We tried couple's therapy for five or six visits. It wasn't for us. Not sure if it was the therapist or us, but it didn't really help. It didn't really hurt either. We can see how it could be helpful, depending on how you process things, and we wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from giving it a try.
Like so much else, it takes experience to truly understand this whole bereaved parent thing. We don't expect people who haven't lost children to get it. There's no way they could. That's probably the main reason that a support group has helped us. We've been attending our local chapter of Compassionate Friends since March. Some people have been there every time, some haven't. Some come as a couple, some by themselves. Some are new (like us), some have lived with the loss much longer. Some people lost young children, but most it seems lost adults.
Even if we someday have a child that doesn't have extreme health issues, that's no guarantee that we'll outlive him or her. It's sobering. Things we never thought about have happened to people in our community - undiagnosed congenital defects, accidental overdoses, car accidents, medical mistakes, cancers, homicides... all these things happen. They always happened in general, on the nightly news or on the internet. Now they've happened to people we know. This is not a community anyone wants to join, but it's not one you can ever really leave.
Elizabeth cries at every meeting. But in this place, no one tries to get her to stop. This community truly understands that stifling grief helps no one. Not everyone cries the whole meeting, but Elizabeth isn't the only one who does.
Some very strange emotions have come up during and after these meetings. Every loss is different, and we can't truly understand what other parents are dealing with. Even so, we have involuntary reactions and we'll often discuss some of that on the way home. One of the strangest things we realized is we're a little bit jealous of some of these people. It's crazy! We're jealous that they got to raise their children into adults, or jealous that they have other living children, and sometimes just jealous that there wasn't something wrong for their child's whole life. We know it's ludicrous to truly believe that our grief is somehow bigger or worse, but we also realize how much we would cherish those days, months, years of parenting. Those memories.
Only a year ago, we would have responded very differently. These stories would have brought out feelings of pity, fear, hopefully some empathy, but mostly something else. We're not exactly sure how to put it, it's that feeling of insulation from the horrors of the world. That reliance that those horrible things could never happen to you or your loved ones. It would always be a comfortable distance away.
How things have changed. How we have changed.
Original artwork by CarlyMarie.