Many of us have said it. Prince sang about it. Mostly, it’s empty words. There are very few people very many of would die for. But, if you’re a parent, you probably really mean it. We would literally trade places with our kids without hesitation. One of the common stages of dealing with grief and death is bargaining. For some reason. we have this notion that if there is a toll to be paid, maybe we can pay it for someone else (where have I heard this before?- oh yeah, in church all my life). So, when our kid is sick, we might bargain with God. Or in my case, after she has passed, we fantasize about what if we could have traded places?
I’ve also found it more common than one might think that, after a child has passed, there is an desire to be with them. Since we cannot bring them back to us, we want to go where they are and that means dying. Many parents fantasize about their own deaths. Many fantasize about suicide. And, some go as far as to take their own lives. I’ve spoken to enough grieving parents in sessions where we are baring our souls, as you can only do with other grieving parents, to know that I am not alone in this desire. It’s not that we want to end our lives, it’s that we’re ready for the what comes next now because half of our heart has already gone on ahead of us.
As I was talking with another grieving mother about this this past weekend, Tywana made a good point. That thing about trading places with them, us dying so that they could live, really makes no sense once you embrace the view of life and “death” that we have. To trade places with them would mean they would have to live with our death. They would be the ones grieving. So, I really need to stop saying I would trade places with Shayna.