I Died… So My Children Could Live

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Maybe I did because I live near the Esplanade now closed and had once considered moving my mother there. But the real reason I followed it was that I am one of the marked. At 40, my younger sister, Phoebe, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer when her sons were 4 years and 8 months old.

I Died. So My Children Could Live

After it spread to her lung, liver, bones and brain, she died in Different details, similar devastation. Though the death of a child is a singular hell. Jayson Greene was 33 when his daughter died, working as an editor at the digital music magazine Pitchfork. That he managed to keep his facility for language during a period where it often disappears is a miracle. He has created a narrative of grief and acceptance that is compulsively readable and never self-indulgent.

Even the chapters where he and Stacy seek relief outside the mainstream, at the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts and the Golden Willow Retreat in New Mexico — adventures I think of as survivor porn, passages I devour to discover finally! When it becomes clear that Greta will die, the hospital asks Greene and Stacy to consider organ donation. They authorize it. Everything and everyone she has ever been in her life — daughter, sister, colleague, wife, mother — is visible to me.


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She is overwhelmingly beautiful in this moment. She sits down, spent from effort. But what do you call parents who lose children? I remember vividly how betrayed I felt by my parents when I found about death. Why did they bring me into a world when I will only end up dying, probably with substantial suffering along the way as I witnessed with my grandparents? I remember many times wishing I had never been born.

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I often still wish that. Hence I am increasingly sympathetic to anti-natalism. It all seems so pointless if it just ends in death. Perhaps those with religious convictions, or who are able to just live in the present without thinking about the impending doom, feel otherwise. Does 'anti-natalism' mean you're against being born in the first place? By the time a person is able to think about this idea, it is far too late to prevent their own birth--they're already born and living, and have learned enough to conceptualize mortality.

The good news is, they've also learned enough to figure out what's good about being alive. And that is what this article is about. Yes, mortality sucks. We are all born with the certainty we will one day die, and the probability there will be some suffering along the way. We can choose to focus on the gloomy fact of our eventual demise, or we can find a way to connect with the pleasurable and satisfying dimensions of life. Parents don't have to deny the reality of mortality to soothe their children's fears; in fact, I think it's important to be honest about that fact.

But parents do have a role in helping the child focus on the half-fullness of that glass of life. We won't live forever, but we do have this moment. What can we find to enjoy? Short term, yes; divorce is disruptive.

But if you are thinking long-term, no. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist. Back Get Help. Explain death in simple, direct, honest terms geared to your child's developmental level. Children cannot reflect on their thoughts and emotions like adults.

Child Grieving | How to Deal with Grieving | Helping Children Cope | Child Mind Institute

So they will need to have many short conversations. Adults may need to repeat the same information many times. Children may ask the same questions often as they try to make sense of difficult information. Explain death using real words such as "died" rather than confusing phrases such as "gone to sleep. Encourage your child to ask questions, and try to answer them honestly and directly. If you do not know the answer to a question, help find the answer.

Make sure your child understands that he or she is not to blame for the death and that the person who died is not coming back. Provide lots of affection and reassure your child often that he or she will continue to be loved and cared for. Encourage your child to talk about his or her emotions. Suggest other ways to express feelings, such as writing in a journal or drawing a picture.

Without overwhelming your child, share your grief with him or her. Expressing your emotions can encourage your son or daughter to share his or her own emotions. Help your child understand that normal grief involves a range of emotions, including anger, guilt, and frustration.

Finding Light In Our Darkest Time

Explain that his or her emotions and reactions may be very different from those of adults. Reassure your child that it is normal for the pain of grief to come and go over time. Explain that they cannot always predict when they will feel sad. If your child is older, encourage him or her to talk with an adult outside the family, such as a teacher or a clergy member. You can also consider an age-specific support group. Keep routines and caregivers as consistent as possible, and continue setting limits on behavior.

Care, consistency, and continuity help children feel safe. Reassure your child that it is never disloyal to the person who died to feel happy and to have fun.

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Speak with a grief counselor, child psychologist, or other mental health professional if you are concerned about your child's behavior. The death of a parent or other close family member can directly affect a child's day-to-day life. Family routines and roles change, such as a surviving parent having to return to work and spend less time at home. Even young children will benefit from extra preparation, conversations, and support around these transitions. For example, the death of a sibling might mean that a parent is not dividing time between a sick child at the hospital and another child at home.

Help your child realize that these feelings are normal and that he or she should not feel guilty for having them. Children as young as age 3 understand the concept of saying goodbye. They should be allowed to choose how they say goodbye to a loved one. Give preschool-age and older children the choice of attending memorial services. But do not force them to attend if they do not want to.



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