Monday, December 12, 2005

Approaches To Grief

About a year ago, we met a bereaved couple from Brooklyn. This young boy of a few years old was born to the same parents. He had a fever. Everyday stuff. They gave him some medicine before both parents kissed him good night. He passed away in his crib during the night. Although they were parents to the same child and probably shared the same views on parenting, their approaches to grief were completely different. This is a common issue that arises between couples. Falsely believing that the couple, who are mourning for the same child, must deal with their grief in the same way. Yet just as men are from Mars and women are from Venus, their coping methods are different. There is the question of whether to look at pictures or not to look. Should you pack their room away or leave it as a sort of "shrine". To talk about it or pretend it never happened. To dive into work or become un-phased by the day to day. There are many, many questions and scenarios which arise and so many more answers and approaches.
This father from Brooklyn assured us that he was strong from start. He stated emphatically that Hashem carried my son to Gan Eden and I never
felt a bit of resentment or sadness from the moment that he left this world. On the other hand, the Wife could not get past the fact that she was never able to say goodbye.
The day before Nechama Liba passed, she woke up. We were weaning her off of the sedation with the expectation and hope that she would be
taken off of the respirator within days. Nechama Liba was unable to speak but she was able to nod her head. We were frightened. Imagine her waking up after being "asleep for weeks" with tubes, IVs and the generic scene of a hospital bed of someone who is in the ICU. In addition, she was forced to lie on a virtual bed of ice to keep her fever down. Before she had the chance to become agitated, I said” Do you trust me? Do you know that we will never let anything bad happen to you?" She nodded affirmatively and then she drifted back into her sleep. These were the last words that we spoke to her. My wife and I noticed, independently, that her hands looked like that of an old woman. Neither of us told that observation to the other until days later. We quickly pushed the visual from our minds. Nechama passed away the next day.

Ever since our first encounter, I felt great sympathy for this couple. I felt badly for the mother for what she was going through and perhaps worse for the father for what he would one day experience. One awful day, the reality of what occurred would hit him in a forceful way out of nowhere. There is no escape. To borrow a phrase “you can run...but you can't hide.” But I have often thought of what the wife said. It affected me in a profound way. I tried to understand on a deeper level why this, more than anything else, bothered her. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that since her child died so suddenly, she never got a chance to say all the things that she would have wanted her child to have known. “I love you. I will miss you. You mean the world to me. I am sorry for anytime that I wronged you. Many times, I had to withhold things that you wanted to have or that you wanted to do out of love. I am sorry for any time I yelled. I am sorry that I didn't spend more time with you or appreciate you when I had you.” I now understood why it shook this woman to the core. I did not have the opportunity at the time but, if I would see her now I would tell her the following: Your child, pure and holy was carried by Hashem to Gan Eden. In that respect, your husband is correct. And in the world of truth, nothing is hidden. Now more than ever, your child is aware of every true feeling that you ever had and knows all those things that you ever wanted to tell him. And even more, every subconscious feeling of love that you ever felt will be understood by that child.

To this child, you never needed to say good-bye.

3 Comments:

Blogger chuck said...

i was deeply touched by this post
if i may add
notice that people cry at funerals
i've come to the conclusion that since the dead are now at peace and subsequently better off, why cry?
i realize that we cry for our loss, our pain not for the dead
so in reality crying is selfish

the dad is right in being strong,
if your doing what the really child wants.

just my humble opinion

6:57 PM  
Blogger Glen Holman said...

There are 2 independent tracks. One track is for the heart and one for the mind. Unfortunately, what works for the mind still leaves the heart longing. If I was a betting man, I would wager that the man is repressing his feelings more than holding to a specific ideal is such an extreme way. In addition, it would be hard pressed to describe a parent who cries because they miss their deceased child as selfish. I can believe that my child is in a better place yet I still long to be with my daughter. What you describe might be more appropriate for a child who loses a parent. However, the question that begs to be asked which highlights where the 2 tracks intersect is: “What if you, as a parent, were given the choice to bring your child back?” Take away the child’s suffering as a component for a moment and you are left with the desire to see your child against the belief that the child is in a perfect world.

Glen Holman

12:03 AM  
Blogger ליפא שנילצער said...

tragic tragic really hard to say anything, but what i will say is

האט ביטחון וועט אלעס זיין גיט

11:35 PM  

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