anticipate hearing from their precious offspring — perhaps enjoying a personal visit or receiving a special phone call, flowers or greeting card. They remember the days their children were born and the many years that have passed since that momentous day.

But for some parents, these days can also bring sadness and heartache as they remember their child who is deceased. This column is dedicated to those very special parents.

At the moment in history you realize your child is dead, it is as though your thoughts and feelings scream to a grinding halt. Nothing moves. Yet everything seems to spin into chaos. No thoughts come, yet a multitude of considerations bombard you. Your heart nearly pounds out of your chest, your blood rushes through your veins as if pouring through your skin, and you cease to exist in your heart and mind. Yet you continue to live. Attempting to reduce such a moment to words is paramount to reducing the universe to a pinpoint.

The initial overwhelming grief seems to cover you like a blanket of bitter cold or penetrating darkness. You feel you will never find the words to speak about it or share it with anyone. Shock is a merciful and compassionate thing, for it allows you to get through the immediate pain. It is as though it puts a sense of “being removed” between you and your reality. The grace-filled period of shock and denial is nature’s way of letting in only as much as you can mentally and emotionally handle at that moment. It helps you cope and makes survival possible.

During the period of shock when friends are bringing food, neighbors are extending acts of kindness, and even during the funeral itself, you may feel that everything is being done for someone else’s child. Yet in a strange way, it is a soul-deep reality that it isyour child. It is nature’s way of softening the blow somewhat, and you should feel no guilt over that.

In the moments, days, and weeks ahead, you stand in shock that the rest of the world continues to function. You do not wish for your loss to be someone else’s. You simply don’t want it to be yours. You struggle with surviving from day to day and sometimes moment to moment. You don’t seem to fit into the present, you yearn for the past, and you temporarily lose hope in the future. It is as though you have been divided in half, with each half trying to find the other.

You oscillate between anger and fear.

Devastation and hope.

Demands and questions.

Those individuals who have been spared this grief can never understand the deep heartache, for a parent never expects to bury a child. That runs contrary to all the laws of age and nature and order. It is not supposed to be that way and, when it is, all of nature seems to slam into reverse. Your dreams of life and love turn to a nightmare of loss and tears and anguish.

For those of you who have experienced this grief, please do not shut out all those around you who love and care for you. Allow them to help you carry the load in whatever way they can. It may be through daily chores. It may be through lending a compassionate ear to simply listen as you attempt to share the devastating reality of losing your child and attempting to find yourself.

For those of you who have not experienced this heartache, please be especially considerate of those whom you know that struggle with these special days. It does not matter whether their child has been gone weeks, months, or years — the two special days ahead will bring a unique mixture of thoughts and feelings to parents who have lost a child. They will be lovingly appreciative of their living children, but they will also be reliving the memories they shared with that special child. They may also be feeling a fresh loss for the child no longer in their presence.

  • – Excerpts fromthe book “Losing Your Child – Finding Your Way” by Carol G. Heizer