Navigating the grief of losing a child

Salt Lake Tribune

What has helped you in grieving the death of an adult son or daughter?

Whether I was alone in my living room listening to the evening news, or behind the microphone on AM 820 trying to speak the same words myself, it mattered not; I cried over the loss of another fallen hero. This time it was our own Gregson Gourley. I’m sorry to say that we were never formally introduced, yet many of us met him through the loving eyes and warm wisdom of his precious grandmother: “He was a very gentle person. He had a great desire to be an outstanding soldier and an outstanding man. He wanted to be a father his children could be proud of.”

He was and they are, I’m certain.

Family traditions of military service are close to my heart. My cousin’s colonel husband and five sons have now all served in Iraq. The odds of not returning home safely are obviously great for a family of six soldiers. When they do, you can’t help but wonder why your family was so lucky. It’s hard to deny that twinge of guilt for your fine fortune as you push it away and hold other military families in your heart and prayers.

One of life’s cruelest experiences is the loss of a child. I doubt any of us can understand it unless we’ve walked that painful road. It’s not how it’s supposed to be. You once hovered over your child’s crib, kissed skinned knees, held your breath when he learned to ride a bike and loosened your grasp year by year, as he continued to cross thresholds.

From the moment you anticipated your child’s arrival, you dreamed of all the two of you would share. But, instead of leaving a heritage for your children – they have left one for you.

Perhaps your adult child bequeathed you the blessing of a spouse and children who bring great joy into your world. These relationships will prove even sweeter as you share memories throughout the coming years of the person you all loved so deeply yet differently.

Remember, Dad’s grief will not look like Mom’s. A sibling, spouse, child and grandparent are all mourning a different person. Allow each person to honor, grieve and recover in their individual ways.

Some family members will have known their loved one all of their life, while others, for only a few months. Neither the value of life or love can be measured in years. Hold each other a little tighter and love a bit deeper in an attempt to fill in the many gaps and roles left behind by that one irreplaceable loved one.

May we all be inspired by Gregson Gorley and others who have left our family too soon. May we learn to be gentle, outstanding and the kind of person our children could be proud of.

What do you think? What has helped you in grieving the death of an adult son or daughter?