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Some thoughts and resources for parents grieving children lost to illness, accidents, homicide, suicide, and other tragedies.

Pages for Paul
- The Suicide Paradigm
- The Vocabulary of Loss (Glossary)
- Suicide Loss FAQs
- Suicide Loss Rights
- Memo to Suicidal Young People
- Suicide Paradigm Guide (Links)
- Some Answers for Those
New to Suicide Loss

"Da Boys"

Rittenhouse Square
in Center City

Penn campus
and West Chester U.

Philly Waterfront

Male Grief

Fathers Grieve Too
"Men's Style of Mourning"
Other Grief Links

A Place to
Honor Grief

My Bereavement.Net
Some Grief Readings

"Grief" (Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death & Dying)
"The Ripples of Grief: Impact of Grief on Parents and Their relationships" (Royal Children's Hospital - UK)
The Phases and Tasks of Grief Work "Mourning"
"A Son's Suicide, a Father's Grief"
A Place
A place of sunshine
where there is no rain,
A place of happiness
where there is no pain,
A place of peace
with unending joy,
A place I wish for you,
my boy.
Cathy Lewis
In memory of Walt Lewis
How It Should've Been

If we'd known it'd be the last time
You'd walk away from our door
We'd have grabbed you
And held you to the floor.

We'd have hugged you forever,
And stayed by your side,
Never letting you go
Until your Mom and I died.

You'd have done for us,
What we did for for you.
It'd have been as it should be.
You'd not know the pain we do.

TS/1.25.99

The Order of Things

"A nobleman once asked a Chinese Philosopher to grant his family a blessing. [He] thought for a moment, then said, 'Grandfather dies, father dies, son dies.' The nobleman was horrified, but the philosopher shrugged his shoulders. 'What other way would you have it?'"

A. McCracken & M. Semel
A Broken Heart Stll Beats
A Task Model of Parental Grief

Grief can be seen as tasks that parents take on:

  1. To live with the reality of our loss.
  2. To live through the intensity of our pain.
  3. To work through our sadness.
  4. To restructure our values and beliefs.
  5. To integrate our love of our lost child into our lives.

We work at these tasks for the rest of our lives. They are our grief work "job description."

Another Concept of the Parental Grief Process

Facets of grieving that parents experience:

  • The cry of pain
  • The cry of longing
  • The cry for supportive love
  • The cry for understanding
  • The cry for significance
  • Merton & Irene Strommen
    Five Cries of Grief (1993)
    Future Grief
    "When your parent dies you have lost your past. When your child dies you have lost your future."
    Dr. Elliot Lutz
    Quoted in Harriet Schiff,
    The Bereaved Parent

    Copyright © 1998-2012
    Tony Salvatore

    Paul 1968-96

    Lamenting Sons:
    Fathers and Grief

    "An image haunts me:
    proceeding across a battlefield,
    my father now dead,
    I am up front to draw the fire.
    I look back,
    and one of those I was to protect has fallen."

    Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son (1987)

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Some Sites by Other Dads | Grief and Loss of Self | About Paul | Contact Information
    Pages for Paul | Relevant Links | Things I Hate to Hear | Anger 101 | Losing an Adult Child

    Sites Lamenting Sons

    Some Sites by dads for lost sons. Suggestions are welcome.


    Grief and Loss of Self

    This page and my others are, in part, an effort to understand what happened to my son and what happened to me.

    I drew some insight from some Pink Floyd lyrics: "the child is gone, the dream is gone..." Part of me had died in more ways than one; something of me as well as my son was forever gone.

    In Loss and Change (1986), Peter Marris wrote "The fundamental crisis of bereavement arises not from the loss of other but from the loss of self." When a child dies the "loss of self" is amplified.

    We have not only lost our child, but also the part of us that they represent. We have lost the future that we would have made together. This is not the aspirations of academic, athletic, or professional success that we all may harbor. It is the vision of being together in the future as we were in the past.

    Parental grief is different. The process is different and so is the aftermath.

    Peace.


    About Paul

    Paul wouldn't like his picture and life story all over the web so I'll just share a few things. He was our oldest child and was 28 when he died.

    Paul really loved football, the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys. His favorite Cowboys were Bill Bates, Danny White, Butch Johnson, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Randy White, and Troy Aikman (he also liked Herschel Walker, but long before he went to Dallas). He hated replays of "The Catch" and re-runs of the "Ice Bowl." He renewed his subscription to the Cowboys newsletter shortly before his death. We stack them with the other mail that will never be opened or read.

    Paul was never stymied by any sports trivia question involving football. He played football to the college level. I still sometimes reach for the phone when I hear something about any of his team mates. We miss him calling to gloat about the latest Cowboys' victory over the Eagles, but we haven't seen a game since he died.

    Paul was into fitness in a big way. He worked out regularly. He had always been into free weights and running. He added the heavy bag, some biking, and aerobics as he got into his late '20s.

    Paul lived in center city Philadelphia, which he loved. Some of his favorite places were the Reading Terminal Market, Penn's Landing , and the Penn campus. He visited all of these places before completing suicide. Maybe he also had a couple of White Tower hamburgers, which he enjoyed.

    Paul loved cats and had one for a pet throughout his life. "Scooter" was the last and lives with us now. He still spends a lot of time in Paul's old room. For weeks after Paul's death the cat never left that room, and it seems that he still waits for him.

    Paul collected comics, Cowboys memorabilia, action figure toys, to name a few. "Spiderman" and the "Fantastic Four" were among the comics he enjoyed. When he was much younger, he amassed a sizeable beer can collection. He also loved video football games.

