Child Loss: Seeing Our Child After Death

People don’t like to talk about this subject.  They say it’s too disturbing.  But, worse is when it happens to you and you’re not expecting it, and then you believe you’re crazy.  Sometimes we honestly believe we can see our child who died walking among the living.  You didn’t lose your mind.  This is all part of your grief, and it’s time people began talking about it!

When my sister died at age thirteen, I was devastated!  I was only fifteen, and nobody had prepared me at all about death.  Why would they?  It’s something you don’t really think much about at that age.  And, truthfully, death isn’t a topic that we openly discuss — especially the topic of child loss.

What happened to me for more than two years was normal, but I thought I had gone insane.  I was too afraid to tell anyone about it at the time.  Enough pain had come into our family when my sister died.  My parents didn’t need to hear about me going off the deep end.  At least that’s what I thought — that my mind was slowly losing all sanity.

My sister died on June 5, and very shortly after her death I began having nightmares.  I would wake up choking and gasping because in my dreams I could see her reaching for me, and I was trying to get her — pull her back to me — but I never could quite reach her.  And, I would see her dropping down into a deep, dark hole as she was calling outdark hole for me to help her.  That’s when I would bolt up in bed breathless — unable to breathe.  The nightmares were horrible. But nobody told me to expect this to happen!

After several months the nightmares became less and less, but something else happened that was terrifying to me.  I could swear I saw my sister walking in crowds of people! In fact, on several occasions I would literally run up behind someone I thought was her and would tap the person on the shoulder only to have the person turn around and look at me with a look of shock!  I would call out, “Mellie, turn around!  I’m here.  I’m here!!!”  This happened not once, but many times — especially at school.

crowd_of_peopleThe feeling that followed was shock, then such devastating sadness.  I just couldn’t believe that she wasn’t the one in that crowd!  I’d walk away sobbing every time.  It was like life was playing a cruel joke on me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one this has happened to, but I never hear people talking about this mistaken identity of their child, or as it was in my case, of my sister.  I think it’s just too painful. But, I feel like it’s important to bring this out in the open because I know how terrifying it is to experience thinking you’ve seen your child or your sibling walking around only to find out that it was your imagination.

Grief is so hard on us and grief has so many different faces. In order to protect us from too much shock and too much pain, we can only absorb so much at a time.  And, that’s why we go through this period of thinking we saw our child alive.  It takes months — and sometimes years — to totally take in the reality of the loss.

I had visited my sister’s  gravesite on many occasions.  I knew she had died.  Her absence was felt every minute of the day.  But, it wasn’t until about two years after her death that I was finally able to understand the reality of what had happened.

Please, if you’ve had this happen to you, find someone you can talk to about it.  You haven’t gone crazy.  You’re not unusual or experiencing something that is out of the norm of grieving the loss of your child.

And, I beg of you if you have children who have lost a brother or sister, please talk to them about the possibility of them having similar experiences as mine.  They’re probably too afraid to ask you about it and living with nightmares and phantom experiences is horribly frightening.

By the way, the nightmares and illusions do eventually end.  It took me two years for them to subside.  Occasionally, I will still have a dream about my sister, but it’s mostly about everyday life and she is usually in a family setting that is happy.  I welcome those dreams.

I know this is a hard subject to talk about — very, very hard.  But, I feel it’s necessary to bring this out into the open to help those who are experiencing this to know that this is one more step in this journey we call child loss.

blue skyNow when I think of my sister Mellie (Carmella), I think of blue skies and blooming flowers. I know where she is and I know she is surrounded by love and all things beautiful, and that calms my spirit and gives me a sense of peace.

carmella

I know that there is only one Carmella, and she is no longer here on earth.  That doesn’t stop my love for her — not one little bit!  That doesn’t stop me from missing her — that will never happen.  But with reality comes a less terrifying grief.  I now understand what has happened and now my mind recalls more vividly the happy moments spent with her, thank goodness!   

May God bless each one as we travel this journey of child loss together.  This is by far the most painful, difficult path you will ever take.  I pray this has helped you to understand one more of the many faces of grief.

Love,

Clara

PS  I experienced these same dreams and phantom experiences when my son died, but it wasn’t as terrifying because I understood that this was part of my grief journey.  I hope that this writing has not been too difficult for you to read.  It is my prayer that you will be less frightened by your grief experiences.

