Lament for a Son is an intensely personal tribute by Nicholas Wolterstorff to his 25-yr-old son who died in a climbing accident. It is eloquent and unforgettable as he gives voice to a grief that is both unique and universal: the tortured pain of losing an individual, a child, your child.
We lost our 25-yr-old son to a heroin overdose six years ago on August 2, 2014. Lament for a Son has been one of our go-to books since that time. Wolterstorff expresses the incomprehension and sense of unfairness that, I believe, parents worldwide feel when they lose a child – someone who is supposed to bury you, not the other way around. It doesn’t fit with the cycle of life we expect – it is jarring, unsettling, bewildering, frustrating, disquieting.
In the Preface he relates:
A friend told me he gave a copy of Lament to all of his children. “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s a love song,” he said. That took me aback. But, Yes, it is a love-song. Every lament is a love song. Will love-songs one day no longer be laments?
Yet, while the book expresses the common feelings brought on by sudden unexpected death, what he doesn’t share with those of us who have lost a child to drug/alcohol addiction are the previous long years, sometimes decades, of turmoil, anxiety, fear, and depression that we experience on top of all the normal grief.
There is no glory in being the parent of someone who is an addict or alcoholic.
Your child has not lost a battle with cancer, or died in a war, or in an accident. No, your child made some choices that ruined their life and brought them shame and dishonor. So, we lament – for a long, long time – maybe forever. Not all day, every day. But the pain and hurt never disappear and it doesn’t take much to bring the feelings up to the surface.
The So Calif band, Switchfoot, wrote a beautiful tribute song about losing a friend too soon based on Wolterstorff’s thought – Yesterdays. The song is like a theme song for us in remembering our son as it plays over and over in our minds. Our laments are our love songs to our children – and need to be sung if just to remind society that there is much work to be done in order to turn the tide on this scourge of addiction in young people.
And for those of us who believe we will be reunited with our child after our own death, we can also sing along with the words to Yesterdays that say:
“Every lament is a love song, love song
I still can’t believe you’re gone
Oh, I remember you like yesterday, yesterday
And until I’m with you, I’ll carry on.”
“Our beliefs in the afterlife play a role in how we grieve…and dictates how we feel about someone’s dying…If you feel your loved one’s presence, do not doubt it. They still exist. It is futile to debate the reality of this, for it is beyond our knowing…some things simply cannot be proved…for our loved ones who have died, in eternity there is no time for them. We, on the other hand, are stuck in time, and for us in grief that moment may feel like forever.”
On Grief & Grieving, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, pgs 105-114