Fatal Distraction is a gripping article that is not about illness, but about surviving the death of a child. Although wrenching to read, this article by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gene Weingarten (2010) illustrates useful lessons for Healthy Survivors and their caregivers.
Weingarten introduces us to a handful of parents who are each facing the same challenge: Embracing life after accidentally leaving their young child in a parked car with the windows closed, where the child died of hyperthermia (excessively high body temperature).
Weingarten focuses on the causes of this rising phenomenon and the legal issues -- Is it an accident or a crime? For purposes of this blog, I'm most interested in the psychosocial consequences of the tragedy. Specifically, what insights or skills help the surviving parents embrace life after such a horrible mistake?
When living with illness, sometime or another a mistake will happen. Patients and caregivers can take medications incorrectly or misjudge when to call for help. Usually the consequences are insignificant or small, but occasionally they are life-altering. When mistakes happen, Healthy Survivors know
- Human beings are imperfect.
- Loss causes grief.
- Grief hurts while it heals; grief can't heal without hurting.
- Some grief never resolves completely, but with enough new joy in life the grief becomes marginalized most of the time.
- Others may blame you, so they can feel safer. ("I would never make that mistake.")
When possible, Healthy Survivors give meaning to mistakes by learning from them (if there is anything to learn) and by taking steps to prevent repeat mistakes (if there is anything that can be done).To err is human, to forgive divine. (Alexander Pope)