Child Loss: Where Are My Friends?

“What happened?  Where are my friends?” Those are probably two of the most pain-filled questions that parents and families of child loss ask following the death of a child.  This seems to be the one thing that is misunderstood the most by grieving parents. 

Prior to the death of the child, life was full and happy and friends were calling, stopping by the house, planning fun outings, picnics, and planning vacations together.  But, it doesn’t take long following the death of a child to realize that those very same friends seem to have disappeared.

Why does this happen? Why do so many of our friends disappear following the death of our child?   I’ve wondered about this for many, many years beginning with the death of my thirteen-year-old sister and then later on with the death of my son.  It was something I didn’t understand then, but I’ve grown to realize that the trickling away of friends is fairly universal among those of us who have lost a child.

Talking about child loss makes others uncomfortable.  It’s not fun.  Grief seems to put a wedge between friends making it difficult to talk and enjoy each other’s presence any more.  During the first months following the loss of a child, parents live in a deep, thick fog where it’s almost impossible to see even a sliver of hope.  They look to their friends for solace — for listening ears — for comfort, and soon come to realize those faces that once were so familiar are no longer the faces that come knocking at our door. In fact, nobody comes knocking at our door!

Life picks up its regular pace for others — back to the routine of work, soccer games, movies, running errands, and doing all of the other things that fill up time almost immediately after our loss.  I’m not saying that our friends don’t care.  I’m just saying that life goes on for them.

For the parents of child loss, time stands ever so still.   We are frozen in that moment of hearing those horrible words, “I’m so sorry.”  Our hearts never beat the same after that.

clock

To say it’s disappointing and hurtful to have our friends move on without us, is putting it mildly.  The absence of our friends burns our hearts right to the core.  The pain stings and hurts and pounds and throbs.  This is when we need our friends the most! 

Following the death of my son, life was bleak for a long, long time.  There were days when I thought I was going to die — very literally die.  My blood pressure shot up sky-high from stress and grief.  I was weak and dehydrated from not eating and sleeping.  Depression swallowed me and kept me in a sea of drowning tears.  I plummeted into a deep, lonely hole of loss.

My phone remained silent.  I prayed that somebody — anybody would show up with some food and words of comfort.  I had other children that needed to eat.  They needed to see a bit of normalcy in their lives.  I’d forgotten what it was like to smile.  Just to see a friend’s smile and hear a reassuring voice would have meant so much.  But, it wasn’t to be so.

Sadly, being a preacher’s wife at the time, there were expectations of me displaying a “greater faith” (what does faith have to do with grief?), and instead of comforting friends, I was expected to give comfort to others.  I didn’t have the strength to carry on through each hour, let alone be any kind of strength to others!

During that time, I nearly had a mental and physical collapse from the weight of grief, depression, and loneliness.

What I did find was something quite amazing.  There was a young man who bagged groceries who noticed my puffy eyes and slumped shoulders.  He never failed to ask me how I was feeling and I knew he genuinely meant it.  He made going to the grocery store a little bit of an easier task for me.

My doctor was genuinely concerned.  He took the time to sit and talk and explain the many emotions of child loss while I cried.  He never judged me or thought I was crazy.

A total stranger saw me crying while walking through the children’s section in Walmart and she offered me a tissue.  She didn’t say a word, but she was there.

I learned through the years how to find new friends — the kind of friends who are there through the thick and thin of life.  Isn’t it amazing how we can openly and honestly share our hearts with strangers who are feeling our same pain of child loss and instantly they become our friends?

friends

Many years have gone by since the death of my sister and the death of my son.  Most of my old friends are gone.  I now think of them as past acquaintances who simply didn’t “get it.”  They didn’t understand the depth of pain that is caused by child loss.

Today I’m an advocate for parents and families of child loss.  I want us to speak openly and freely about our children.  I don’t want us to feel alone in the “club” that we now belong to.  I want us to be able to grieve in our own way, in our own time, and know we’ll be given tons of support.

I want us to be friends!

