A Grieving Parent The struggles and experiences of a grieving parent
and finding a way forward
by Jason Jones
Table of Contents
1. Why Am I Writing This 2. Life Before 3. That Day 4. Year One 5. Physical Pain 6. Guilt 7. Theology 8. Friends 9. Family 10. Therapy 11. Helping Others 12. Things That Have Helped 13. Random Final Thoughts 14. Resources
Why Am I Writing This
There are a couple of reasons why I am writing and sharing my experience.
First, Ive found it helpful to get my thoughts out of my head and on to a piece of paper. Especially, hard subjects that Ive wrestled with and those things that I have a hard time figuring out.
Somewhere along the way, when you write, you figure out how to organize the thoughts flying around in your head and make more sense of them. They are put on a piece of paper, and it opens space back up in your mind. For me, it also lessens the anxiety I have around a certain subject. It certainly doesnt make anything go away. It just lessens the clutter in my mind.
Secondly, my hope is that what I write; it is helpful to someone. Something psychological and spiritual happens when you use the pain in your life to do something good.
Victor Frankl, in his book Mans Search for Meaning, outlines his theory of logotherapy. In summary, logotherapy is described as the healing of the soul by leading it to find meaning in life; even in the face of terrible suffering.
With the passing of a child, parents do not want to go on. They cant imagine living without them. But, most parents do end up finding a way to go on. How? The death of a child is often described as the worst pain a human can feel. So, where do they find the strength?
For Frankl, the answer lies in finding some redemptive quality in the suffering you experience. Finding something positive within the suffering experience can actually take some of the suffering away.
For example, in our circumstance I would never have had this much compassion for grieving parents had I not experienced their similar pain. Additionally, by writing and sharing my experience, hopefully someone will find something useful and helpful in it. Finally, we have been able to help a lot of orphans in Uganda over the last three years by channeling our energy and pain into fundraising for them.
Let me be very clear here. Not for a second, do I think any of this is worth my son not being here with us. Nothing would ever be worth it. No amount of good would ever be worth it. I dont care what it would be.
But, I can say that I have experienced healing by finding meaning to go on and by seeking redemption of our pain and suffering.
Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you. Victor Frankl
I was lying next to my wife one evening before bed and I said these words Our life is so perfect. Sometimes it scares me its so perfect. We have a wonderful marriage, and three beautiful children. I dont know why, but Im afraid that means something very bad is coming around the corner.
Within months of saying those words, the worst thing that can happen to a parent did happen to us. On June 12, 2011, Jacob Thomas Jones, our three and half year old son, passed away.
Brea and I met in high school and are high school sweet hearts. We have 3 children. Two girls, ages 12 and 10, and Jacob. Up until June of 2011 our family was the all American family. We lived right, loved each other furiously, and all was perfect to us.
We had our two daughters 18 months apart and they have been attached since they were babies. So, when we had a son it was so much fun. It was something new and different for all of us. The girls loved doting over and caring for their little brother. He would dress up in their princess dresses and wear girls shoes all over the place. We still new he was all boy when he would eventually decapitate the dolls he would steal from his sisters toy box.
The three of them playing together in the house created such a wonderful ruckus that I didnt realize how great it was until it wasnt there anymore.
Brea has stayed home to care for the children and home since our first daughter was born. She is an amazing mother and loves her children so well. Jacob adores her and was connected to her hip wherever she went. Their daily routine was full of grocery shopping together, taking the girls to and from school, cleaning house, and occasional doctors visits for Jacobs eye therapy.
Jacob was born with an eye muscle condition that needed treatment on a weekly basis. I can remember his small eye problem causing us so much angst and worry as parents. I would give anything to have the time I spent worrying about that insignificant issue back. Looking back, it was such a minor issue. But, we didnt know any better. And, I think any loving and caring parent will do whatever they can to help their child. I just wish we didnt let it stir fear in us at the time.
My relationship with Jacob turned out to be even more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. Every man has a deep sense of pride in raising a son. He is not only my only son, but also my best little buddy. He and I had a very special relationship. I think parents go through phases where they are closer to one child or the other at different seasons in their life. Jacob and I were very close and he and I connected in a different way than I did with my daughters. Not better or more just different.
June 12, 2011 was a Sunday. Our family went through our normal Sunday morning routine. Get kids up and dressed. Off to church. One thing different about that day, was my wife had to stay up at the church to work on Vacation Bible School stuff after church. So, we took two vehicles. The girls would stay to help her after church, and Jacob and I would go to lunch and then head home.
After church, Jacob and I went to get some lunch together. I cant remember what I had to eat. But, I remember he had eggs, bacon, and sprite. It was a treat to get sprite. So, I remember how happy he was to get to drink it.
After we ate, we went outside to get in the car. I got him in his car seat and buckled him in. Then I got in and turned the ignition to start the car. It didnt turn over. This had been happening off and on. So, I thought the starter had gone out or maybe the battery was dead.
I tried it again, and nothing. I thought, well we just call Brea and get them to come get us. I waited a few more seconds and then turned the key again. This time the car started up. I remember how relieved I felt at the time.
Unfortunately, this is one more seemingly insignificant event that day, which could have prevented all of this. If the car had not started, Jacob would most likely be here today. I would have called Brea. She would have come and got us and all of us would have been home together instead of what happened.
Jacob and I were driving home together now that the car had started. He asked me for some m&ms that he had gotten. I gave him a few but didnt want him to eat the whole bag since he was supposed to take a nap when we got home.
I remember him singing on the way home. I cant remember exactly which song it was, but he was singing a song on K Love radio and enjoying the few m&ms I let him have.
When we got home, we got settled; and then I laid down with him in his bed. This was the usual nap routine. Lay down with him for a few minutes. Rub his back. Maybe sing a song or talk a bit. Then leave him in there.
Sometimes I would stay in there and take a nap with him, but this time I didnt. I went to my room and laid down too. I think I was asleep for a couple hours.
I got up and made some coffee and went into our play room to watch TV. I didnt feel any need to go check on him because there wasnt ever any real need or reason to. Jacob could take two to three hour naps sometimes. So, it wouldnt have been unusual for him to still be asleep. His room was down at the end of the hall at the opposite side of the house. So, I would not have noticed he wasnt there because I was not on that side of the house.
Eventually, Brea and the girls came home. We talked for a bit. Brea asked if Jacob was still taking a nap and I said yes. More time went by and she thought it was getting a bit long for him to be sleeping so she went to get him up.
The next thing I hear is Brea yelling Jacobs name. She says he isnt in his room. She comes running towards the outside and I run outside too. I look in the back yard and then front. In an instant I think of looking in the car. I run to the car and look in the window. I see him laying face down in the back of the car.
I tried to open the car but the doors were locked. I yelled at Brea to go get the keys so I could open. We open the locks and I open the hatch to the back of the expedition. I pull Jacob out. I remember how hot his little body was. He was a little blue.
Brea called 911 and we started doing CPR together. I started praying out loud while we are doing CPR. God save him. Please dont let this happen.
The girls run outside to see us over Jacob doing CPR. We yell at them to go back inside to their room. They went in there and huddled together completely confused and scared.
I knew something was very wrong by the loo