Always With Me: Parents Talk About the Death of a Child

Always With Me: Parents Talk About the Death of a Child
By Donna McCart Sharkey
198 pages • ISBN 978-1-77258-169-0

Consciously or unconsciously, when you have a child, you make up the idea that it’s he or she who will accompany you in the last days of your life. We consider, as a natural law of life and as an unwritten rule, that parents are on a decreasing curve, while children are growing. When we see our children, we always think about what they will become in their adulthood, the family they will form, and the contribution they will make to society. Unfortunately, God, life or destiny, as you want to call it, sometimes have other plans that go against the natural order of things. That is when the question arises: How does a parent cope after the death of a child?

Answering this question through a collection of essays is precisely the purpose of Always With Me: Parents Talk About the Death of a Child. It is a book that collects stories, frustrations, and reveals the experiences of parents who have lived through the devastation and upheaval of their child’s death. Parents describe the maelstrom they face in their inner landscapes, coping strategies, and realigned place in the world. The writers in this collection of stories take on such topics as shock and isolation, despair, guilt, and how they attempt to make sense of their shattered lives. They offer insights into how their grief and loss are worked through, and why certain personal connections are severed while others are strengthened. Importantly, they describe how they try to press forward to find a new place in the world after their lives have been altered indelibly.

The death of a child is not a simple subject. On the contrary, it is a hard topic for both writers and readers. However, this book becomes a way to celebrate parents speaking out about their experiences of loss and also the addition of a new resource for other parents, and those interested in the field of grief.

Donna McCart Sharkey, editor of Always With Me: Parents Talk About the Death of a Child, says that “the stories in this book span four months from the death of a child to a year, 5, ten years, up to over 30 years. And they share some common motifs: that love shines through, the desire to hold onto memories, and that the authors, at some point following the death of their child, aim towards life.”

McCart points out that “this book emerged from a confluence of events and situations and as the book moved from idea to shape, I had wonderful mentors, early readers, and editors.”

The book connects the writers’ children, grief, and their own inner transformation. One of the questions concerning this inner transformation is Who am I now, following the death of my child. Some people use to say “you’ll get over it.” Others said, “you’re never the same person again.”

If you are fortunate enough to have your children alive, ask yourself, what would become of you without them? How would your life be without the presence of your children? Have you enjoyed them enough? Are you in a time to make changes in your life as parents and in theirs as children? Many times, we do not know what we have until we lose it.

Contributors to this book come from across Canada as well as the United States.

Donna McCart Sharkey grew up in Montreal and now lives in Ottawa. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Ottawa, and her research includes studies conducted with war affected girls and young women. Her research has been published in numerous academic journals, and she has contributed to various anthologies. Prior to retirement, she was a professor at The State University of New York. She is the mother of Alessandra and Renata.

“The death of one’s child is possibly the harshest blow life can deliver. This extraordinary anthology offers diverse perspectives on how and why parents survive the pain of their child’s death. It is aimed at general readers, other survivors, and those who work with grieving families. The book is sad but not depressing. Read it in small doses to fully appreciate the depths of parental love, sorrow, remorse, and yearning represented here.” —DEBORAH YAFFE, Senior Instructor Emerita, University of Victoria

“This book is a gift to all of us. The collection of vignettes takes us into the centre of the heartbreaking and unimaginable pain that parents who have lost children live through as they try to make sense of a world where the natural order of things is gone. Raw, honest, and powerful, the stories cannot but make an impression on the reader. The book is instructive and filled with valuable lessons not only for those in the helping professions—social workers, nurses, physicians, teachers, therapists—but also for the general public that needs to get past its discomfort with all parents’ worst nightmare and learn how better to provide compassionate support to bereaved parents and their families.”  —THERESE JENNISSEN, Professor, School of Social Work, Carleton University

“I was deeply moved by the immediacy of this book’s stories, the candour of the writing. Between its pages, I found important insights on the nature of loss, grief, and hope. These heartfelt testimonies, so representative of what it means to be human, provide a close understanding of grieving. One by one, these stories change us for the better. As a health professional, I now feel closer to my fellow humans and more skilled to be there for them in times of profound pain. After the last word was read, I was left with a deep sense of compassion and gratitude for those who so generously shared their journey. True to its title, this book will always be with me.” —RACHEL THIBEAULT, Ph.D. FCAOT, O.C., Sisyphus Resilience Consulting