There is no such nightmare as the death of a child prior to their parent’s. As parents, we know that every parent wishes to perish prior to their child, we accept it, we pray for it and sometimes- beg for it.
But, there is no greater heartbreak than hearing that a mom or dad has died leaving children in tow. We read about it every day. And for those who are associated, regardless of relationship, it destroys a piece of the heart.
For those heroes who serve this country- every day, away from their families months and months at a time, more so, away from their children, when they die, there is a deep feeling of nothingness. As bystanders, we are left with no right words, and no right comfort- just tears of sadness.
Many of our service members who serve our country face multiple deployments to dangerous countries thousands of miles away, and for those who have children, the thought of never seeing a child again, is sometimes enough strength to make it back home.
But, what happens when our service members, who have made it home after years of deployments, TDYs and/or training, and who may have little time left before retiring or ETS’ing -with dreams to recover all of the milestones, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, graduations and everyday changes that were missed, suddenly die?
All who are involved are left in a situation of devastation. Spouses of those who perish are left with emptiness, and the inability to mobilize and accept the responsibility to move forward- if not for they, for their children. Family members search for ways to comfort but more often than not, to no avail. And, the children, our children, are changed forever.
The explanation to the faces of our little ones who are shocked to comprehend the ramifications of not ever waiting for their dad or mom to come home after months of being gone because they are military service members, becomes an immense duty. The familiarity of not seeing their mom or dad because of their service fades after the realization of what has caused the separation and the child becomes unraveled.
Our duty to our patrons is to stand by their families during such situations so unbearable and so emotionally draining.
To understand the loss and pain that will scare these families for the rest of their lives, as a community, we must stand together behind these families who are on the front line of ultimate sacrifice. Our duty as a community is to know that, although as civilians we may never understand such a life, our understanding and unwavering support is what the generation-military-kid will need.
If someone you know or love has suffered the ultimate loss of a spouse and leave children behind, please, help them by supporting The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, (310) 235-2633.