Ask any parent who has lost a child and he or she will tell you that it is the ultimate pain. Dealing with the numbness and shock followed by the anger and guilt, the loneliness, the loss of future plans and dreams, overwhelming sadness and heartache torment the bereaved parent.
Coping and surviving after the death of a child is a never-ending struggle. You’re always missing their smiles, their voice, their laughter, their hugs, and their special ways; the little idiosyncrasies that make each child uniquely your own. Unfortunately, the road through the Valley of the Shadow is a long one with no shortcuts.
After losing my two oldest children, twenty-one-year-old Denis and nineteen-year-old Peggy, in a freak car accident, I face the heartbreaking chore of sorting through their possessions. I realized then how easily they might become "erased" from the memories of friends and loved ones. I vowed that would never happen. I wanted the world to know my Peggy and Denis and to remember them with fondness and smiles. I wanted thoughts of them to tug at heartstrings. I wanted no one to ever be afraid to mention their names to me. I guess you could say I started a crusade. The more I talked about them, the more people came to know them, and the more people shared them with me. Miraculously, everybody began to realize that Peggy and Denis still live on in my heart; they are my children forever.
That one thought—"my children forever"—makes my heart sing. When the boyfriend of my third child, Annie, who had never met Peggy or Denis, remarked, "I feel like I know them," it was the nicest thing he could have said. He recognized that they were still part of our family and part of our lives. With this I knew I’d done what I’d set out to do: make sure my children would never be forgotten.
That focus gave me strength, the will to survive, and a special meaning to my life. It inspired me not only to tell the world about my children but to share my experience since their deaths with others who have suffered this loss. Reinvesting that special love I had just for them comes back to me a hundred fold. The most important thing for bereaved parents to know is that their children will always be theirs—that they will never be forgotten.