Dave Park, our Bereaved Parent Support Coordinator, reflects on how spending time with others who had experienced the pain and trauma of losing a child helped him to find hope for a future where joy and happiness might exist again.

‘Find someone who’s been there before and borrow their hope for a while.’

I’d love to take credit for that quote but in fact I was half listening to an interview on the radio. I’ve no idea who was talking or what it was about, but the phrase stayed with me all day. ‘Borrow their hope!’ – was hope something that could somehow be transferred from one person to another?

As I reflected, I thought back to those dreadful weeks and months after our son Ben died. I just couldn’t fix it – my whole family had been swamped by grief and I didn’t know what I could do or say. How could I keep our marriage strong against such a battering? I was a teacher; how could I look after other people’s children when I couldn’t even look after my own? I couldn’t imagine being happy again. My whole world view had been rocked to the core and I seemed to be left with nothing – no joy and no hope.

I remembered attending a support day for bereaved parents, run by Care for the Family. I didn’t really see the point at the time, but Jane, my wife, wanted to go and that was enough reason for me. The input from the front washed over me, but as we spoke together around the table, I realised that I was in the presence of people who had also lost their son or daughter but somehow had survived with their marriages intact. I was with people who had returned to their careers, people whose lives seemed to have some semblance of normality. I saw a glimpse of a future that, although life would never be the same, could be good again.

In the depth of winter, it sometimes seems unbelievable that trees that look so dead can grow new leaves in the spring, that soil that seems so bleak can burst into life again. However, it’s the annual experience of having been through the dark, cold days of winter that helps us look beyond to a spring that we know will come again. We know how resilient life is and that experience gives us hope.

When Ben died, I had never imagined such pain and had no experience to draw from, but others had; they had walked the same path that I was walking just a few steps ahead of me. If they had hope, then just perhaps, so could I. If I could trust their experience, see the world for a moment through their eyes, then I could imagine a future where joy and happiness might exist again.

I now look back with the experience of hindsight and see that life is rich and full again. Ben is never forgotten, ‘got over’ or left behind – he is often talked of and always has a place in our family, but laughter and joy have returned and there is bright hope for the future. What’s more, I’m part of an amazing team of bereaved parents who would say the same.

For those in that dark place and who face the reality of a life without a much-loved son or daughter, I offer this simple invitation – if you feel that you’ve lost all hope, then come alongside us, walk with us for a while maybe through befriending or a support event, and ‘borrow our hope for a while.’

To find out more about our befriending service and support events for bereaved parents, visit our website or contact us.

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At Care for the Family we support couples, parents and those who have been bereaved. If you would be able to make a one off donation to support our work, we would be very grateful. Thank you.

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