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Terms and Conditions

My son died ten years ago so I have a decade “under my belt” as a bereaved parent. In that decade, I think I’ve learned the Terms and Conditions of being a bereaved parent; those Terms and Conditions that must be acknowledged, understood and accepted.

First, this is something you must carry the rest of your life. It will not always be as sharp as in the early days, but it is a permanent part of you.

Second, you will not be the person you were before; you are forever altered. There are aspects of your core character that remain, but this is indeed a life changing experience.

Third, there are people you expected would be in your life forever who will vanish. That will hurt almost as much as losing your child.

Fourth, while you may find that you have much in common with other bereaved parents, you have to learn that those “core character traits” mean that not every bereaved parent is safe or supportive. If a person was self-centered and shallow before their child died, they may well be self-centered and shallow after their child died.

Fifth, even though there will be moments of joy and times of contentment, those moments will be tempered by the grief you carry. It will always color the water you swim in, much as titration does in chemistry.

Finally, reconstructing a tolerable life from the ash heap will take far, far longer than you expect and it will take a million times longer than the people around you think it should take.

It’s not as though you have the option to choose whether or not to agree to such terms and conditions. No one agrees to losing their child. But you do have to learn to accept, understand, and acknowledge that these are the terms and conditions of your new normal.

 

 

Peggi Johnson

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Comments (12)

  • Ms. Johnson,

    This is one of the best articles that I have ever read. It is all so true. I lost my son in 2011 on his 25th birthday. His death was ruled a suicide.

    I wish I could make other people understand and accept my “new normal” and why it is taking me so long to “construct a tolerable life”. But then maybe those are the people that I don’t need in my “new normal” life.

    Thank you. And I am sorry for the loss of your son.

  • Our precious son Kyle Joseph Wilkins was 17 when he went Home to God 23 years ago. Kyle had lethal heart virus, no symptoms, went to bed that Cold Sunday night January 7, 2 weeks after Christmas. Feel him around me often. When a Butterfly goes past me, I know Kyle’s saying “Love you, Mom.” I’m part of the Frankfort KY Compassionate Friends Group.

  • WE LOST OUR SON FOUR YEARS AGO WITH A HEART ATTACK..HE WAS 46 YEARS OLD.. WORST NIGHTMARE FOR A PARENT…WE KNOW GOD LOVES US AND OUR SON BUT THE LOSS IS ALMOST MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE… WE HAVE MADE IT AND I APPRECIATE YOUR WRITING…IT IS SO TRUE.. GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME…WE KNOW BECAUSE HE WAS WITH US EVERY STEP OF THE WAY…

  • I love what you wrote. It’s hard for people to understand how we feel and the changes it causes in everything we do the rest of our lives. You painted a picture in words of exactly how I feel. My son died of an overdose and my daughter died of cancer. I’m raising my son’s child. Thank you for expressing in a way that I cannot do but you covered it. I’m so sorry for your loss of your teenage son. Such a tragedy…….

  • First if all….EVERYONE GRIEVES DIFFERENT even as A parent…no one knows how the others feel even tho we have a loss of a child in common….its been 4 yrs since i lost my son at 28 with cancer side effects …..and it still feels LIKE yesterday……..so as time goes on, day by day changes but we never forget that day…we cope and that is the only word I can use……..some people move on quicker than others but some don’t and 10, 25, 30 yrs down the line, it will still feel like yesterday to me…yes we have done things in our sons memory and go places he Would go because our family did almost EVERYTHING TOGETHER……so we try to make new memories eithout him but he will always BE a part of our choices in life ussues……when u do everything together, what else us there to talk about? I really get tired of some people saying words that ARE just reputition and used sll the time…..words really dont mean much but a hug or a prayer does…..remember….we are all different in our losses and grieve less or more than others……….always say your child’s name and talk about them….they are still your child…..and they are real…..

  • it’s been 3 years, 1 month, and 3 days since my son Spencer was killed by a woman driving drunk, on a beautiful September afternoon. He was 21 years old, a collegiate swimmer, had just started his last semester of college, and had a job offer for post-graduation. He was loved by, and loved, SO many people. I grieve for him, and my heart breaks for his brothers and other family and friends who are trying to reconstruct a tolerable life. Most of the people in my life have been supportive and understanding and I’ve been blessed to experience that. Last month though, on the 3rd anniversary of my son’s death, someone told me to “stop dwelling on the loss and get over it”. There are people that just can’t understand. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. It reminds me that there are people who do understand. 3 years seems like nothing in the grand scheme of things. I miss him every day.

  • Terms & Conditions: If you are not a card carrying member of our unfortunate club, folks will not “get it.” A therapist without children said it best- the only way for others to really understand our burden and depth of grief is to have gone through it. And we don’t wish that on them. I signed the dotted line for T & C’s, whereas I do not expect others to fully understand how ever changed we are, forever changed. I do not like it, but now understand my lot now is to have those songs or scenes trigger a heartbreak, or tears. This is our roller coaster now, as well as those more rare moments of joy. My grief visa entitles me to the knowledge that I will be considered strong, though I feel fragile. We do what we can, not of choice, but of circumstance. This passport to new normal allows me to periodically run into old acquaintances who… have not heard ‘the news.’ Forever is my headline being rerun. Terms and conditions, like when you have surgery, implicit is the knowledge that you must sign.

  • Sorry for your loss Peggi. We lost our son Jason a little over 10 years ago due to suicide also. I was his first responder. It devastated our family down to our core. We sought out help in our grieving through SOS groups and our local chapter of The Compassionate Friends. It has helped us to get through this tragedy immensely. We have not gotten over it, but that’s part of our new normal, and we can live with that.

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