In the August 25, 2019 article “I Couldn’t Say ‘My Mother’ Without Crying” by Hope Edelman, Edelman describes the difficulty found in dealing with the devastating grief faced by a child who loses a parent. As I can attest from personal experience, the grief of a surviving friend can be just as pungent and lasting. For Eldeman, “the closeness of the grieving” that crushes a child, but I and others have been just as destroyed by the loss of those we “consider family.” The gut-wrenching feeling of grief experienced by a child is aggravated by feelings like guilt brought on by a “so close, too late” mindset.
In 2012 a friend of mine was declared missing and was eventually discovered to have been killed. Coming from a small town, everyone had a story to tell about her. On the rare occasions that I shared mine, I emphasized that I was not her best friend. We played soccer together, we had sleepovers, we went to each other’s parties, we sat next to each other in classes, but for some reason I felt unjust in claiming any part of her. Observing the grief of those around me made my own feel self-indulgent. “What right do I have to feel so much pain when her sister is undoubtedly suffering worse?” I thought. The trauma of her loss and my guilt over grieving her are still evident in my personality today.
While Edelman’s article captures the difficulties of facing grief as a child, it does not show the confusion the grief of others induces on a child. Being someone who was undoubtedly changed by the loss of someone close to me, I can affirm that it is just as important to validate the grief felt by a child as it is to help the child grow through their loss. No child can process grief without validation. Only when a child is forgiven for what they are feeling, can they begin to process the complicated feelings of guilt that accompany loss.