By Kimberly Amato
Kimberly Amato says that she is a member of a club she didn’t want to join—the bereaved parents club. Ten years ago, on the weekend before Christmas, she lost her three-year-old daughter Meghan in an accident; a nightmare that, as a father, I can’t imagine. I hesitated to read her book because it addresses my worst fear, but I’m glad that I did.
Amato wrote her book, Out of the Darkness, for two main reasons: to help other bereaved parents and to guide those who support bereaved parents. I found her advice and perspective enlightening. Some is, or should be, common sense:
“Please. Be respectful. Now is not the time for opinions.”
But there is a lot that I would have never thought of:
“Don’t touch, move, or do anything without the permission of the child’s parents. It may seem simple to wash the dishes, but maybe that parent wanted that last cup the child drank out of left dirty because it’s suddenly sacred.”
Amato has two sons; one is Meghan’s twin, and the other is three years older. So she also has a lot to say regarding helping young children understand and deal with a child’s death:
“One word of advice, do not lie. Do not speak in vague terms. Don’t say the child that died is ‘sleeping’ or has ‘gone away’….Make sure they understand the permanence of death at an age appropriate level.”
A couple of points stressed many times are that everyone’s experience in dealing with death is different, and that no one else can really “understand” what they are going through. Especially if you are talking to someone who has lost a child, of any age, and you haven’t experienced that:
“You don’t know how they feel, so don’t say you do or that you can ‘imagine’ how they feel. Just don’t…”
For the grieving she writes:
“No one has the right to tell you what you can and can’t grieve over or how to grieve. You are entitled to feel the way you feel and no one can take that away from you.”
“It’s okay to laugh and have fun….It’s okay to cry….It’s okay to ask, ‘Why’ or ‘Why me?’”
I’m thankful that I can’t review this book from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child. But Ms. Amato, through writing about her own story in an honest and detailed way, gave me a little insight into her thoughts and feelings and the horror of the experience:
“I asked, ‘Can I see her?’ They answered, ‘Yes, in a few minutes.’ Then they left us to collapse into despair and the horror of the fact our gorgeous little girl was gone forever.”
Whether this book will help another bereaved parent depends on that parent and their experience. But I do know that it will be helpful to those who help a family member, friend, or acquaintance deal with the loss of a child. Amato keeps clear of empty phrases that are supposed to bring comfort (but, in her experience, only caused anger), and offers wise and practical advice. This book is not fun to read, but it’s definitely worthwhile.