by Rev. Nancy Fowler -
One of the great tragedies in this life is the death of a child. I know this because in 2015, I lost my son. The feeling of grief was intense. I have suffered loss before but this was, and still is, overwhelming. Certainly there is a level of grief following any loss, but the loss of a child typically brings on a far more intense level of grief. People seek relief in a variety of ways as evidenced by the number of grief books and support groups available. What is also apparent with this is that the experience of grief, and the relief of grief, is quite varied.
Grief is very personal and private; essentially no two people will experience grief in the same way. Yet there are commonalities in the experience of grief, in the ways that individuals process grief, and in what people find particularly helpful or harmful. Our society does not handle grief well. As with so many experiences, unless one has experienced the loss of a child, it is difficult – almost impossible – to understand. Others often do not know how to act around someone who lost a child. They may try to say something that they think may make the griever feel better, but often they will say nothing at all. Family and close friends can be helpful by letting the grieving parent know that they are loved, but even that level of caring can leave one needing something more to help in the grieving process.
It seems that there is the possibility that something could be created that would satisfy the longings of the grieving parent – longings for comfort, relief, and even healing. That is the hope for my dissertation project. As a Ph.D. student of Spiritual Formation at Claremont School of Theology, I was introduced to Frank Rogers’ Compassion Practice. Because of my own personal experience with it, and because it has never been applied in this way, I decided to incorporate the Compassion Practice into a workshop for grieving parents. I will be using the Compassion Practice specifically designed to address issues around grief and loss. Participants will complete an evaluation at the end of the workshop to help in determining the effectiveness of this workshop in providing some solace and comfort, and even some healing around the loss.
Those of us who have lost a child understand the depth of pain. The possibility that I can help others with what I have found to be helpful gives meaning to my life and honors the memory of my son.