Child Loss: Who Am I?

When my son died I no longer knew who I was.  I was lost.  I felt as though half of me was missing.  I felt transparent to the world — like everyone could see right through me and see that my heart was broken and bleeding.  My mind raced and my tears flowed and I cried out to whoever would listen.  “Who am I? I don’t know who I am any more!”

And, the truth is that I really didn’t know who I was when my son died.  Was I Samuel’s mom?  Was I still a mother?  Was I an ex-mother?  Who was I?  Suddenly my identity changed and there was nobody who could give me my new name.

The first time this identity loss hit me really hard was when I had to sign his death certificate.  It was real.  My son had died and I had to attach my name to a paper verifying that my son was no longer here.  I didn’t know how to sign my name……..     Was I Samuel’s mother?  I can remember falling to the floor and sobbing for hours because I no longer felt like “me.”  The “me” that I knew before Samuel left was happy and alive and was Samuel’s mom.  Now….my insides felt empty and hollow and ached like nothing I’d ever felt before.  I no longer felt like “me” any more!

Not everyone understands how terrifying it is to lose one’s identity when child loss occurs.  Did you ever notice how much of our lives is spent saying, “I’m Jim’s mom.”  Or, “I have three sons and one daughter.”  Or, “My family is growing.  I have a little girl on the way.”  You get the picture.  We usually talk about three things when we identify ourselves.  We talk about our relationship status.  Am I married, single, engaged, divorced, widowed?  We talk about our jobs.  Am I a career person, retired, in business for myself?  And, then the topic comes up that we love to talk about the most.

Children.  We identify ourselves with our children.  Why?  Because our hearts are entwined — joined — with the hearts of our children.  They are part of us — the part that brings us the most joy and the part that stays with us forever.  They are ours — forever and always ours.  And, we’re so proud.  They make us so happy.  We love being with our children.  We love talking about our children.  We love everything about being a parent or grandparent.

And, when child loss occurs we are suddenly lost.  Who am I?  Who am I now?

I struggled with that question following the death of my Samuel for a long time.  In fact, I’ll be honest with you.  I tried as best I could to avoid the question, “How many children do you have?”  Of course I knew I was Samuel’s mother, but he wasn’t here with me!  I couldn’t talk about what he was doing.  I couldn’t talk about his accomplishments in school. I couldn’t talk about his wedding plans or his plans to go to college.  I couldn’t talk about any of those things because Samuel wasn’t with me.

And, I was lost.  I didn’t know who I was any more.  I didn’t know how I fit into Samuel’s life now that he was gone.

One day, on a rare but treasured trip to the beach, I was walking for what seemed like hours.  I was by myself and I had been enjoying watching the clouds above the ocean.  They were beautiful!  The sun was going down and the air was cooling off as I walked and kept gazing at the clouds as they formed all kinds of amazing shapes.

I stood and watched for a while as I saw what seemed like the shape of an angel forming in the sky.  As those clouds swirled around, the picture became clearer to me.  There was the formation of an angel with outstretched arms.  As those arms remained outstretched, they came closer to another cloud that was smaller and round in shape.  The vivid, beautiful sign of a mother reaching out to hold her child was a clear as day to me.  Watching with tears streaming down my face, the answer came to me that I knew all along.

I am Samuel’s mother yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  I am Samuel’s mother forever!  I was Samuel’s mother from the moment he was conceived and nothing can ever change that!

I don’t know why it took seeing those clouds to help me understand that once I became Samuel’s mother I was always his mother.  I guess I was doubting myself because I didn’t have my son here where I could touch him, hold him, and talk to him.  I needed something to seem real and lasting to me and I found it in those clouds.

It has now been twenty-four years since Samuel left this earth.  I still miss being his mom on earth.  I wonder what he would look like now.  I wonder what kind of job he would have.  Where would he be living?  Would he be married?  Have any children to call his own?  I think about those things, but I no longer doubt my identity.

I am Samuel’s mom yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  I am Samuel’s mom forever!

I welcome your thoughts.  Maybe you’ve struggled with questions similar to mine following the loss of your child.  Maybe you’ve had that “moment of knowing” when it became crystal clear to you that nothing can ever sever the ties between you and your child.  I’d love to hear about your special moment when it became clear to you that absolutely nothing will ever take away your identity as parent or grandparent.

What a wonderful thought to know that our child is our forever and always and nothing — absolutely nothing — can change that!

My childLove,

Clara

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28 Comments

  1. I haven’t figured out who I am or what my purpose is yet. I struggle everyday just to get out of bed. I no longer want to “live”, I just exist.

    1. Debbie, It’s so hard. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you can’t figure out what your purpose is. It’s such a lost feeling without our child, and takes so long to even begin to find our way back to life again. My thoughts are with you. I’m so sorry.

