The experience of every bereaved mother (or father) is unique and so is their grieving experience. You can never fully understand another bereaved mother’s experience, even if you sit with her through the dark of the night, talk to her for hours, cry endless tears in compassion. I’ve tried. And I might have one advantage: I myself am a bereaved mother.
As much I have been hoping that I could, I can’t fully understand what another bereaved parent is going through. I still do my best at understanding the bereaved families I’m working with and according to them, I’m doing a great job but I have let go of the unattainable: to totally and utterly understand their despair.
In that letting go, there is something else that opens up, something with far greater potential. Rather than trying to enter their experience and in that wondering how that would feel within me, I stay with them. It takes courage and compassion to totally be with someone else, without an ounce of the self who is ‘wanting to make it better for them’ or ‘helping’ them. After all that’s my job, supporting them in finding healing. But here is the thing: the pain of missing someone who is no longer physically present is not something that needs healing or fixing.
Grieving parents have something in common. They must continue their life without seeing their babies grow up to be children or their children to grow up to become adults. Grief is like unrequited love but one where the relationship hasn’t ended even though the person has left and is not contactable. That’s the paradox of child loss.
What if I’m not a bereaved mother?
As someone who hasn’t experienced the loss of a child, you can still be there for bereaved parents. You can walk side by side with them and support them with your love. You don’t need to understand their experience to accept how they express or live with it.
So, be there. Don’t try to fix them but stay with them through the darkness. The presence you show by your willingness to fully be there, is enough. You are enough, even if you don’t fully understand the grief experience.