Note: This was written one year and three months before the death of my adult son. Little did I know how much more my grief would increase in just a few months! Since the original writing, I have written two books, Child Loss – the Heartbreak and the Hope and Hope 365.
Not a day goes by without someone making comments to me that are questioning the validity of the intensity of pain a parent feels when child loss occurs. I understand that people are trying to “get it” when it comes to losing a child, but some comments are beyond my realm of thinking.
“I loved my dog just like a child. I slept with my dog. We were companions forever. And, when my dog died, I didn’t think life could go on. But, you know what? I knew I had to move on. I got a new dog and I couldn’t be happier.”
Or this one: “When my best friend moved out of town it was just like a death. I didn’t have one other friend around, and I was so lonely I thought I was going to die.”
How about this one that I got told just a few days ago? “My mom died a few months ago. She was 86, and it took us by such surprise. I never expected this to happen.”
Each one of these losses in a valid loss and certainly worthy of a lot of sadness and intense grief, BUT let me make this perfectly clear. In no way are the losses that I just mentioned even close to being the same as losing a child.
I’m a pet lover, and I do mean I love pets! The first dog I ever lost was my “Laddie” — a collie. He was the light of my life! It just so happened that my dad accidentally ran over Laddie and killed him and I grieved that loss for months. I sobbed long and hard, quit eating, couldn’t sleep, and had nightmares for months and months following Laddie’s death. Oh, how I missed Laddie! And, I still do think of him occasionally. He was a wonderful pet and companion!
But…..losing Laddie was nothing like the death of my sister or my son.
I, too, had my very best friend move away, and it left me feeling empty. I felt like I had a real big hole right in the pit of my stomach. I felt so lost. When she moved away, no longer did I have anyone to call and talk with, laugh with, share secrets with. The loneliness swallowed me up and I fell into what felt like a bottomless pit of sadness. Many, many nights I cried myself to sleep because life was so different without my best friend. Sure, we could talk on the phone, but it wasn’t the same as going places with her. Life was horrible for a long, long time.
But…….losing my best friend was nothing like the death of my sister or my son.
My grandmother died at age 96. She was my rock and my fortress. She was my example. She was the only “solid foundation” I had in my life since I was a little kid. She and I were pen pals after I moved away and went to college and for 23 years she and I corresponded without missing one week! When Grandmom died, it felt like the bottom fell out from me. Oh, how I missed her! And, although it’s now been over thirty years since her death, hardly a day goes by without me thinking of her or mentioning her in conversation.
But……losing my grandmother was nothing like the death of my sister or son.
Why? What makes losing a child so different? What is it that brings parents to their knees in heartache and pain, that often causes families to crumble, and that is directly related to nervous breakdowns, severe depression, physical illnesses, and quite often withdrawal from society? What makes losing a child so different from other losses?
Child loss is not supposed to happen before parents die. We expect pets to die before we do. And, for goodness’ sake! These are pets, not people! (I know I’ll hear some flack about this!) People move away all of the time. That’s a fact of life. We live in a transient society. And, aging parents and grandparents — as sad as this is, most of us think about this a lot in order to make preparation for their last years and eventual death. We know with full assurance that we’re going to lose them at some point-in-time so we are always making provision for their eventual death.
But, our child’s death? Never do we think that’s going to happen! In fact, we won’t even allow our minds to go there because it’s too painful!
For time evermore, attempts have been made to “explain child loss”, but it cannot be done. It really can’t. Why? Quite simply, there are no words that can come close to explaining what losing a child feels like. The brokenness of losing a child is in a category all its own.
You can argue with me on this. You can deny what I’m saying is the truth. You can say I’m stuck in grief. You can argue that I haven’t experienced every loss imaginable to mankind so I can’t say child loss is the worst loss.
But, I will say…… “Unless you’ve walked in my shoes — don’t talk!” Please don’t tell me how my pain feels because you don’t know how crushing this is to my heart. You cannot get inside of my head, heart, and emotions and know the ties I had with my child. You cannot feel the spiritual bonds I had with my child — far above earthly ties. You do not know the depth of love I had for my child, nor will you ever know.
And, I don’t expect you to know. But, I do expect you to have tolerance for my grief, understanding for my brokenness, and love for my aching soul. I do want your friendship and your support to help me as I try so hard to find my way back to life.
And, never do I want you to walk in my shoes. Why? Because I know what it feels like to lose a child and it is my constant prayer that nobody else will have to endure this pain.
In honor of our children who have passed on into eternity, I would feel honored if you would post your child’s name on this blog and a brief message to your child (for those who feel safe enough and strong enough to do so).
My message to my sister: “Dear Mellie, You have no idea how much I love and miss you — always and forever. When I meet you in heaven, we’re dancing and we’re never going to stop! I promise you!”
My message to Samuel, my son: “Dear Samuel, I have dreamed about holding you again, of touching your soft hair, of holding your wee hands, and of kissing your sweet little toes. If you’ll let me, your mama wants to hold you and never, ever let you go for all of eternity! I love you, sweet boy of mine! I cannot wait to see you again!”
I also welcome your thoughts and comments on how to explain child loss to others. It is by sharing that we will help others to grasp a bit more understanding for the greatest mystery of all — the ties of parent and child and the lingering pain when those ties are severed by death.
My love to each one who is reading this blog. May God’s love shine down upon each one and give you a measure of His blessed peace.