    Paul had many friends from all stages of his life. We are very close with his best friend, Mike, who help us more than he'll ever know. Paul liked spirited discussions. Had it been anyone else that we knew who died of suicide he and I would have talked through the ideas that make up these pages. Hopefully we'll get the chance to share our views again some time.

    Take care, son.



    Losing an Adult Child

    Some of us got to see our child grow up, finish school, start a career, marry. It would seem that these "extras" should be of some consolation, but this is not so.

    In Death, Grief, and Mourning (1965), Greer writes: "The most distressing and long-lasting of all grief...is that for the loss of a grown child. In such a case, it seems to be literally true, that the parents never get over it."

    Greer says that this is because parents see such loss as "against the order of nature" (i.e., children dying before their parents), or as punishment for their shortcomings. The orderliness of their universe is shattered along with their self-image.

    In Parental Loss of a Child (1986), Rando cites four parental problems unique to this type of loss:

    1. Compromised completion of grief work because of age; less time to reintegrate.
    2. Less validation for the loss compared to the death of a younger child.
    3. Greater guilt because of the "unnaturalness" of the loss.
    4. Less participation in the services and settling of affairs.

    Rando further comments that when an adult child dies both parents tend to be on the "same page" grief-wise, but that such losses are "the most severe grief of all for fathers."




    Some Things I Hated to Hear

    Here are some "thoughtful" expressions that I and others could have done without.

    "It was his time."
    Would that it be the "time" of anyone compelled to utter this one. No one who loses a child will be comforted by this statement.

    "There was nothing anyone could have done."
    Few suicide griefers find any solace in this throwaway line. Something damn well could have been done to save him!

    "Did you know that he was mentally ill?"
    No comment.

    "He must have been very disturbed."
    I believe that he was very perturbed. I'm the one who's disturbed by your ignorance.

    "God wanted him more than you did."
    I'd rather have heard: "He's with God now."

    "Don't you think that you should be getting over it by now?"
    This from someone whose most significant loss was her ninety-something grandmother dying at home with the family by her side.

    "I know exactly how you feel."
    If you haven't lost a child you don't have a clue, my friend.

    "Why did you have to do it?"
    Kevin who lost his young daughter to suicide told me how much he hated to hear this one resounding in his mind. I know what he means -- I hate to hear myself saying it, too.

    "You know, you have to let him go."
    No, I don't have to, and I never will. The part of him that lives in my heart will stay put.

    "All that anger is keeping you from healing."
    That might be true were "healing" an available outcome. Perhaps part of the anger is because I can't get over this. Take that back to your therapist for processing, okay?

    "You've got to stop blaming yourself, it wasn't your fault. It was his free choice."
    A suicidal individual in the throes of unimaginable suffering can make a "free choice" but I don't have the right to feel responsible for missing his anguish?

    "Too bad that he wasn't stronger."
    In the case of suicide, pain levels all. Experience psychache (intense psychological pain) and then talk to me about strength.

    "He's in a much better place now."
    His "place" was here for the 30-50+ years he lost. If he could have seen that his pain was temporary, he could have taken his time getting to that "better place."

    "Well, you know that it's been more than (1 year, 2 years, etc.) now."
    Sorry to be noncompliant but I'm still his Dad and will be forever.

    "Try to only remember the 'good times'."
    From a Mom at an SOS conference who remarked "I never had any other kind of 'times' with my son before he died."

    "I supposed that now that you have a grandson it makes up for losing your son."
    What perverse logic led to that conclusion? Actually the little guy often reminds me of what I've lost and what my son's missing.

    "You need help. You really ought to see somebody!"
    I'd really like to see my son again. That would help.

    "I had a great Christmas with my family and all. Its really too bad that your daugther messed yours up!"
    This was said to a mother whose daughter was murdered by a drunk driver. Parents who've lost children wouldn't wish it on anybody, but maybe there are exceptions.

    "Well, at least he went out with a bang."
    From a co-worker to the aunt of a 22 year old man killed by lightning.

    "Good to see you back, time to get over it...the little missus has to realize that you can't spend all your time at home...you have to treat this like a military operational loss..." From a "superior" officer to a father who lost his infant son at age 4 days.



    Anger 101: A Primer for Grieving Dads

    I am angry because of how my son came to die. My anger is a normal response to the nature of my loss. So are my thoughts about "getting even" and my inability to "forgive and forget."

    Anger is characteristic of male grief. Anger is something that grieving fathers and those who love us must deal with. Anger is a serious and misunderstood issue of paternal grief.

    Anger is a healthy emotion. It is not the same thing as rage and violence, but it can lead there. Anger is not necessarily unhealthy, but repressed anger certainly is.

    Anger is a behavior as well as an emotion. Men respond to loss with action. Anger is an act. Grieving fathers "get mad." Acted out anger can escalate. However, anger can and must be controlled .

    Grieving fathers may focus on who or what "caused" the loss of their child. Some of us have homicidal ideas. Thoughts of revenge and retaliation are to be expected. Acting on them isn't.

    Anger can amplify feelings like guilt. It interferes with giving or getting support. It hurts our spouses, children, and others. They lost somebody whom they loved too.

    What can you do? Own your anger. Acceptance is a start; denial is a cop out. We use anger because we won't talk or let ourselves cry. We don't have a monopoly on anger. We just allow ourselves fewer alternatives.


    Launched 6/1/98
    Modified: 6/22/12

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