When you mourn the death of an adult – a parent, sibling or friend – you are grieving for the life you had together. When a child dies, you grieve for the life that was ahead of them and all the milestones they will never see.
One of those milestones for bereaved parents is the day their child should be starting school. The first day of school is a very important ritual in the life of a child and a family. It is a day all parents look forward to with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Will my child settle in? Will she make friends? Will he like the teacher? Did I get the right bag? Will the lunch be eaten?
Buying the books, the bag and all the other gear is so exciting and, naturally, your child will look adorable in their new uniform. You’ll join the other parents at the school door and hand your child over to the world. A new adventure begins! You’ll shed a little tear – maybe – but you’ll know your child is in good hands.
But what about the parent whose child isn’t there? For bereaved parents, ‘School Season’ as I like to call it, is full of sadness and longing. The back-to-school ‘buzz’ starts very early, so the dread starts early too. Other parents are excitedly planning their child’s first day. We listen to chats about uniforms, shoes, etc and wish we could join in. If there is another child in the extended family due to start school, and your child has been forgotten, it can be heartbreaking.
Many bereaved parents, especially those living in small towns, have no choice but to drive or walk past the local school every day, and the first day of school in September is no exception. If you have older children already in school, you have no choice but to walk them in. And there they are before you – the new Junior Infant children. But your child isn’t there.