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death in others' lives

RuddyDuck9RuddyDuck9 MD, USA Veteran

A good friend of mine lost her 4month old son last night. I know it's cliche to be surprised by death in an infant... 100 years ago this sort of thing was more common and/ or even expected. I can't wrap my mind around it, though. It's difficult enough coming to terms with a dead adult/ senior person, but an infant.... it feels like the movies, you know? Why is it so difficult to understand these things? I am a relatively rational person... I think. But this concept is bouncing off my psyche like a moth against the glass. It makes sense theoretically... but it doesn't feel real. How can he be just.... gone? Her whole way of life is like a dissipating cloud. Poof. What do you all do to come to terms with the reality of grievous situations like this?


  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @RuddyDuck9 said, '...What do you all do to come to terms with the reality of grievous situations like this?'

    That is very sad - my condolences to your friend. It doesn't happen in our lives for the most part so we're not exposed to this bit of reality by and large, so it's a bigger shock. Modern western media tends to be our reality, so the absence of stories like this makes it a lot more surreal. If we lived in a 'poor' country, it would be part of the norm. I think it's sad that we're deliberately shielded from this stuff, because then I think our compassion would extend further.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    We don't like to talk about death, most certainly not of children. I've been to many funerals of kids, from cancer, from suicide, from accidents. Our son almost died when he was diagnosed with diabetes. Just from observation, the death of a child is one of the hardest things to grasp and fathom, and it changes and empties a person like nothing else. The parents are never the same, and often their lives change drastically with their marriage/partnership often a victim of the grieving process. There is an immense amount of guilt associated with losing a child, no matter what the cause was. It is a very heavy load to carry, made even heavier because we don't talk about it.

    What to do. Be ok with not understanding. There are a lot of platitudes we assign to life that don't apply when it's a child who dies. There isn't really any understanding it. It is just a process of coming to terms with everything that it means, and adapting to the changed person who emerges. It takes time. Practice tonglen, it does help if only to clear the way for compassion to direct us for how to best help. For the parents, groups of others who have lost children are ideal, because they truly are the only other ones who can understand. If you don't know what to say, it's ok to not say anything. Just don't say things like "time will heal all" or "hopefully in time you can have another." Not that you would, but somehow, someone always says those things!

    I'm so, so sorry for her/their loss.

  • RuddyDuck9RuddyDuck9 MD, USA Veteran

    tonglen would be a good practice for someone who is faced with their own death, too. Thank you for reminding me of this practice. All I could say to her was that I was sending all the love I could muster, and that she could take comfort in knowing that she was a good mom, that the boy was loved and knew he was loved.... But just saying anything makes me feel ignorant and unqualified. I want to be there for her, but I feel intrusive in doing anything.

  • This is a pain unfathomable to those who have not had that dreadful experience. Words will never be enough. Just be there,@RuddyDuck9. That will, over time, be enough. It is not the word you say that will make the difference. You have said what you could, now you are there to grieve, to comfort and to share the slow healing. She will always have the nights that weren't, the lost moments, the blank where a life should have been.
    Yet those empty moments will come to enhance the moments and the nights that are and will be. This it true for you as well as it is she and her family.
    Time does heal. But it heals imperfectly.
    As Buddhists, we understand, at least in concept, the sufferings of life as a part of life itself. The reality is always 10,000 times greater than theory or concept. The theory is to prepare us for the reality and to use that reality to become better, stronger. more empathetic, more humane.
    My realty too was a crushing blow. My son was older. I grieved, I healed, I grew. Yes, I still sometimes catch "glimpses" of him in the shadows. And I have no words to diminish the anguish your friend feels. But I can say from my experience that she will go on and her loss will be a source of great strength for her in the her life.

    My prayers to her, her family and to you

    Peace to you

    Peace to all

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited July 2016

    One can't stop the sadness felt when such a tragedy happens...
    I think that it's important that one doesn't see things that happen like this as right or wrong, good or bad, reward or punishment....

    I'm reminded of this..
    "The living are few but the dead are many"

    The "Mustard Seed Parable"

    @RuddyDuck said:
    What do you all do to come to terms with the reality of grievous situations like this?

