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How has your parent role changed in the face of your child's death?

The minute our children are born we earn the title of parent; and with that title comes a huge amount of responsibility. Our role changes daily from caregiver, to doctor, to guardian, to chef, to teacher, to name a few.

As parents we want what is best for our children. We want to teach them how to be happy and helpful, honest and admirable, confident and caring, independent and inspirational. Often, we spend a lot of time researching and reading to find the best practices of parenting. It is our job to come up with creative answers to the question, ‘why?’ on a regular basis.

When your child died, I know you also started asking “WHY?!” And you were distraught when your question fell upon deaf ears. If only, there was a creative parent available to answer that question. You many have also asked, Am I even still a parent?

After my son, Garrett, was accidentally shot and killed in a hunting accident in 2008, I grieved for him and for all of the lessons I would no longer get to teach him.

Of course, I felt like a failure as a parent because I couldn’t keep him safe.

Of course, I wondered what the future looked like without him.

And, honestly, I started to wonder if I had a role as his parent any longer.

It took me a while to realize that my role as Garrett’s mom still existed, it had just changed. I still wanted Garrett to become helpful, honest, caring and inspirational; but now these things were going to have to be accomplished through me.

Garrett taught me a lot in his eight years of life; like how it was okay to be alone and how to find satisfaction in doing what makes you happy. He taught me to admire the little things, like the rocks and the moss. He taught me that there is confidence to be gained from perseverance, even though his gains were through work with his Lego pirates.

Garrett has also taught me a lot of things in the 10 years since his death.

Since Garrett died I’ve learned human connection is a key element to healing. Early in my grieving process it would have been easy to disconnect from everyone and just be alone. In fact, our society’s dependence on social media makes it very easy for us to become emotionally disconnected from all people. Garrett loved people; he was interested in their stories and he genuinely cared about others. Keeping connections with people, as I know Garrett would have, has helped me grow and heal.

Most importantly I learned the value of compassion. I have learned that everyone has a story, everyone has suffered loss, and everyone has hurt in their past. I know that the key to staying connected to people is to keep developing my sense of compassion.

It seems that my role as Garrett’s parent now has evolved from teaching him to learning from him and using the gifts he has given me to keep his legacy alive.

It is also very humbling to realize Garrett took over my role as parent by teaching me some of the skills I need to confront my future without him physically present.

I will no longer ask why. Instead, I will continue to listen to the lessons that Garrett is teaching me.

What lessons have you learned from your child?

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