When a Child Dies

A child's death is certainly one of the saddest events to occur or even to think about.

A child's death is like no other death. The natural ebb and flow and order of life and death  we have come to expect in our lives is gone.

Grandparents are supposed to die before a grandchild.  Parents are not supposed to outlive their children.  Yet it happens.  And trying to make any sense of it is, quite frankly, just not possible.

I have friends who have buried their child.  The everlasting, gaping hole in their hearts is visible to all, though they probably wish that were not so.

Statistics indicate that 57,000 children under the age of 19 die in the United States annually.  This number includes stillbirths, missing children, deaths from cancer, suicide, victims of crime and accidental deaths.

That is a big number.

I read this article recently about tip toeing around death.  This mom could see the pain and grief mirrored in the faces of her family, friends and even strangers.

Like most tragic events when only those that have experienced the same type of loss collectively put themselves in a group of people that can only fully understand and empathize with each others grief.

The rest of us are left outside that protective coating wondering how we can comfort and help them and even attempt to comprehend the breadth of their feelings of grief.

I think about what to say?

What to do?

How will my words reflect my heartfelt sympathy?

What would I do and want from my family and friends if that were me?

My oldest daughter had a high school friend who was brutally murdered, along with her mother and little sister in Cheshire, Connecticut.  William Petit, the father, was the sole survivor of this home invasion that went horribly wrong. This horrific crime was in the news for years and years as the separate trials of the two "monsters" played out.

All thoughts of deep sadness, horror, and vulnerability, were focused on Dr. Petit, as he alone faced each day without his beloved family. How do you begin to face the facts in this case? How does one crawl out of the depths of despair?  How do you approach the topic with the family and friends who knew and loved the three Petit's who lost their lives?

I don't want to leave you with an overall feeling of great sadness so I am happy to inform you that Dr. Petit has remarried and is expecting a child with his wife in December 2013.  The Petit Family Foundation is thriving and continues to honor and memorialize the passions of the Petit girls.  Dr. Petit once said that the hole in his heart is still there, and always will be, but the jagged edges of the hole had smoothed out.

For those of you who have experienced the death of a child, I wish you peace and honor the memory of your child. For those who have not, we need to be acutely aware of the complexity of such a loss.

Sometimes no response is as painful as the wrong one.