Here are some important thoughts that grandparents can take to heart, teach to others, and put into action.
Who’s watching out for the Kids?
By John A. Cosco, Ph.D.
(husband of Anne, father of Justin, Stephen and five unborn angels)
All of us who have lost children intimately know the spiritual, mental and physical anguish from the losses of our precious children. We have been deprived of participating and witnessing events that would have shaped their lives, growth, maturity, and matriculation into their own personhood. We comprehend and grieve going on without them.
Sadly, some parents don’t realize, cherish or appreciate the gifts of having children to love, nurture, guide, protect and care for. They do not fathom, grasp or appreciate the importance of their roles as architects, teachers and influencers in molding their youngsters to “become”.
Occasionally I’m disappointed, especially since the deaths of my beloved, when I observe parents openly remark, “I can’t wait until the kids move out”; “Now I have to rush home and run the kids to evening activities – start the second shift”; “You really make me sick (overheard comment a parent made to a youngster in a public restroom)”; or “Just get outta here and leave me alone”… the tip of the much longer list.
My blood boils when I hear parents utter stabbing, rash, thoughtless statements denigrating their children, wishing them gone, labeling them as too burdensome, or saying they are an inconvenience. I have spontaneously responded a couple of times, and God-cidentally walked away unharmed. (Such is inconsistent with my more thoughtful, deliberate, contemplative demeanor.) The overheard comment in the men’s restroom, “you make me sick”, provoked me to interject my two cents. I couldn’t idly stand by and watch the parent emotionally abuse, devastate and publically humiliate this precious little one. So I told the parent the story of my losses, urged him to appreciate the wonderful gift of his child, and wished him the best. To my benefit the guy listened, then told me to mind my own business. Hopefully point made.
So what does this have to do with me and you? Perhaps nothing!
May I suggest that parents (and grandparents) who have lost their loved ones may be in the unique position to help and advocate on behalf of the parents and children blinded by the benevolent ignorance, shielded from the grim realities of what we know? Life will go on and bereaved parents will continue to join the club. We know only too well…that the loss of child(ren) wreaks total devastation, havoc and suffering on parents and families from which YOU DON’T RECOVER! Lives change forever.
In other cases, it’s been easier to approach an individual parent, who does not look forward to going on the second shift, or who longs for the peace of less responsibility, or who would just like to go home and plop down for a quiet evening – by offering “I know you may be tired, rushed, or need a little time to yourself; but pay heed to someone who was where you are now. Losing a child is forever, there is no turning back, and it’s final. Please appreciate what you have. Mine are gone and I can never say the things to them again, like ‘I love you!”.
Professionally my training calls me to advocate for the vulnerable and intervene by reporting through designated networks. But heavy handedness accomplishes nothing in situations where gentle civility and understanding is clearly indicated.
So, how; recognizing the awkwardness of offering unsolicited, uninvited, unwanted input from a total stranger; might we affect a difference?
Herein is a possible list of possibilities:
1 – It’s never okay to place yourself or anyone else at personal risk in any event. If you observe,
a potential threat of physical harm to any child, consider calling the authorities.
2 – Gently seize the opportunity to intervene, if the time is right, but don’t get confrontational.
3 – If you wish, offer inputs in safe, friendly situations to yourself, friends, your surviving
children, family, neighbors and others who may still have children. At times some of us may
be in a position to offer the stressed parent, whom we know, a brief respite by reaching out,
letting them know you’re there, or offering to spend a little bit of time.
4 – Participate through church community, if you belong to one, PTA, local agencies, civic
groups, volunteer opportunities to spread the word.
5 – If so inclined, write letters to the editor.
6 – Participate in child, family and parental advocacy and support groups.
7 – If you observe an untoward event, such as previously cited, if the opportunity seems
conducive, and you feel comfortable – offer gentle support and encouragement at your
discretion in a nonthreatening, non-confrontational manner
The list of possibilities is expansive. We are all at different stages of our grief journey. “Watching out for the children” depends upon personal temperament, incentive, energy, willingness to be involved, and personality.
Having walked the talk, we are the wounded warriors, resources who have something to offer those whom we hope will never face the devastation, pain, or loss we have suffered. We are the unwitting experts, who neither wanted nor envisioned being cast into this role without audition or script. In conclusion we are each uniquely qualified to be watching out for the kids.