If your child dies before you do, you know it isn’t the natural order of things. It kicks the well-meaning duality of Yin and Yang in the groin. A child that dies before you is outside the cycle of the earth around the sun or the shadow of the earth on the moon. Everything in life does have a flow to it, even if we don’t know about Yin and Yang. We know that night follows day, the tides are affected by the gravitational pull of the moon on the earth, if we make a profit we pay taxes, and when we are born, life is an express train rushing to only one destination, death.

There is an order and there are things we take for granted and don’t question. The death of your child isn’t one of them.

Even if you’re an older parent, such as Denise Riley for example, it still doesn’t make it any easier. Dr. Riley was born in Carlisle in the late 1940s but is now a professor of the History of Ideas and of Poetry at the University of East Anglia, She is also a well-known academic, writer of philosophy and poetry. I came to Denise through Max Porter, his book, Grief is the Thing with Feathers. GITTWF is one of the five books I discussed as part of my doctoral research on grief, grief memoir, and creative writing.

I met Max on Zoom during Covid, and he’s a nice man to boot. He was very humble in his introduction/forward to Denise’s book dedicated to her dead son Jake, Time Lived Without its Flow.  After reading her book he said, “Truthfully, I might have thrown my own book in the bin had it not already gone to the printers.”

Scales of Grief?

I ask myself during my research if there is such a thing as a hierarchy of loss? Jake died suddenly of a heart attack in his 40’s, a drunk driver killed my son when he was 22. There are two things there, age, and the way they died. It’s impossible to say, however, Denise and I wrote differently about our boys. Denise hardly mentions Jake, it’s an essay about grief, not death, it’s an essay about the loss of time, not a life. On the other hand, my book Grief and Other Minds is about a man, insane with the death of his child