Janesville event offers resources to grieving parents
JANESVILLE -- A year ago, Laura Diehl put tools for healing in the hands of grieving parents with the publication of her book, “When Tragedy Strikes: Rebuilding Your Life With Hope and Healing After the Death of Your Child.”
This month, she is inviting parents to a free event at Janesville's Festival Foods on Saturday, July 15.
“Because of the suffocating darkness I found myself in when I lost my child, I feel compelled to reach out to other parents,” Diehl said. “I don't want any grieving parent to feel alone and isolated as I did.”
Diehl's oldest child, Becca, died Oct. 12, 2011, when her heart gave out. Ironically, the chemotherapy that saved Becca's life at age 3 damaged her heart and cut her life short at age 29.
The death brought Diehl a grief so profound she could not put it into words.
But she still had her husband, Dave, and four other children.
She wanted to live for the people she loved and to cherish them even more.
Diehl documented her painful journey in the book, which received the Gold Medal Book Award for Non-Fiction in the 2017 Christian Book Awards competition.
An ordained minister, Diehl and her husband started a monthly support group for parents in Janesville and created the website Grieving Parents Sharing Hope, which has resources and tools to help parents.
“We are here to be a light of hope in their place of darkness,” Diehl said.
Grieving parents often are misunderstood, even by family members.
“One parent told me her son died by suicide four years ago, and it's still very traumatic to her,” Diehl said. “But the family is telling her it is time to move on.”
Five years or less is still considered fresh grief when a parent loses a child, she explained.
Still, the parent is expected to be normal at work and attend family functions.
“What people don't realize is we have to go through deep pain before we can socialize and be out again,” Diehl said. “It always takes longer than we want it to or than we think it should.”
Like so many parents who have lost children, Diehl understands how difficult it can be to answer a common question:
“How are you?”
“To respond, you have to run through a bunch of options in your head,” Diehl said. “You have to ask yourself if it is someone who wants—or even deserves—the truth. Lots of times, a grieving parent just responds with, 'I'm fine.'”
She explained that our culture is uncomfortable with grief.
“As a grieving parent, we put on a mask so everyone around us can be comfortable with our grief,” Diehl said. “But the mask is emotionally draining, and it perpetuates a misunderstanding about grief. People think we are OK, and we are not.”
Diehl will speak at a national workshop for grieving parents in Washington, D.C., next month and to another group in Florida in September.
She said she is at a higher functional level than many grieving parents six years after the loss of a child.
“I think part of it is because I chose to reach out and help others,” Diehl said. “No matter what happens, when you reach out and help others, it brings a measure of healing to your own soul.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.