In the past twenty months I have learned so much about loss, grief, and living without a part of your heart. I have learned that there are still good people in this world willing to go above and beyond to help carry on a legacy. I have learned that no matter your age, your skin color, your religion, your current state of residence, your financial situation, or your currant state of mind, grief effects everyone in as many ways. I look back over these months and I see a common thread, an anchor of consistency that runs true in every day since Lindsay passed away, patience.
Think back, if you have children or if you have lost a child and remember the day they were born. Think back and recall the day you left the hospital to bring this new part of you home. Think back and try to remember where you put the manual that came with this wonderful bundle of joy on how to raise them, how to comfort them, how to keep them safe. Remember? Obviously there is no such manual, and we use our DNA installed parental instinct along with advice from those who have been there, to attempt to bring this child up in a loving and caring environment. I have gone back to those days several times in my head and the word I keep hearing over and over again is patience. You have to be patient. This is so true when you are raising a child. Every child is different, no two are the same and each and everyday brings new challenges, With those challenges patience is needed. Learning to crawl, learning to walk and talk. The ever dreaded potty training. The pre-teen and the teen years when, we as parents, become completely ignorant and know absolutely nothing about anything. I have learned not only do you need patience when you raise a child, it is paramount when you lose a child. Let me try to explain that statement by having you read this. “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” This is Proverbs 15:18 and it is so true. I have been told that I have patience, a calm demeanor and an ease when dealing with difficult situations. When your child is lying in a hospital room fighting for every breath and clinging to life some of those characteristics, I am sure, got lost in the mountain of emotion. As Lindsay’s father I quickly learned while she was in the hospital that the statement “Patience is a virtue” is so true. I have searched the the internet looking for a good explanation of this statement and this is the best, yet most simple one I could find, “The ability to wait for something without getting angry or upset is a valuable quality in a person.” This is so true when you are waiting on answers, waiting on doctors, nurses and the reason why this happened to your child. As Lindsay’s father I had to have patience with everyone, especially the staff in the STICU. My heart wanted every answer, ever test, ever possible avenue taken immediately to bring my little girl back. My mind knew I needed to be patient, to wait on the doctors, nurses and the tests. I had to tell myself this is what these people do, they save lives and I needed to let them do their jobs without a constant barrage of questions from me. I needed to have patience so when the time came for them to tell us what was taking place I could in return inform the rest of the family. Was it hard? Was it difficult? Yes, in every way imaginable. I would take the information that we, her parents, were given and in return relay the same information to our families. It was the most difficult news to hear from the doctors, it was even more heartbreaking to say it out loud to our families. All I wanted to do was tell them and leave the room to process all this in my own heart and brain, but I needed to be patient and answer any of their question as best I could because they where hurting just like us. When your child passes and it is time to leave them for the last time you can not leave your patience at the hospital. The time for patience is just beginning.
Be patience with your spouse. I some cases, like mine, my spouse is not the mother of my child but she loved her with all her heart. Be patience when they ask you a thousand times, “Are you okay? How are you doing today?” or “Is there anything I can do for you?” They mean well and only have your well being at heart. So many times my wife would say, “I wish I could pick you up and put you in my pocket and just carry you around.” No matter what they say or do, you have to keep in mind they are doing it out of love for you.
One very important thing to remember is, men and women, moms and dads grieve differently. Why? Another one of life’s many mysteries. I believe it is the mothers bond that is created in the womb, that bond that takes place over a nine month period that fathers do not have. Does this mean moms love their children more than dads? Absolutely not. I loved Lindsay with everything in me, just as I still love Jarrett. I think dads feel they have to be strong and hold a lot of emotion in check. I know for me my grieving and emotional draining took, and still takes place, in solitude. Away from anyone, where I can be with my thoughts and talk to Lindsay freely. No matter if your spouse is the mother or father, step mother or step father be patient with them because they love and care for you.
Family and friends also love you and know you are hurting. No matter their comments, always use patience and know they come from the right place. There will come a time when the comments and the visits will slow and eventually stop. Then is when you need to be patient because they have not forgotten you or your loved one they have simply continued on with their life. They will, when you least expect it call, or stop by to check on you, and this will touch your heart like nothing before.
Friends of your child. They may not know how to approach you, what to say or how to say it. Just last week, we received a message from one of Lindsay’s friends stating just that. He wanted to say something, do something but he did not know how. Today I saw a picture a friend of Lindsay’s took at her grave site while she was visiting her. I can not begin to tell you how much this touches my heart, that these young people take the time to remember her and reach out to us to reassure their support. So be patience with them when they come to you, listen to them and thank them. They are young and they are hurting as well.
Siblings. Unlike the friends of a lost child, the sibling(s) shared and lost so much more. They had been together since each others birth and have shared what time they had together here on this earth. They played together, ate together, and fought together. They grew up together, the went to school together and they have been through things that we, as parents, may never know about. They have lost their “go to” person and may feel very lost in this big old world. They may have regret and it may take time for them to express it. When, and if, they do be patient and most importantly be attentive. Sit, look them in the eye, give them your undivided attention. Turn the TV off, turn your phone off let them know they are the only person in the world right now you are concerned about. Be patient with any comment or answer, and please do be afraid to say “I don’t know why.” Let them know, even as their mother or father, you don’t have all the answers. Be patient in your listening. They may not know how to express how they are feeling or how to word what they want to say.
Grief requires the most patience of all. Grief is a day to day event. You have good days and you have bad days. You wonder if it will ever go away. I can tell you from talking to other parents that have lost a child, the answer is no. Be patient with yourself, don’t feel bad if you can’t make it through a day without crying or you want to crawl in a corner to shut the world out. On the other hand, don’t feel bad if you make it through a day laughing and enjoying life. It takes time and patience to figure all this out. You feel bad if you feel good, and you feel sad if you feel bad. I often wonder when it’s okay not to be sad? When is it okay not grieve? When is it okay to be happy? The thought of your child never being by your side again, never accomplishing their life goals and never growing old is always on a parents mind. I can tell you twenty months from now I will be right here, in the same place, not knowing, hurting and trying to be patient.