Don’t Be Afraid: answering a great question about the loss of a child
During the summer of 2019, I gave my presentation on suicide awareness & intervention at the YWCA here in Lubbock. About 30 teens attended.
What a precious group! One girl raised her hand toward the end of the talk and asked, “Can I give you a hug?” I grabbed her and just wept. I asked her name. She said, “Autumn.” I told her I would never forget her. And I won’t.
During the Q & A one of the questions asked was, “I have a friend who’s child took their own life. Should I ever bring their child up in a conversation? I’m afraid to do so since I think it will cause them so much pain.”
What a wonderful question. Here’s my answer:
Please bring them up!
You’re not going to bring up a topic we’re not already thinking about every waking minute. In fact, being able to talk about them does a couple of things (at least for me):
1) It serves as a sort of decompression valve. I have so much emotion inside my heart and mind that needs to be released on occasion. Your question or comment about my child allows me to release those emotions in a healthy way. Sure, it’s painful – it always will be. But it’s also joyful because of No. 2…
2) It’s a weird thing. There comes a time after the loss of a child that you engage in a fierce emotional and psychological battle. I thought, “I can’t continue to heal because if I do my son will be forgotten! If I don’t keep his memory alive, who will?” Of course, the only mentally healthy step is to let go and learn to live again. It’s what our children would want us to do. You’re question or comment about my child helps me remember what is true: he lived. He mattered. He loved. He was here.
Last week, a girl who went to high school with Jordan shared how hysterical it was sitting next to him in physics. (Jordan was an artist. Math was a bit of a struggle for him Anyway, I laughed so hard because I had never heard the story she shared.
Questions and/or comments like, “Tell me about (enter name). What did they love?”, “What made them laugh?”, or even more intense things like, “Did they always deal with depression/mental illness?” (if that applies).
The latter question, at least for me and my family, allows us to share our son’s struggles for the purpose of helping others who are hurting, and assure them there is hope and help. This helps give purpose to our pain. Ans this helps transform our pain into joy.
And if, for whatever reason, it’s been a tough day and we don’t want to talk at the moment we’ll lovingly tell you. And we’ll pick that convo back up asap.
Bottom line – I can’t speak for all parents who have lost a child. We all grieve differently. I can only say this for the Watts family: never be afraid to bring up my son.
When you do, there’s a darn good chance we were already thinking about him. ❤️
For Narnia, Nick