Page 22 - 2016 Spring-Summer Issue
P. 22

Death of a Child Creates

                               Ambiguous Losses

© Alex Staroseltsev/fotolia.comby Harriet Hodgson           The car crash was bloody. A medical helicopter flew
                               2 2 |We Need Not Walk Alone  my daughter to the nearest hospital, where surgeons
                                                            operated on her for 20 hours. Their efforts failed. “I’m
                                                            sorry,” the lead surgeon said. “As soon as we fixed one
                                                            problem another appeared. Your daughter is brain dead.”
                                                            My husband and I made the decision no parent wants to
                                                            make: We stopped all life support and met with an organ
                                                            donation representative.

                                                            She wore a low-cut blouse, not appropriate dress for the
                                                            situation, and every time she leaned over to point to
                                                            something, her breasts were more exposed. It was an odd
                                                            experience. Today, family members refer to this woman
                                                            as “Mrs. Bosom.” As time passed, we appreciated our
                                                            daughter’s planning even more. Thanks to her generosity,
                                                            two lives were saved and two people can see.

                                                            Although I’d experienced grief before, my daughter’s
                                                            death stunned me. Two days later, on the same weekend,
                                                            my father-in-law died. About eight weeks later my
                                                            brother died. Six months later, my former son-in-law
                                                            died from the injuries he received in another car crash.
                                                            His death made our twin grandchildren orphans and we
                                                            became their guardians. Our challenge, the greatest one
                                                            we ever faced, was to care for the twins, and grieve for
                                                            family members simultaneously.

                                                            Because I’m a non-fiction writer, I turned to my
                                                            occupation for information and comfort. During my
                                                            journey I came across the work of Pauline Boss, PhD,
                                                            Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota. Boss
                                                            did the original research on something called ambiguous
                                                            loss—unclear, unacknowledged loss that “defies closure.”
                                                            If you’re the parent of a missing child you are living with
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