Bereavement can certainly be painful whenever it occurs, but many feel that the experience of losing a child is by far the worst because it conflicts with our life-cycle expectations. Deaths of children between the ages of 1 and 14 now account for less than 5 percent of mortality with accidents and cancer being the next largest causes. It is usually expected in this country that children will live to adulthood. Nevertheless, hundreds of children under the age of 25 die each year leaving many bereaved parents. As life expectancy increases, the number of elderly adults who experience the deaths of their middle-aged children grow. It is not unusual to have parents nowadays live until they are 90 or 100 years.
In addition to being loved, children take on great symbolic importance in terms of our hopes for the future. Bringing up a child involves decisions and changes to every aspect of our lives. We all want them to be happy and creative as an adult. All parents have hopes and dreams about their children’s futures so when a child dies, the hopes and dreams die too. Although some amount of guilt and self-blame are present in most bereavement situations, they are likely to be especially pronounced following the death of a child. We simply cannot believe how this happened.
Although many of the issues are the same as in other types of bereavements, the impact of a child’s death may vary depending on the child’s age when death occurs, with the death of a newborn feeling somewhat different from the loss of a teenager. Parents surveyed say that it is not necessarily ‘harder’ or ‘easier’ to lose a very young child as opposed to a teenager. It is simply a quite different kind of pain.
Our hearts go out to all parents who have lost a child and we will be remembering them amongst the bereaved of all of our 216 parishioners who have died in the last year. In Newry Cathedral this week, there will be Masses at 7.30pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and candles with the names of the deceased will be on the altar for the 4 nights,
Psalm 34:18, ‘The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit’.
The Communion Reflection in the Cathedral this week at the Masses for the Dead may give you some comfort.
In the rising of the sun and it’s going down we remember them
In the blessing of the wind and in the chill of Winter we remember them
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring, we remember them
In the blueness of the sky and the warmth of the Summer, we remember them
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of Autumn. we remember them
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them
When we have joys, we yearn to share we remember them
So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now part of us as we remember them.