Religious feeling and spirituality can be related to the
search for meaning in the life and death of a child. But,
parents and siblings who do not have any religious belief also
look for meaning in the existence and death of a child.
Following Cathal’s death, I became preoccupied in looking
for meaning for his existence. When we live to adulthood,
meaning is easier to see and define. But where is there
meaning in the life and death of a child? What if an infant dies?
What if there is prenatal death? Where is the meaning there?
Ann Finkbeiner found it difficult to find meaning in the
death of her child, and none of the parents she interviewed
for her book were able to make sense of the deaths of their
children. She struggles with this concept. For her, death is
the natural way of the world. Things have their time, but the
death of a child is unnatural. It goes against the natural order
I can understand that point of view, but I found meaning
in Cathal’s life, and I learned to use it when I had to deal
with the death of a student later on. This student died in Our
Lady’s Secondary School. She was a beautiful child in fifth
year; she collapsed in one of the classrooms at lunchtime and
died shortly afterwards. I did not tell the students, to spare
them the trauma and preferring them to be in the safety and
comfort of their own homes before the news broke. This gave
me time to think about what I would say the following
morning, as we prepared a plan to support them. Sitting at
my desk with my own bereavement casting its long shadow
over me, I spent a long time pondering how I would explain
to 600 young people the meaning of Linda’s death. The
following morning, as I stood in front of this big crowd of
young people, some tearful, some unmoved, the following
thoughts underpinned my words to them.
When a Child Dies. Footsteps of a Grieving Family. Published by Veritas