Love,

Clara

NOTE:  Little did I know at the time of this writing that my heart would be crushed again by the loss of a child.  On May 22, 2015 my son Mike died unexpectedly leaving behind his wife, three young children and a family broken by this loss.  Once again, the question was asked, “Where are my friends?”

To read more:

Child Loss – the Heartbreak and the Hope

Silent Grief

Hope 365 – Daily Meditations for the Grieving Heart

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38 Comments

  1. My son died 13 years ago in Dec.I have read dozens of books and all seem to have something that let me know that I wasn’t crazy.I just started getting your page and every day there is something that hits home.I am so grateful for your book.Thank you for sharing.

    1. Barbara, I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. You’re not crazy, by any means. I’m so glad you’re finding some things that help!

    1. Laurie, I think the blessing of a loving, supportive family makes all the difference in the world!!! I hope that someday the kind of support you had will be the norm for all grieving parents. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. I lost my brother in 1971. He went to Vietnam nam twice was home for 10 months and died in a car accident less than 8 months of being home. In 1973 we lost our first baby, a stillborn baby girl. We prayed and asked God for another child and were blessed with a baby boy that we named Matthew “Gift of God”. Matthew passed away year ago, August. Our lives were shattered. Everyone was there for us….the first week- in fact, I was overwhelmed! Like I said, they were there the first week and that was it. Even my best friend, or pastor etc. I too wish to be an advocate for this god awful pain. Sometimes, people don’t know unless you tell them how much you hurt. This is a pain that you would wish on no one! Yes, God Bleed all of us that have lost a child!

  3. Thanks you or sharing. I lost my daughter on June 14th, 2013. Just a month shy of her 22nd birthday. She was killed by a hit and run driver while volunteering at a cultural event. They still have no one in custody and it’s been almost 5 months. I really understand where you are coming from when you said you literally wanted to die.i have felt that way many of times. She was not only my one and only child, she was my miracle baby and my best friend. I just want to thank you for your posts. They make me feel like I am not crazy and what I’m feeling is natural. I need to find your book. Maybe that will help even more. Thank you again. You maybe saving a life…………

  4. How do I order the book my email is mscoffin_1961@yahoo.com my son David died two and a half years ago by his own hand has been an unbearable time but I am getting better at dealing with it thank you for your blog

  5. Thank you for this article. We lost our 61/2 yr old baby almost 6 months ago. My wife and I were just crying about this same topic a few days ago. We lost our baby after a 6 year battle with cancer. We had so much support for 6 years. Now, it seems like we are all alone in our journey to find a new life. At least we have each other. It’s so comforting to know it’s not just us… That something’s not wrong with us.

  6. At least I’m not alone. I figured my so-called friends were just creeps who weren’t really my friends at all. I mean, how can anyone who says they are your true friend abandon you in your darkest time? But it has been a gift, this abandonment of “true friends” for it has taught me to look at friendships in a whole different way. I still think its pretty crappy to walk out on friends when they are in the worst pain of their life.

  7. My son died 4 years ago. While we have some amazing friends who have stuck with us, there are others that have disappeared. Just when you need them the most, they drift out of your life. I just pray they never experience the loss of a child.

  8. So true ! I feel that everyone moves on while I’m stuck in the same place. No one seems to understand. I thank God for my true friend , my wife..

  9. I lost my son at the age of 16. It was in March 2010. His name was Cody. I was like Barbara above. I felt crazy. I read a lot of books, but they had to feel like I was. If they used the wrong words I threw them up on a shelf. I bought your book, but I have not read all of it. Justarts so far. I feel like I lost many friends too. Their lives go on. I have reached out to other moms who have lost children beause I needed them. Now when Inhear pf someone losing a child I give out my name. I still feel like I am deep in this grief I still have my ups and downs. Holidays are coming. It is really hard to be around family while all of theirs are here and mine are not all here.

    And ome more thing about what you wrote above. My oldest son was 20 When this happened so it was not like I had to feed little kids, but still a husband and son. I had no desire to cook a meal. I remember when it first happened people said they would bring food this night or that. This is sad because we depended on these people. They just did not show up. I do not think I cooked for that first year. My husband and son cooked for us or we ate out or brought food home.