    I focus on "Anicca" the impermanent nature of all things...

    "Transient alas; are all component things,
    Subject are they to birth and then decay;
    Having gained birth; to death the life flux swings;
    Bliss truly dawns when unrest dies away!"

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Peace to this son
    And all who loved him.

  • IchLiebteIchLiebte US Veteran
    edited July 2016

    That's awful.

    When I was a teenager, a friend stayed the night. I thought he was just sleeping in. He had killed himself in the night.

    I'm still not at terms with it. There's so much life, but the share of life, among people, is so disproportionate. People die very young and then, people die very old. I don't get it. It's hard to deal with. You forget what they sound like... you forget their smiles. You fight to always remember. Because in remembering, there is a certain peace. Remembering proves their existence. But there comes a time when you can't remember. Your mind fails you and it fails the dead.

    I'm not being much help, huh? Sorry. I guess what I'm saying is that, since the beginning, we as humans have been struggling to understand why these things happen. Some people say they come to terms with a death, but I don't know if they're fooling themselves or not. It could be that it's an impossible thing to come to terms with. Perhaps it's best to focus more on life itself as you mourn.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    That's insightful, @IchLiebte.... I guess the Goal is to perceive Life and Death as two sides of the same coin.
    One cannot exist without the other. We flip, and flip and flip, and hope it comes down Heads every time.
    Then, one day, it will come down Tails, but we cannot affect the different falls, or when it happens.
    It's a hard lesson to learn. As you say, some can reach acceptance, others find it hard, to impossible.

    But suggesting people have no choice but to accept, because it is inevitable, and happens to everyone, is a majorly difficult - not to say tactless and hurtful - thing to say, when one so young had 'tails flipped' far too early....

    @RuddyDuck9, perhaps at some moment you could tell the grieving parent that you have communicated this loss to your 'Sangha' and that they all in unison, offer their condolences and prayers for the parents and the child. Others are thinking of them. Total strangers they have never met, and likely never will, care for them and send their love.

  • RuddyDuck9RuddyDuck9 MD, USA Veteran
    edited July 2016

    Thank you so much you all. I know I will come to peace on this matter sooner than she and her partner will, but I will tell her of your inter-media support. I know I always appreciate knowing someone is thinking of me in hard times. <3

    Update: I just sent her a long message on FB about your lovingkindness. I truly appreciate NB's presence in my spiral. <3

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Bravo @RuddyDuck9 well said ^^.
    Baby death. Any death of those we care about, especially ourselves :p is beyond hard. Hence we avoid ...

    Unless Buddhist.
    Then we wake with it. Discuss it. Contemplate it. Sleep with skeletons [NB: that may just be me]. :3

    Inside your head is a skull. Even that part of your skeleton is gonna go ...
    Be kind. Time is short. Make the most of it. Be Buddhist. Iz plan.

  • RuddyDuck9RuddyDuck9 MD, USA Veteran

    She really responded well to the message I sent her about you all. She's been getting flack recently online for "not grieving properly" as though there is only one way. I suppose someone in grief is not permitted to ever smile or laugh? I know when I have experienced death in the family there was always laughter in the form of fond memory and stories of the person's hijinx.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Advise her from me - as one who knows (trust me on that) - to delete her Facebook account.

    Delete it, leave it be for the requisite number of days, and just let it be deleted.
    Ignore the flamers, the unkind people and the critics.
    people like that are just devoid of anything useful, to either do, or say.
    They're empty and there's no point dealing with them.

    Advise her she is welcome here any time and we will treat her with kindness, Compassion, Dignity, Understanding and Love.
    (if she would like to take that offer up, advise me by PM what name she would use and what email she would register with. I will happily 'approve' her application immediately....)

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    laughter is part of the healing process. It has been a part of every death I have been involved in, even the most tragic. It is necessary and no one can tel anyone, ever, the right way to grieve. I, too, would highly recommend avoiding social media, at least for an amount of time, and surrounding herself with support in person and by phone as much as possible. The empty words of cruel people online is definitely not what she needs :(

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