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Monday, May 20, 2024


 I originally published this post on Medium, but after speaking today to a fellow grieving mother, I realized it should live on my website/blog, too. I hope you never need this list, but just in case...

1) Your child deserves to be remembered and to have his memory and too-short life honored, and no one is going to do that like you can.

2) Your surviving children (or spouse or friends) are going to be looking to you to see how a person goes on after the most tragic blow life can deliver, and you don’t want to show anyone a coward’s way out. Your life and death are the legacy you leave the people who love you; don’t let them down.

3) If your child died by suicide, you are doubly needed to set a survivor’s example for your loved ones. Please don’t ever do to anyone what your child did to you in his disordered need to escape his own pain. Where there is life, there is always another way forward.

4) You are now immune to all the petty bullshit life doles out. You can now focus what energy you have left on the important things. You are going to be amazed, after the brain fog of early grief lifts, how much more clear you are about what you need.

5) If you hang in there long enough to experience Post-Traumatic Growth, this horrible loss is going to help you grow into a more compassionate, open-hearted person, more capable of love and grace than you ever were before.

6) According to grief expert David Kessler, who lost his 21-year-old son to an overdose, the sixth stage of grief is finding meaning. Most of us need several years to get to that stage, so you need time to make meaning of your child’s life and loss. Perhaps you’ll create a scholarship or work with a non-profit or host an annual fund-raising event, or maybe, like me, you’ll write a book. (I wrote a poetry collection, What I Should Have Said: A Poetry Memoir about Losing a Child to Addiction, that includes my child’s poems, which has been hugely meaningful for me.)

7) If you were meant to die now, you could die of broken-heart syndrome, a real disorder that does kill a few grieving mothers and widows by choking off a chamber of the heart and causing blood to back up in it. If you are still breathing, you still have a purpose to fulfill and an obligation to figure out what that purpose is.

8) Your child is sending you signs meant only for you, and you need to be here to receive them. Tremendous grief tears back the veil between the spirit world and our own, causing your devices to malfunction, your lights to flicker, feathers and coins to fall in your path, and songs to play when you most need to hear them. Pay attention and choose to believe your child’s spirit is near you. Maybe it is, and believing will bring you greater peace.

9) Your life has intrinsic worth and value.

10) Your child would want you to figure out how to live and be happy.

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