    Another thing that happened I had more health problems. My doctor knew what had happened. I would ask if it was related to grief. She just kept saying I was over 40. I got on the internet and found physical problems associated with grief. And I discovered I had most of them!

    So books and articles online and blogs and your posts on Facebook help. They make me cry too.

    I miss my baby so much. Yes, I know he is in Heaven. But as much as that helps it doesn’t too.

    1. I can relate to you Sally (((Hugs))) My son passed away a month ago and he was 19. He was autistic and even tho he couldn’t speak, he was loved by many people and had alot of friends, young and old.

      At first I was inundated with phone calls, emails, cards, texts, and invites to go out to eat. Now a month has gone by and almost all of that support has vanished. My husband–who is not my son’s father–is not very sympathetic/affectionate, and we are having other issues in our marriage, so that doesn’t help. But it’s nice to be able to go on here tho and find support.

      I’m also having health issues (hormonal–I’m 43) that I think are grief-related, tho I havent been to my doctor yet.

      Take care,
      Tish

  10. I lost my 6 month old baby in April this year and since then we “got rid” of a few very good friends. They just disappeared and emailed us 6 months later as if nothing happened and if everything was ok. So I totally see myself in your post. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Clara, after we lost our only son, Jacob , who was 15, we also had friends that stayed away. They themselves couldn’t or didn’t really know how to react. And as you well know, we didnt either. A lot were speechless. I find that so many people responded by just not talking about Jacob, because was afraid they would hurt us. But that’s what we needed, was to talk about him. To tell stories of how blessed we were to have him in our lives. Jacob has been gone now for 8 years, and now we find that most our friend talk about him often, sharing stories of him. But they did come around and we would ,laugh at the absolute sweet, funny and silly things Jacob did. TIME. That’s the way it is. People just didnt talk about him cause they didnt want to hurt us. We are so very thankful of the joy he brought in our lives and the lives of the people he touched. Thank you letting me tell this story of the wonderful little boy who touched so many. Blessings, Reatha Lyda

    1. I think you’re so right about this — so many times absolutely NOBODY knows what to say, and it’s just too painful to say anything, so people awkwardly stay away. That doesn’t give support when so much support is needed, but it does help explain some of the absence of friends and family members.

      I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son Jacob, but so very happy that you have now found a way to talk about him and share stories of him with those you love and who loved him so!

      Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful story of your son! 🙂

  12. First of aller, I’m sorry for your losses.
    I lost one of my identical twin girls 11 months ago to cancer. She only was 20 months old. My rainbow baby is now 6 weeks old but it doesn’t ease the pain.
    Be blessed
    Thank you for all your words. They make me feel less alone.

    1. Rose – I’m so sorry for your loss. My son was a twin as well. His surviving brother is 2 1/2 now. It breaks my heart every time I see twins. All I can think about is the two of them together.

    2. It’s the worst loss. You will mourn them till you draw your last breath. The only ones who can really identify with you and undertand what you are going through are the ones who have lost a child also. It goes against the laws of nature. They are our future. It will be 4 years next Jan. that I lost my 49-tear-old son suddenly and unexpectedly. I will mourn him till I draw my last breath. To my precious baby boy “What a tragic priviledge to have known you and lost you”. Joanie – Santa Barbara

  13. I lost my 24 yr old son 9 months ago. I have been surprised to find that it is my family that has abandoned me. The friends that I knew would be there, have been there. The surprising and blessed thing that has happened is my friends from grade school and high school, that I had lost contact with for many years, have reached out to me…..and I now live on the other side of the country!

  14. I’ve felt that same exact way since my sons death he passed away@the age of 3 months due to Sids & I found those same things from my so called friends especially just after his death before the funeral I went to reach out to a few what I thought was my best friends & even went to there homes asking they would come to help support me out in that time of loss & it broke my heart even more when they never showed at the funeral &I waited for them to at least come by my house but they never showed & it’s dad to say but I even went back to there homes & they wouldn’t answer or I would just get the cold shoulder from them, they had to go or anything they could say to get away from me. Not just my friends but also my Family did these same things to me . It’s so sad to see people going through this kinds pain & loss & instead love & support they get pushed away & forgotten. My sweet Angel would be turning 3 years old this Jan. 2, off this year. I miss him so much.. Also I would love to get a copy of your book but I will have to wait, I’ve wanted it for a while now, but my husband just had 4 back to back surgeries on his kidneys & hasn’t been able to work so e are pinching Pennys at the moment, which is so odd because we have always had enough to live & get things & mostly do for others in the baby loss community &I don’t want to stop that, but looks like I may have to cause we have 4 living children to take care of here. Thank you & Good Bless!

