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Here today, gone tomorrow: a study of loss


Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Updated: Sunday, January 26, 2014 14:01

An emotional 13-year-long research study on the impact on parents after a death of a child has left Dr. Paige Toller with a new understanding of the expression, here today gone tomorrow.

Toller, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, set out to write her Master’s Thesis paper on how a relationship is affected after a tragic event occurs, back in 2000.

A mother of two children, Toller said the study has instilled a positive change in her parenting at home.

“Each person is a fragile gift,”  Toller said. “Throughout this process, I have become a more calm, patient and at times a more paranoid mother to my children.”

Toller conducted 52 emotional interviews from voluntary parents that have endured in losing a child.

The interviews involved laughter, tears, sharing stories and a whole lot of remembrance.

“A number of parents talked about a strong spiritual relationship with their kids after their death that has provided ease and comfort,” Toller said.

Although, for a lot of the parents, their child is not here in physical form, but for some, the child is with them spiritually, she said.

One parent experienced a cookie jar flying across the room while another experienced a doll taken out of the closet, Toller said as her eyes began to widen.

This could be a difficult concept to grasp, but the comfort of knowing their children are with them spiritually put the parents at ease, Toller said.

“I continue to be more and more amazed at how strong and resilient some parents are in a time of sadness and pain,” Toller said. “There is no correct way to grieve, each person is different.”

Toller found a consistent trend among the parents during the grieving process.

The trend is to provide the family with enough time and space, she said.

Relationships that struggled before the death of a child resulted in a more difficult time sustaining a healthy relationship after, Toller said.

Toller said parents that experience a death of a child need to recognize that there are more grieving parents out there than people understand.

They are not alone.

“Finding the meaning and outlets after losing a child has helped a lot of parents grieve properly in difficult times,” Toller said. “Understanding the importance of the grieving process helps the pain reduce.”

For some, remembering stories serves as an appropriate coping mechanism, while others simply require time to cry, Toller said.

Toller’s bright, contagious smile lit up the room when carefully observing a photograph of her two blue-eyed and sandy blonde haired children.

A proud mother of a five-year-old boy and 18-month-old girl.

“This research process has taught me what is truly important in life and how each and every day is not guaranteed.”

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