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When You're Ready: Written by Rich Catlett, ASK Chaplain

Photo: ASK families hugging after the Moment of Remembrance at the ASK 5K & Fun Walk on May 4, 2019.

On July 31st of 2019, I joined the team at ASK

and it has been a wonderful six months of learning and orienting to VCU. Before I joining ASK, I worked as a chaplain for a pediatric palliative care and hospice program in the Richmond area. In that role I was able to work with some amazing families where a beloved child died. Through my five years of service to this organization, I was able to gain a deep perspective around grief and loss. Today I would like to address an aspect of bereavement that I feel is very important. I will refer to it as 'When you are ready.'

Whether sudden and unexpected or due to a long chronic illness, the death of a child is the most stressful and traumatic event that any human can experience. It is unlike almost any other type of loss because it goes against the natural order that life teaches us. A parent is supposed to bury and grieve the loss of a grandparent, parent or aunt because they are older and have had a longer life. But burying a child is unnatural.

An unnatural event makes us question everything in our lives because it rocks us to the core of who we are and shakes the foundations of our beliefs. Because of this, getting into a natural life order again after the death of a child is incredibly difficult. Life for the grieving family is now more like being in a haze and less like any reality that existed before. The time period after the death of a child is an unnatural state of being, and therefore it is important to remember the phrase, 'When you are ready'. Here are some examples:

When you are ready...

  • Share with someone you do not know well the story of your child and all of the beautiful and unique qualities that made them who they were.

  • Share your experiences with someone who is going through the loss of a child.

  • Talk to a counselor about the death of your child and how it is affecting you and your family.

  • Ask a trusted friend or family member to just sit and listen to you for awhile without giving you feedback. And in turn, sit and listen to someone else share the stories of their heart without you giving them feedback. There is power and healing in being heard as you share your story.

  • Go on a trip somewhere your child loved to go or somewhere they always wanted to go. Go on the trip for them and enjoy the things they would have enjoyed. Celebrate their life.

  • Reconcile a relationship with someone where there has been discord. You know better than anyone that life is too short for holding a grudge.

  • Doing these things will life you out of the pit of darkness and allow you to step forward into a brighter direction.

Part of my role as the chaplain of ASK is to work with bereaved families. You may be hearing from me in the near future as I attempt to offer support to you and your loved ones. Please know, I do not take it personally if you do not respond right away. I will still be available to you 'When you are ready'.

If you are ready now, please feel free to email me to set up a time to talk. Until then, be patient with yourself as it takes time to heal from such a deep wound.

Email Rich: Add link here


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