 

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11 Comments

  1. I have not seen my son, but I have heard him. I feel him around me many times. I believe God gives us these moments to help us cope.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing! I hope that many people will share their experiences so that together we can learn more about this thing called grief from child loss works. I still feel my sister’s presence, as well as my son’s, and that is such a comfort!

  2. Several months after my son’s death I had a dream about him that was so vivid that it seemed as he was really there and he was showing and telling me he was fine. A year or later I heard him whisper in my year. I thank God for these and can’t wait until I see him again in heaven.

  3. I saw my son in a crowd of people lasting about 2 min maybe seconds before my phone rang to tell me of his loss. I was on vacation and new he was not there. I was mesmerized by this person and could not take my eye off of him when my eyes finally diverted my phone rang with unbelievable news! I have seen him since that moment but did receive a message from him when a youg girl I have spoken to before came up to me to say loved me and to never foreget it which is what my son use to say to me. These things have happened and are not in my mind as there were others there with me both times to witness it happening! I fine both these experiences comforting and hope to have one again. Sending loving thoughts your way!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing! It’s reassuring to hear things like this — as parents sometimes we’re so afraid to talk about these happenings. I think sometimes we have a special “mother bond” that does not disconnect even with death.

  4. That’s the same for me. I never thought I saw my daughter but have definitely heard her on more than one occasion. I thought I was crazy because of how clearly her voice sounded but I know it was God’s way of helping me cope. Even though it has been 12 years since her death I still have nightmares that she is alive but no one will let me see her!

    1. I have these nightmares all the time I know in the back of my mind she is gone but I go through the scenarios of her missing me looking for her . I wake up terrified , crying , and more broken . I lost my little girl 4 years ago June 25, she was only 12 . God I would give up 30 years of my life just to hold her one more time , kiss that beautiful face , and tell her how much I love her . About a month after her death she came to me in a dream it was real I told her I loved her and we all miss her do much I could smell her , she was beautiful . I tember everything about that dream her clothes , her hair was long bit when she passed it was short and she hated it , she looked at me with her big blue eyes and shook her head yes she knew and then was gone . I treasure that everyday , but I need it again .i can’t edit till I see her again .

  5. Hi Clara….Thanks so much for sharing this…it’s been 2 years since I lost my son to cancer and the second year seems so much harder. I felt I was in a daze for the first year kept feeling like it was all a nightmare and it would be over and he would be home again. My grandson has a special connection with my son and told us some amazing things after he passed. I know he’s okay in his new life but the pain of loosing him I know will never go away. God Bless and I pray that we will all find the strength to face each day without our beautiful children and loved ones… Debbie

    1. Debbie, Thanks so much for your comment. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son. 🙁 I’m so happy you shared about your grandson having a special connection with your son. So many times people are afraid to talk about things like this, but I think we need to share so that we know we’re not alone in these things. I’m sure hearing your grandson’s stories has been a real blessing to you in the midst of this pain. Thanks, again, for your comment!

  6. We Lost our Beautiful daughter Catelin July 27th 2012. She was never sick a day in her life until April 12th 2012 with severe pain all over. When I saw her I almost went intl shock. Easter that year was April 8th and she was perfectly fine. She was covered with pitici & only knew what it was because my little brother had Leukemia back in 1975. She was diagnosed within an hour. The DR said we were very lucky that I knew what pitici was becauseif I ignored it she would of died that night or next morning from a heart attack or strock. Her white count was 49, 000 normal is between 4,000 – 10, 000. We were shipped out immediately. Her diagnosis was byphenotipic Leukemia (VERY RARE). SHE WAS 22 YEARS OLD. I never left her side. Our first hospitalized was 27 days.
    Anyways, thank you for posting this because I am still having horrific nightmares.
    I have been hoping & praying my heart out for either a sign or a Beautiful Dream but nothing. I feel I’m doing ok but as you are aware I do have my days. I have Great emotional support. I’m not new to death I lost my little brother he was 15, in 1975 & my older brother age 29 from an anurisym in 1984, my mom is still alive. Ater my older brother died she formed a support group called PIETA for parents that have lost children. This year will be 29 yrs that she’s been doing this. She has given us such wonderful support but nothing will stop these Dreams. I do not feel guilty over anything. Catelin was our youngest child and we had such a Beautiful relationship. I know her, if she could she would make sure she would give me a sign. How did you handle this & feel at peace.
    Again Thank you for allowing us to tell our stories. Talking is the Best therapy.
    You will Never get over grief you just learn how to live a different life.