    1. Julie, I’m so, so sorry to hear all of this. Sometimes life is beyond lonely and heartbreaking, and what you’ve described is just that.

      I honestly don’t know how people (most especially family) can be so insensitive, yet…….this is how it is. In fact, I think the insensitivity borders being just plain cruel. The lack of support grieving parents often blows me away. I don’t know how people can go on in life like nothing has happened. 🙁

      If you can, stop in your local library and see if they have a copy of Silent Grief. It’s also on B&N — you can get used copies. That might help you. It sounds like you have more than your share to deal with. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your sweet little boy.

  15. I found out after my son’s murder trial that many of my so-called friends were only there to be in the spotlight. As soon as the trial was over, they disappeared. I even had one friend who critiqued all of my behavior to another friend throughout the trial. And then when she broke her ankle around the anniversary of my son’s murder, she got furious when I didn’t call her. She actually thought having to be on crutches for a few weeks was the same as losing a child. It’s been several months and apparently she’s still running around telling people what a terrible person I am. It’s amazing how many people will kick you when you’re down.

    1. This is just so horrible. I’m so sorry to hear something like this. I think when things like this happen, we our grief is magnified times a thousand. We need our friends to rally around us — not critique us! Please take care of yourself. I’m so very, very sorry to hear of your son’s death. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go to trial and have to relive moments of his death. My heart is hurting for you!

      1. Thanks you Clara for giving us this forum. I too continue to feel incredibly isolated and depressed most of the time. I feel fine one moment, and then the next I feel like I can’t go on any more. I know if my other son hadn’t survived, I wouldn’t be on this earth. I keep looking for answers as to why my son was killed, but I have none and never will. His killer was convicted and is serving a life sentence. But he never admitted guilt so there’s no emotional closure. The worst part is this person was my husband and the boys’ father. Before this happened, there were NO signs he was capable of such violence. He was well educated, mellow, funny. I thought he was my soul mate. While I don’t mourn for the person in prison, I still miss the man I married and loved. I was out of the house when my husband killed my son. He was 11 weeks old. In an instant I went from being happily married with two beautiful boys to being a single mom parent trying to raise my other son while grieving the horrific death of his brother. Thank God my surviving son is doing well. It breaks my heart that he will have to know the truth one day. Prayers to all of you who have posted.

  16. It will be two years on December 27,2011 I lost my beautiful girl in a car accident, my 6 year old was in the car and survived! so many people all there and I do have 3 girls here on earth, so they all think im okay. im not.

    1. Most people “assume” we’re okay if we have other living children. It doesn’t matter how many children we have, when one is gone, our world is shattered! I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your daughter. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  17. I lost my son (32 years old) to drugs 11 months ago. After reading all the comments on this page I realized how important my friends and family really are. I just thought it was normal for people to call and check as I would do for someone else but I guess I was wrong. I am sorry to all the parents that did not have that support, it really does help me. Thank you everyone for showing me that it would be worse if my family and friends were not there for me. You opened my eyes today.

    1. JoAnn, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son. Many times when we’re in the “pit of grief” as I often call it, we don’t realize the support that we do have. I appreciate so much your comment! And, it’s a refreshing blessing to hear of those who do have a lot of support. I think the world as a whole needs education on how to support families of child loss. It’s such a sensitive, heartbreaking loss that most people are simply lost and don’t have a clue what to do or say that will help. Again, thank you for your comment!

