Thought for the Week
Healing, not hurting
Our daughter died at the age of ten following a road traffic accident. She was on a life support machine, which was switched off in a matter of days, not weeks or months or even years (probably a blessing). We had to make the decision.
After she had died I did not want to see her. I wanted only to remember the physical form we had known, full of life and childlike enthusiasm and hope. It was fear that prevented me wanting to see her after a post mortem, knowing that the brain had to be examined; she had had a head injury and brain surgery had to be performed. My husband had, for legal reasons, to see her but he spared me.
Nothing persuaded me that I should or that I would regret it afterwards. In the complete numbness of shock I did say, ‘would her kidneys be of use to others?’ Words can sound very callous afterwards, a trespass on the body’s completeness, but it is a need to do something.
Our thoughts were for the driver of the car, a mother with her own two children in the back. We did speak to her on the telephone so that she could know she should not carry that burden with her.
Years later we can say whatever advice or counselling was withheld, whatever route had been taken would have made no difference to the healing. We know that the child who had given so much to her family in that short span was not the physical form at the funeral. We still have no desire to know the physical details.
She has gone on giving to us, allowing us to understand others without words of explanation. Our children are only ours on loan, we have to accept that they grow into independent adults with lives of their own. We can have our daughter with us whenever we want: on a mountain, at the mealtime and maybe in sickness or old age.
It is natural not to want to be healed, initially, in bereavement. Hurting counts. Prolonged hurting can become a preoccupation, blocking recovery, sapping strength, fuelling anger and draining all channels of activity. It is true that some good can come from personal experience that, at the time, seems devastating.
Barbara Tonge Kendal Meeting the Friend, 9 March 2012