About the Pilgrimage
When parents experience the devastating loss of a child, we need the nectar of sustaining friendships, inspiration, and reliable information as we enter this life-changing journey.
My hope is this blog becomes a community of encouragement for all families who now travel in this unknown territory. Whether the death is an infant filled with the promise of life, or a 55-year-old beloved son of aging parents, such losses cause profound sorrow.
“To grieve,” means to “bear a heavy burden” and we need others to help carry the load.
So, Pilgrimage through Loss will also offer insight for friends, family, clergy, counselors, and medical staff who walk with us. Stories from parents will show how your companionship and tangible actions make a significant difference, but also ways unintentional hurt added to their pain. Your desire to help ease our days proves pivotal as we seek renewed strength, peace, and a vibrant savoring of life again.
I like the term pilgrimage because it implies a long journey. When Krista, our 25-year-old married daughter was killed in 1998 while volunteering in Bolivia, (see A Terrible Beauty at www.kristafoundation.org), I read what I could on parental grief and loss. I found helpful writing on the early acute months when parents wonder, “Will I always feel this bad?”
Living with Life-long Loss
In pilgrimages, people choose such travels, filled with obstacles, because of their belief in the importance of the quest. It is usually to a place of spiritual significance, like the historic Santiago de Compostela route, Mecca, or the Ganges River. In early years it also meant “wanderer.”
But for mothers and fathers, our long journey is unchosen. Nor is there an end point destination. Parents rarely seek illusionary “closure,” expressing instead our reality of living with the forever love of our child. But significance infuses our wanderings.
So, for the past I have been listening and learning from other families. Their stories inspired me as I heard how many eventually embraced their changed lives with open hearts, seeking significance and meaning.
But we are a “mourning avoidant” culture, and I also met parents who found their lives narrowed. Adhering to the perceived cultural message “to keep grief to yourself” left them grieving alone. Broken by the fragility of life, they lost trust, and began living with greater emotional distance from others, or even mind-numbing addictions. Their stories give glimpses of why a compassionate community matters.
But for some, the love that lies underneath such sorrow often proves to be a wellspring for new creative ways of living. Researchers actually refer to this now as Post-Traumatic Growth. Our memoir, and these parent interviews will be in my book Pilgrimage through Loss to be published in early 2014 by WJK Press.
But it is never easy.
At one of Krista’s memorials, I saw a college friend whose family endured the murder of her 2-year-old nephew. “Molly, how did your family ever survive Devon’s death?, “ I asked. She paused for a moment, and then said simply, “Your joys become more intense.”
So we will focus on the lifelong journey, and what leads or hinders, pathways to healing. “To heal” means “to make whole, sound, and well,” what every grieving parent longs for again. Naturally, this means our pilgrimage will include adventures in our luminous world, as well!
Share this post...