The loss of a child is deeply sad on many levels. When it comes to losing a son or daughter who fought for our country, the loss is deep but there is that level of pride that they did not die in vain. In light of the ongoing threat of terrorism and the daily fears of attacks seen around the world, those fighting on the front lines are out there for us and our security. This Memorial Day, it’s the time to remember those who have gone before us into death, courageously battling those that want to take our freedoms from us.
What happens, though, when the loss of that soldier child comes at the hands of an impaired driver in a car crash? The loss is devastating, especially given the fact that your child faced such evil abroad. Now, they come home to irresponsible and selfish people who most likely survived while they took the life of your child?
There’s pain and anger at such a loss, but on this Memorial Day, it’s important to still focus on what your child did for this country. It’s clearly not a simple process to work through any kind of grief, but here are some tips for reconciling the mix of emotions that may arise on Memorial Day as you think of your child’s senseless death:
- Don’t let guilt and anger consume you. As a parent, you most likely feel that you did not do enough to protect your child from whatever led to their death. It’s easy to tell you to not feel guilty more than it is to not feel guilty, but it is important to remind yourself that you did what you could and cannot control many things in life. What you can do is celebrate their memory rather than focus on any feelings of guilt and anger you feel about what happened.
- Cherish those who are still with you. If you have other children, this is the time to become even closer with them and cherish every minute you have with them. And, if you don’t have any other children, draw close to your spouse and other family members during this time. Maybe your child was older and left behind a spouse and children, so this is also an opportunity to pour your affection into them. Those bonds are some of the best medicine you can treat yourself with when dealing with any sense of loss.
- Lean on those around you. Let yourself need and ask for help from others. This is a point in time where others want to help in any way they can, including being a listening ear or taking some of the work off your shoulders. Let them – and, if not them, it’s okay to talk to someone outside the family that may be an objective and safe place to talk about your grief. If you’re struggling with other areas like an addiction during this time, there are also help centers that can help with that. On days like Memorial Day, when we remember our dead, it may be more important to seek out support than on other time periods.
- Use the day to reminisce about those special moments you shared. When you are ready, Memorial Day is a remembrance day for the child who is no longer with you. This can involve looking at photos or videos of happy times you shared as well tell others stories about the best times together. These are also ways to heal while celebrating the positive aspects of having that person in your life albeit limited.
- Reach out to others that have gone through the same type of loss. With so many emotions swirling, those around you may want to do their best to understand what you are going through. However, unless they have experienced this type of loss firsthand, they may not realize why there is anger, frustration, and depression. This is when you can turn to organizations like MADD that offer ways to connect you to other victims that are left behind after losing a loved one to an impaired driver in a car crash.
Grief will hit you even when it’s not Memorial Day and you may not be expecting how, when, and how hard it hits you when it’s the loss of a child. Consider these strategies for beyond Memorial Day because you don’t want your grief and any anger toward the drunk driver to define your life. Your fallen soldier would want you to continue fighting the good fight!