Learn with professional help to overcome the loss of a child

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Vicent was 8 years old when they detected a brain tumor. At first, the doctors gave the family hope, and they even operated on the little boy. But nevertheless, Vincent’s life was meant to be short. A month and a half before passing away, Mar and JaviHis parents received the news that their eldest son’s tumor was malignant, and that not much could be done for him. After the blow of that diagnosis, which still hurts, Mar, Javi and Vicent himself, they decided that the best thing was go home, finish school, keep going to the beach. Definitely, live fully to the end.

Since the child was diagnosed with the disease, a process of accompaniment began by the Psychosocial Care Team (EAPS) of the Association of parents of children with cancer of the Valencian Community (ASPANION), an entity that forms part of the ”la Caixa” Foundation Program for Comprehensive Care for People with Advanced Diseases. When the little boy’s life ended, the real mountain began for his parents. Mar began to work the duel accompanied by Javier Zamora, a psychologist from the same EAPS, to facilitate the process. “The death of a child is the most heartbreaking pain that can be experienced,” says Mar. “But time helps to remember the good. And, in some way, it helps us to continue living ”.

Mar says that, at first, anger and pain consume you. “Everything seems wrong to you. Friends who call bother you because they call you. And those who don’t, it annoys you that they don’t. It is in this first stage after the death of a son in which the psychologist Javier Zamora has worked more with her. “It is very important to be able to validate the emotions of a mother who has lost a child, whatever they may be. For Mar, facing the pain of loss and accepting it, out of self-pity, was one of the first steps ”.

Help the grieving process

Both have worked through the grieving process with the objective of emotionally relocating the son who has left and continuing to live. “And in that, Mar is an example. Two months after Vicent’s death, with an active attitude, he wanted to return to the ICU where he works, because he felt that his testimony could help others ”.

Emotions are Javier’s pillar of work. Emotions for loss, ranging from anger to guilt to grief. But also the emotions that the reactions of the people around them generate. As a psychologist, I have left Mar a space in which what she feels is not judged, because everything she expresses is valid. However, in a society in which we do not know how to talk about death, and less about childhood, we tend to judge. Without malice, but with ignorance. Death is still too taboo a subject to be able to talk about it with empathy and accompaniment”.

Mar corroborates this conscious silence about death with her own experience. “When Vicent died, there were mothers in his class who stopped talking to me. I guess because they didn’t know what to say to me. I saw how there were neighbors from our block who went up the stairs so as not to share the elevator with me. Seeing how people withdraw from you, in such a hard time, hurts. For those times, Mar has a tip. “The first thing I need to hear is ‘I’m sorry’. After that everything flows”.

“The obligation to return to a routine is helping me to adapt to the new situation”

In the grieving process, Mar says, the couple’s youngest son, Guillem, gained tremendous importance. At the time his brother died, he was two and a half years old. “I think Guillem was my conviction and at the same time my salvation,” says Mar. “Having to get up every day to take him to school, to the same class his brother had been in, was like a nightmare. But that obligation to return to a routine, to have a reason to continue living, is what is helping me to adapt to the situation ”. Once the routine was assimilated, the return to life of the family has been slow, but safe. “Little by little we have been recovering moments for ourselves, opening vital projects that excite us. Like the house in the country that we bought recently, and that makes Javi very excited because he wants to plant a garden there ”.

Share the experience to help other parents

Javier Zamora comments, however, that two years is a very short time to mourn the loss of a child. But Mar is able to talk about her experience to help other parents who are in a situation similar to yours. “People like her are an example for society, because they are able to connect with social and humanitarian projects. He has learned to live despite being affected by the greatest pain that exists.

“The pain is the same, but it looks different”, says Mar. “I have happy moments, of course I do. I can be happy and enjoy a beer with friends. But my children are my vital engine and I am missing one of them ”. Still, he now knows that time helps. “At first, everything reminded me of Vicent in a very heartbreaking, very sad way. Now, when there is something that brings me back to him, it usually makes me smile. Because I know that he lived all he could. Somehow, remembering that he is gone, helps us to continue living.

Text: Itziar Lecea
Illustration: Lorraine rivega