      1. Dear Clara, Thanks so much for responding.. It’s wonderful to find a site,along with Compassionate Friends and M..I.S.S., where you can communicate with others who have lost children. As we have found, people cannot know or understand our pain unless they’ve been through it. Our children are supposed to bury us. I sincerely hope you have found some solace in your grief..My sister who died two years ago lost her 60-year-old daughter to ovarian cancer. She never “recovered”-she mourned her till her dying breath. Now I know. Thanks again. Joanie .

  18. You know from my posts and our previous communications that this has been such a sore spot for me over the years. Losing what we considered close friends is another loss that’s hard to bear on top of the loss our our precious child, isn’t it? We lose our child, we lose our friends, sometimes we lose our faith, we lose our health, we lose our way. Sometimes it just seems like too many losses.

    I am so thank for parents like you who continue to speak about life following the death of a child. How else can others learn? It’s sad that it often falls to the bereaved parents to educate those around them. There are so many resources if only people would take the time to look and learn.

    Although I am one who sees both sides of a coin in most situations, I feel myself losing patience with the “I just didn’t know what to say or do” excuses. I know it’s not an easy thing to do – this supporting a parent whose child has died. But, sometimes that’s all it feels like – an excuse. As I said, there are so many resources now that encourage and educate people to help bereaved parents. In my opinion, more people need to quit making excuses and just do it!!

    1. Rebecca, I’m with you. The resources available today are a thousand fold more than what was available just five short years ago. Sometimes people just don’t think and let’s face it — a lot of people are very selfish and live in their own world. It’s a sad, hard fact of life to face.

      That being said, I will still continue to educate and promote awareness as long as I am drawing a breath. I believe it’s that important!

      Thanks so very much for your comment. I always appreciate your thoughts.

  19. Clara, I am really shocked to hear that being a pastor’s wife you did not receive the support and love you needed through that hard time in your life. We lost our daughter December of 2010. If it had not been for our church family (and our family) we would not have gotten through that rough time. Our daughter was a single mom and left behind 3 boys which we are now raising. Our church family have helped us raise these boys. The people of our church love these boys, take them places and to grief support groups, take them over night, and have even paid to put them in the daycare at our church. I work at the church and having them in the same building for daycare was an unbelieveable gift. In fact if we would have had to pay daycare for three of them, we would not been able to keep them financially. I have never felt like by dealing with the grief that we were showing any kind of lack of faith. As far as my friends outside the church, I did have alot of them that I didn’t see because of alot of things, we were so busy and people do go on with their lives. I think that is sad but I think it is hard for them to know what to say. They don’t know if we are able to talk about our child or not so they don’t know what to do. We are able to talk about our daughter and we do it regularly because of the boys. I have recently started a business where I do home parties and have seen some of my friends. I think it has helped them to know that I am ok to talk about Nicole. I must say I had two friends that did keep in touch though. The one that lives in town has kept in contact with me throughout the last 3 years. I really have been blessed in a variety of ways through this time. I am not surprised at the friends outside the church that back away because they don’t know what to say but I am surprised that you couldn’t count on your church family. That is a real shame and they should be ashamed. God’s people are suppose to be there in these hard times. I am so sorry that you did not have that support in your life.
    My prayer is that everyone reading this that has lost a child will find a warm, loving and supportive church family that will be there for them for the rest of their lives since this pain is never really gone.
    If anyone lives in Columbus Ohio and needs that kind of church, I can give you the name of mine. We are a family of families and we will love and care for you through anything you are going through.
    Renee
    Columbus, Ohio

    1. Renee, I’ve made thousands of excuses for them, but…..I can’t come up with any one that seems logical. Maybe it was just the time in which I had my losses — people simply didn’t talk about grief. I’m so glad that you have an amazing church family — one that truly cares. That makes all of the difference in the world!!!!!

  20. I just list my son 1 month ago. He was autistic and 19 yrs old. Everyone just adored him 🙂 People were very supportive at first, but now when I text them if I get a response at all it’s very short and non-personal and when I reply that’s it, end if conversation, even if I ask them a question 😛 I’m married and my husband is not very emotional or sympathetic (he is not my son’s father). AnywYim feeling really lonely lately, and my husband and I are having issues now to. Best of luck to you and hugs.