by Kay Bevington
The death of a child from any cause or at any age is the most devastating experience that a parent will ever encounter in one’s lifetime. Parents are supposed to die before their children or at least that is what we are conditioned to believe in our society in the United States and many other countries. When our child/children die, it affects us emotionally, physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually.
A child’s death is so inconceivable that our friends, co-workers, and family members are at a loss about how they can assist us in the most challenging journey of our lives. This journey requires understanding and assistance from other bereaved parents like ourselves and extra help from the professional community. My husband, Rodney, and I reluctantly joined this group known as ‘bereaved parents’ in 1980 when our only child, Rhonda, died unexpectedly of a capillary collapse due to an anesthetic, which was to have been a ‘routine biopsy’ according to the medical professionals.
Even though I credit Compassionate Friends for saving our marriage and lives, we still realized that having no surviving children made us significantly different from other bereaved parents. We would never be active parents again, never be grandparents. There would be no immediate family to celebrate holidays, special events, or anyone to be our advocate as we age. Issues, such as, what do we did with our children’s memorabilia when our child had no siblings? Who will want any of our family heirlooms when there are no children? How do we make sure that our estates are managed and distributed correctly according to our wishes as we age or die? Who will be there as an advocate for us when one of us is ill and needs assistance? What happens when life events, such as storms, floods, fires, tornados, and hurricanes devastate our property, and no one comes to our assistance? Will anyone call, send us an email, card, letter, or visit once in a while to provide friendship since we have no children or grandchildren? Will we spend each significant birthday, anniversary, or holiday alone, or must we always be the ones to initiate making sure we are not alone? These and many other unique, pertinent questions haunt those of us with no surviving children.
Rodney and I created Alive Alone in 1988 after our only child, Rhonda, died in 1980 before her sixteenth birthday. Alive Alone, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-deductible corporation organized for such educational and charitable purposes as will benefit bereaved parents whose only child or all children are deceased. Alive Alone provides a self-help network and publications to promote communication and healing, to assist in resolving their grief, and a means to reinvest their lives for a positive future.
We publish a periodical five times per year. Most of the material is original articles, poems, reinvestment ideas, book and music reviews written and/or suggested by bereaved parents now childless or by professionals for parents now childless. We offer hope to the suffering and a forum for the expression of grief they experience due to the death of an only child or all of their children.
Alive Alone also networks now childless parents with others who have similar experiences. For example, suppose a teen died due to suicide, and there are no surviving children. We try to locate another parent with a similar experience and ask that they email, write, or phone one another for extra support and encouragement. Alive Alone has a database of thousands who have been or are currently on our mailing list that are willing to assist someone newly bereaved. This ‘networking’ often is a lifeline to those who feel they are sinking in the sea of grief.
Alive Alone also provides seminars for bereaved parents at national bereavement gatherings such as Bereaved Parents of USA, Compassionate Friends, Parents of Murdered Children, and other similar organizations throughout the year.
There are no organized Alive Alone chapters. But there are a few groups of parents with no surviving children who meet regularly to attend a theater, go out to eat, or just gather to provide friendship and understanding for one another either on a regular or irregular basis in certain localities of the United States.