by Dr. Dorree Lynn

There may be nothing in life as devastating as the death of a child. Elders are supposed to pass on before their young. After all, that is nature’s law. Yet, “Death hath no dominion.” And, life is not always fair.

The death of a young child is the single most powerful predictor of divorce. This is true because a parent’s grief knows no bounds. Self-incrimination creeps in as does blame. Depression and desperation are common aftermaths of such an event. Most parents’ natural instinct is to want to protect their young; to love, to nurture, and to help them grow. When a child dies, one’s world tends to fall apart. Whether one believes in God or not, always there is a depression and anger, questioning and doubt before a parent can come to resolution and move on.

I have lived through too many such events, and sat with and known too many parents with shattered lives, not to know and understand the process. One must be brave, committed and usually seek help to survive as a loving couple.

Recently I was witness to one more family needing to find a way to survive their child’s death. Only he wasn’t a child anymore to anyone except his parents. In fact, this lovely young man in his early twenties was with his fiancé on the way to city hall to get their marriage license. They were looking forward to a life of “for better or worse” and maybe even one of “happily ever after.”

Very much in love, they were taking the train to their destination. He became ill and went to the break between the cars to get some air. Suddenly, he fainted and fell to the tracks. Chaos ensued. His fiancé has grieving and healing of her own to do. And, his parents, so filled with hopes of their own, a wedding to plan, visions of grandchildren, and a new generation to play with are now in mourning. Grieving, only as parents can.

Many years ago, I lived across a pond from another young couple. Their three-year-old son wandered into the water and drowned. To this day, I can remember his mother’s howls. Night after night, for a very long time animal-like shrieks of pain could be heard across the water. Yes, they went onto have more children and laughter returned, but, not easily and not soon.

And, last night my own daughter’s car slid on black ice, the car skidded, hit an embankment, and overturned. She walked away alive and barely bruised. She asked me why she was spared. I said I didn’t know, but maybe there was a reason. She doesn’t believe me yet. I only know, that this time I was one of the lucky parents. I am deeply grateful, for I have lived long enough to know it is only for this time. Life is ephemeral and no one knows what lies around the next bend. So, take each blessing as you can.

Life is too hard to do alone,

Dorree Lynn, Ph.D.

About the author: Dr. Dorree Lynn is co-founder of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Psychotherapy and a practicing clinician in New York and Washington, DC. Dr. Lynn served on the executive board of the American Academy of Psychotherapists and she is on the editorial board of their publication, Voices. She is also a regular columnist for the Washington, DC newspaper, The Georgetowner. Dr. Lynn is a noted speaker and well known on the lecture circuit.