Gaining and Losing

It is hard to believe that it has been thirty years since a single phone call changed my life forever, informing me that my 17-year-old-son, Scott, had been killed in an automobile accident. With those words, my “normal life” as a wife, mother of four, and nurse at the University of Rochester medical center was forever changed. At the time I thought that there was no way I could possibly survive the shattering pain. My boy, not even out of his teens, had been snatched from our lives forever.

I asked God and anyone who would listen, Why? I blamed myself and looked for answers—but there were none to be found. I had always believed that if you wanted something badly and worked hard enough, you would get it. But regardless of how hard I prayed, his bed remained empty and there was an empty chair at the table.

It took many years to build a new life and to again find joy and fulfillment. Today I can truly say that my life has been so much fuller because I knew Scott. Of course, I still at times feel the sadness that never leaves those of us whose children have died. But over the years, I have found that life and death go together. As I have lost other family members, including my parents and two siblings, I have come to realize that life is a process of gaining and losing.

I believe that in the end, we gain more than we lose.

The death of a child is such a profound loss and out of sequence that we sometimes become overly focused on the loss and miss the gains. Some of the gains I have made are the fantastic friends that I have made through The Compassionate Friends. Other gains are qualities identified in the bereavement research of Lawrence G. Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi, which they call “Post-traumatic Growth.” These include feeling more compassion and empathy; increased resiliency; the ability to “bounce back”; a deeper understanding of one’s personal values, purpose, and meaning in life; and a greater value of interpersonal relations.

It is my wish for you that with time you will again find joy and recognize the gains you have made in your life. Until then, I invite you to lean on my hope until you have found your own.  


Gloria Horsley

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