Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Establishing significance

Mary Lou and her daughter Valerie
After the tragic event that happened this past week in Tucson where Christina Green, 9 years old was shot, you wonder "How could that mother go on television and be so articulate in speaking about her sweet daughter?" 

I can tell you why. 

She wanted the world to know who her daughter was – how smart, how sweet, how wonderful, and to be remembered as having lived a significant life. 

How do I know? 

Eleven years ago, I lost my oldest daughter to a tragic car accident. 

During that time, I found the more I could talk about her, the pain of the grief was lessened. That is at least for the brief time I could talk about her.  I honestly could not remember who came to the funeral, but I do remember my sweet youngest daughter standing in the front of the pew-filled, large church, telling everyone about her big sister, Valerie, and how much Valerie had contributed to this world and specifically to her and her brother.  

This very cathartic act of talking about your loved one, which is described as "establishing significance," enables those who have lost loved ones to describe that significance this child’s life impacted on this world.   I believe all mothers (and fathers) want the world to know how significant their child is; but the younger they are, the greater the desire as parents to let the world know how "significant" they are. Very young children do not have the time to establish their own significance.

My daughter was 30 when she died. Her age doesn't mean I hurt any less or any more than any other parent who has lost a child.  It just means that Valerie had more time to establish her own significance.  That significance was evidenced by the crowd in the church. She had established her own significance.

I tell you this story to ask each of you to have understanding and compassion when parents or families want to talk about their lost loved one.  Every time you encourage a person who has lost a loved one to talk about them, you are helping them progress through the stages of grief to acceptance. 

Ultimately, the pain is lessened, but there are always moments, for the rest of your life, when you feel the pain again, as I did when I heard the story of Christina Green. 

Mary Lou Wilson is director of Women’s Services at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford.

1 comment:

  1. Mary Lou--thank you for sharing your story. I can't imagine how difficult it was to lose your daughter, but know that sharing memories about her keeps Valerie close to your heart. Reace