Is there ever a better time?

Andrew was 21. We had 21 amazing years with him. Julius was only two and a half. Lisa was thirty four.  But their losses are equally hard on us.

CCI09272014_00009We had Andrew for only twenty-one years. Or should we say we had him for a full twenty one years? We got to watch him grow up, to learn to walk and talk and go to school. We were able to be there with him to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah and to stand with him for his high school ice hockey senior night. We watched him graduate high school and get into his first choice college. We even got to help him select his major and make it three-quarters of the way there. We feel CCI10062014_00004so blessed for the time we had him.

Buy what did we miss?  There are so many things. We missed to chance to see him graduate from college. We missed him starting his first job and hearing about his first day at work. We miss joining him as he started a family, and having children of his own to raise. And most of all we missed him growing in a fine father and family man.  And we missed so much more.  But we did get to see so much.

Mark and Elaine had their wonderful daughter, Lisa, for thirty four years. They got to experience many of the childhood and teenage events we had with Andrew, plus more. They were there to celebrate their daughter’s graduation from law school. They saw Lisa grow into a successful attorney over the years, buy her own apartment in Manhattan, fill it with beautiful art, and make partner at her firm. These are things we will never see.

CCI09272014_00010But does that make it harder or easier on them losing her?  Are they more blessed than we were with the time we had Andrew? They got to see so much more than we did. They got to have their daughter for another twelve or so more years than we had our son. They experienced so much more. So maybe it is harder – they became so much more attached over those years and grew to know her so much more. Or was it not so devastating? She had lived a lot longer, she experienced more, and she left them with so many more memories.

And then there is Julian. He passed at only two and a half years old of a brain hemorrhage. His parents were only able to shower him with love and affection for thirty-two months. Were they better off than us?  Their time together was so much shorter. But they never got to hear Julian speak his first sentences or watch him learn to run and play. They never saw him make friends or have his first day in school. He never told them that he loved them – like Andrew told us so often.  That must hurt them so much never to have heard these words. They nurtured him for two and a half years, only to have him taken away suddenly and with no warning.

And now they live with watching other children, Julian’s friends and relatives, grow up all around them. They know in their minds that Julian would have started school this year – and they missed dropping him off his first day. His friends are now speaking and talking in sentences and asking questions. They are running around and playing and growing, something that they will never experience with their son.

Is it harder on the grieving parent who only had their child a short time and never got to experience these milestones of their children’s lives? They put so much time, patience and love into the earlier years and to have nothing to show for it all of a sudden. Now they have to live their entire lives asking themselves what would it have been like if our beloved child was still here. Or is it easier on them because they never had the years to get attached to their child and to develop that relationship that takes years and years?

How about the child that passed at fifty of cancer? He leaves behind a loving wife and three young children. How hard it is on his parents? They had him for so many years, he has left behind a legacy of grandchildren that will continue to grow and love. Although he is not with us anymore, his family is, and that means so much.


It's not just us who lost Andrew. Everyone lost him.

It’s not just us who lost Andrew. Everyone lost him.

Now for the reality? There really is no difference. No one suffers less, no one suffers more. How long we had our child makes no difference at all. The parent who lost their daughter after a year suffers just as much as the one who’s love was for twenty-one years, or fifty years. The fact is, losing a child is a devastating loss.  There are no words that can be spoken to a parent who lost a child to give them comfort. The loss is so devastating, so indescribable, that there is not even a term to describe a parent who has lost a child – for any reason, at any age. It is something that just puts a parent into a place that can not even be described.

Why did I write this then? Why, if it is so hypothetical, so speculative, to compare the losses? Because it is something that we talk about in our bereavement groups. It is something that other parents talk to us about, both bereaved and those lucky enough not to be. It is something that should be talked about and needs to be talked about.

There is a saying that we hear a lot in our new circles – it almost sums it up.
When you lose a parent, you lose your past.
When you lose a spouse, you lose your present.
But, when you lose a child, you lose your future.

I hope you understand this.

11 thoughts on “Is there ever a better time?

  1. anna giorgianni

    you are so right perry, I think about how I had so much more to teach and share with Josephine, it’s just heartbreaking for all of us.

  2. Sally

    Very deep and moving, Perry, I would just say from the books I am reading on coping with bereavement that “When You Lose a Child, You Lose Your Future” could also be written “When You Lose a Child, You Lose A Future” because unless we passed away with our children, a different future will now take place instead of the one that we would have had with them. We cannot undo the past nor get our child back, for which we would probably give anything, including our own lives if this had been possible. So at this point, Life gives us no choice but to look forward now instead of back and come up with a new future for ourselves. Have you started planning what you would like yours to be? I am sure whatever it is, one of your goals will be to do something that will continue to honor Andrew’s life.

  3. Leslie Hutton

    You are right, there really isn’t any answer to the question. I am glad that I had 16 yrs with Beth. Would I like to have had more? Of course-but I wasn’t given that option. There was a time, a the beginning of my grief journey that I was very angry at all the stuff I missed and angry at the people who were able to have those moments. As much as I hate clichés (we have all heard far too many of them) I am often reminded of the old “better to love and to have lost then to never have loved” It isn’t easy , I take it step by step and let Beth guide me. The loss of a child sucketh at any age, bereavement is not a competition sport. All we can do is support each other and honor our children. Peace

  4. Jessica Bacal

    Very poignant and powerful. Sorrow is not a quantifiable commodity except perhaps to the suffering. Perry’s wisdom enhances our ability to appreciate what we haven’t endured and to accept what we have.

  5. Joanne

    All losses are painful and significant. Do we ever get over them? I don’t think so. The loss of a child, a parent, a significant other, a sibling or a dear friend could have the same impact on any particular individual. Loss is loss; pain is pain. I don’t believe it can be quantified.

  6. Karen

    Thank you for writing this. I lost my little girl Erin when she was nearly 9 months old. I still grieve for all the things I lost when she died. That was over 27 years ago. We grieve for the loss of the love we had for that child, no matter what the age. We still love that child and always will but now all we can do is hold that love within us, not having that child to give it too.

  7. Kat

    My daughter Isabella was 9 days old and everyone told us she was healthy, strong. Well, they were judging her will, not her body. Some people said that we were lucky to lose her before we got attached. Some said that we could just have more. They meant well, but I feel no less pain in my heart than the other mothers in the group that just want to hold their child. Thank you for using your following to bring this to attention in such a positive manner


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