The parents of Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang, Scott Beigel, Aaron Feis, and Chris Hixon will join the ranks of thousands of others who will never celebrate Mother’s or Father’s Day the same ever again.
The media attention will move on shortly, unfortunately, but the immense heartbreak will be left behind for the families and friends of these individuals who lost their lives on the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Another senseless loss of life due to gun violence. For some people, it will resume being business as usual, but not for the parents, families or friends of the victims.
As someone who has suffered the loss of a spouse, both parents, and an only brother, I know what grief feels like first hand. My personal experience is one of the reasons why I serve twice a month as a grief support facilitator at a local bereavement organization. It’s one of my ways of paying it forward. While I do believe that all loss of life is significant, I remain steadfast in my belief that no parent should ever have to face the reality of outliving their child.
Many friends and family members will offer condolences, support, and advice. People with good intentions will, unfortunately, make some of the most outrageous comments to ease the pain. Everyone will grieve at some point, but most will grieve differently, and it is essential that all be respected.
In a recent article, Empowering High-Achieving Women After A Loss, I provided tips for women in the workplace and how to remain empowered after a loss. It is a beneficial read for employers as well, seeing as no workplace is immune to grief.
In light of this most recent horrific incident, I decided to elaborate on those tips, providing a few additional ones for parents, utilizing an acronym for the word BREATHE.
B- Be. Just be. Do not allow anyone to define your movements, your emotions, your desires or need to grieve. Be still and feel no obligation to explain.
R — Remember your loved one and cherish the beautiful memories you will always have. Relive each moment as often as you choose to.
E- Exercise your rights. Your right to say, “No.” Your right to ask for privacy. Your right to be angry, sad, confused or any other emotion you choose to exhibit.
A- Abandon the temptation to be the pillar of strength for everyone else and be willing to accept support from those who are offering to be that for you. As much as you may think otherwise, you will eventually need the comfort of others.
T- Take time to grieve. As much as you need. Scream, cry or be silent. You choose. Delegate business decisions to others. Request needed time off from your employer. Take a break and allow for time to define your family’s new “normal.”
H- Help is available. Make use of it. Do not be too prideful or too busy to take advantage of it. Your loved one would probably want you to do this because your self-care more now than ever is necessary.
E-Embrace the reality that while your loved one may no longer be with you physically, you will always be their Mom or Dad. Nothing or no one can ever take that title from you.
Absolutely no words can alleviate the pain of your loss. However, perhaps these words will help. They are the first three sentences of a poem written recently by Alex Schacter, who lost his life in the shooting: “Life is like a roller coaster; it has some ups and downs. Sometimes you can take it slow or very fast. It may be very hard to breathe at times but you have to push yourself and keep going.”
Parents, as you prepare for your new reality, when emotions become increasingly overwhelming, as you continue to question why your child, please just remember Alex’s words. Breathe, push yourself and keep going.