When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

~ Kahlil Gibran, from"The Prophet"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


At a recent TCF meeting we talked about the lack of understanding and/or support from friends and family members (immediate and extended) in the wakes of the deaths of our children, a recurring theme in discussions; a pronounced concern for the newly bereaved as well as for those of us who are moving farther away from the date of our children's passings.

As parents, we're always seated in the spot up front, the driver's seat. Although we wore the safety belts of responsibility at the time of our children's deaths (by illness, accident, suicide...), the impact of that collision hit us head-on, forcefully launching us through the windshield. Those carefully buckled belts of security somehow gave way, admonishing us with further evidence that we were not in control of so many things in spite of our earnest care of those blessings we brought into this world and worked diligently to care for.  Now, in the aftermath, we walk though life attempting to make peace with the awful images of long-term sicknesses that stole our children piece-by-piece, or pictures of a sudden, violent death that have forever embedded themselves in our heads, accompanied by running dialogues of regret/guilt over should-haves - countered by - stop! it does no good to go there  over things past.

Move on!!   It doesn't work that way.  I'm sorry.  It doesn't all just go away. Peace is elusive because everything changes. Reread Death Barged In  in my recent post.  BANG!

We're making determined efforts to find new paths in an unexpected, detoured life while facing the ever-present GAPING HOLES where our children should be  - sunflowers instead of a healthy 20-year-old beauty in a bridesmaid's dress...
erin #8  on sweatbands rather than "Assists, Service Aces and Digs" listed in the Box Scores of some University under "Potts, Erin, Jr, class of 2013"...

We're assaulted by empty chairs everywhere we look.
Instead, we find our children in cemeteries, names boldly etched in marble grave markers.

The practice of staying in the present moment to road-block the painful memories of the past isn't always easy, because present moments are often underscored by the absence of our child.  So, where does that leave us?  In a state of an exhausting discipline of restructured thought patterns, SO very thankful for the gestures of sunflowers, erin #8 sweatbands, etc and in need of ongoing support and understanding from those around us because life will be a never-ending series of those gaping holes.

That doesn't always happen, and our pain is exacerbated by the lack of understanding of our struggle to move forward in spite of our sadness - the lack of willingness to acknowledge our pain, with the underlying thought that perhaps we should be better by now - the lack of considerate appreciation of the plain and simple fact that a huge part of us died along with our children and we will never ever ever be the same in spite of the fact that we appear to be "normal" on the outside.

Certain individuals have a greater level of understanding than others; perhaps due to a personal experience that has offered a paralleled glimpse into our world.
(Cancer? No, she has eyebrows!)

Some have the wisdom of years coupled with a long-held bond of friendship, a maturity that invites a sense of confidence; where a tender, sympathetic heart inspires creative energy to flow through one's fingers to gift us with tangible evidence of love and an alliance across the miles between.

Maybe it's a genetic component that predisposes some with an innate ability to think on this plane; a vibrancy of youth driven by an internal sensitivity and an awareness of and appreciation for the blessings of good health and the opportunities of a life ahead; a willingness and initiative taken to share an important message with whomever is randomly touched on a particular day.

Or the coach and members of the local volleyball family who remember a young girl whose time was abruptly cut short, and they take time to recognize her and support research in the hope that someday this disease won't take others.  Please see Patch.com for last night's event.

All these people are among the saving graces in our lives.

So, what about those who don't get it?  Those who don't call anymore... or worse, never did.  I'll bite my cheeks and stifle my fingers to refrain from sharing details. Through my own experience and a gained perspective through listening to the stories recounted by others in my shoes, I know it is due to a multitude of reasons:  a lack of understanding, the fear of many things, embarrassment, self-absorption, the choice to not "go there", one's own hectic life taking priority...  a multitude of reasons.  I often think... well, I won't say.

Someone recently told me it's due to homeostasis.
Huh?  Hmmmm
~ the tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.
Think about it.   A disturbance of normal conditions.  The need to maintain stability, balance, normalcy.

The death of a loved one, especially a child, catastrophically disrupts the normal "system" - and you can define that system on narrow terms as one's own personal self where one fights one's own demons, or broaden it to define the system of the family unit including immediate and extended members or widen it even more to encompass the whole community that knew the individual who died.

By the laws of nature, a system wants to remain in balance and works steadily to do so.  So the people who act as though nothing has happened or those unable or unwilling to speak our children's names or those that are "just complete idiots" (not my words, well maybe), are simply nature's way of providing the counter balance to right the scale that has dipped dramatically - its tray holding the overwhelming weight of sadness due to the loved one's death, along with the many individuals who climb in to provide faithful support.

In order to bring the system back into homeostatic equilibrium where it is "meant to be", these folks kindly assume the role of the opposing force.
Everyone has a purpose.

It's an interesting thought to begin your Wednesday morning!


  1. This is a very insightful post Mary. Very well thought out and well written.
    Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. That love just doesn't go away, that promise for their future stolen and lost, thus the love turns to pain.
    It's great you have a support group to talk out your feelings. It's the others I don't understand. They think they are "sparing you" by not talking about it, when really they are sparing themselves.
    People can be selfish like that.

  2. Mary, you describe people so well. One can't catch cancer nor illness nor sadness nor sudden death by spending time with people who have gone thru those life changing (to say the least) experiences. Yet if we allow ourselves to listen and spend time with those individuals instead of putting up a (imagined)protective barrier, we become more decent human beings. We learn so much from you, Mary, and are grateful for your honesty and openness.

  3. Wow! I had to re-read that three times! What an amazing writer you are! I am so grateful that you share your thoughts and feelings with us - and even more that you share (and allow us to share) memories of Erin :)

  4. Such a fantastic post. so utterly clear and complete without an ounce of self-pity.

    To sjn: at the art show a few weeks ago, the best friend of the young woman who died and I talkd about how people have this idiotic idea that talking about your loved one will "remind" you -- of what you never stop thinking about.

    And Mary, again: What you said about how our children escape us despite our precious care of them - that's what I think people simply cannot tolerate. And who can blame them? Who wants to think that all of her care and protection and hard work cannot guarantee a child her life?

  5. Trying to get that scale to balance is the hardest part. Grief creeps in like a tidalwave..no warning, no way to prepare and board up the place. The spoken and unspoken words that we all feel, just a tip of the iceberg of the love and respect we have for you and the way you are working through this journey. Much love, my friend!


  6. I think homeostasis is a stretch for some ;) I think they are still looking for the easy button.....there are no easy buttons. Thank goodness for good friends and family to ride the waves with.

  7. I love you, Mrs. Potts. So glad you were able to see my special message on the volleyball. I include that on all of my volleyballs that I throw out before games.


  8. I'm sure you do, Kristin. Thank you.