  2. This is exactly how I feel it’s only been almost 4 months sense I felt Chloes heart stop beating she was only alive for 1 hour and 27 mins so some would say I was barley her mom but I was! I knew her for 33 weeks! She will always be my daughter but I still feel so lost…so confused! I take life day by day one foot in front of the other now.. I’m still a mother to my boys but it’s hard sometimes to even breath people say things will go back to normal and I just want to scream that nothing will ever be normal for me ever again! Thank you for putting this into words I feel a little less lost knowing someone out there get’s what I am feeling what I am living..

    1. Stephanie, I’m so sorry for the loss of your little Chloe. And, yes, you did know your Chloe for 33 weeks, and even one minute is enough to say, “I miss my child with all of my heart.” We have a “soul connection” with our child and nothing can ever change that.

  3. It’s been 9 months since my 20 year 19 day old son was murdered. His killers run free like nothing ever happened. I’m do feel exactly as you described. I just don’t know how to breathe without him. I don’t know how to exist. I know he’s in Heaven waiting for me and I want to go NOW! I don’t know how to get past this hate. I don’t know how to find peace in my heart. I’m so lost and empty. I just can’t imagine…and don’t want to….live 24 years without my baby. My heart is so broken and empty.

    1. Michelle, I’m so, so sorry. There are times when I’m so much at a loss for words, and this is one of those times. Life is often brutally unfair, and that is absolutely no consolation to us at all. That fact only adds to our daily pain and misery. I’m holding you close in thought and prayer as you struggle to find some kind of way to go on without your son.

  4. Thank you for all that you do on this blog. I knew from the time my son Gordon was 9 that he would pass before me because that was when he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy but even knowing that in my head, my heart was hoping it wouldn’t be true but at the same time I worried about what would happen to him if I did die. Well 4 years ago next month it happened my Gordy went to heaven to be with my parents and the rest of my family. Since that day my heart feels like it was ripped from my chest. I know I will see him one day and on my lowest days here on earth I think about joining him but I know that God has another plan for me and I get up every morning thanking him for freeing my child from his pain and giving him freedom to run. That doesn’t ease the pain but it can bring a smile to my face from time to time.

    1. Keri, Thank you so much for your comment, as I know there are many, many parents who feel the same as you. Knowing that your Gordon is free from pain and suffering certainly doesn’t ease the pain of missing him, but it sure does give you a bit of comfort knowing he’s not struggling every day. He’s free from all pain. And, that is what we want for our children. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your special son. I wish so much that we never knew this type of pain and loss.

  5. My Angel passed away 8 months ago he was 9 my oldest little man and with every passing day I feel like nothing will ever be normal anymore!! How can I possibly live a life without my Angel when I still have a hard time accepting he’s no longer with me? I feel like somehow I’m letting down my other 2 little boys I feel like i’m not taking care of them the same way as I used to and I feel that’s not fair to them!! I feel lost and confused about his death it just makes things so much harder and I really hope and I want to believe that things will be OK. I’m really hoping I will be OK but not today……..:'(

    1. Sunny, I’m so sorry for the passing of your little man. I can tell from your comments how broken your heart is. There’s just nothing that can come even close to this kind of pain, is there? I don’t know that life will ever be “okay” in the sense that we’ll feel whole and fulfilled like we once did. I think there will always be a corner of our heart reserved for our child who is no longer here, and that’s alright. We wouldn’t want it any other way. But, thankfully, the raw pain does seem to lessen with each passing year. And, we do eventually find a better place in our grief — a manageable place where we can actually smile again and mean it. I hope you’ll receive some encouragement from knowing that. Again, I’m so very sorry.

      1. Thank you Clara for taking the time to respond to my comment means a lot!! I really hope things get easier because there’s days when the feeling of sadness is just so overwhelming it’s hard to breathe. As long as I live I will try my best to celebrate my Angel’s life because he will always be our little HERO. He was an organ donor and he gave the gift of life to 3 people and I will always be so proud to be his mom. Thank you again for what you do……..:)

  6. My Son Andrew has been in his new home in Heaven for 3 1/2 years now and I still feel im trying to find the “new me”. I know I will never be who I was before but I have found that not all the changes are bad. I have learned to except that things can happen to change life very quickly so I do my best to make each day the best it can be.

    1. Thank you so very much for sharing your beautiful new perspective on life. I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your Andrew, but so thankful for the fact that you are able to walk this journey making every day count. Thank you for sharing!

  7. My (soon-to-be-ex) tells me I’ve changed. But he says it as if he’s judging some character flaw in me, not with any understanding of what I’ve been going through. I guess my grief has always just been an inconvenience to him. (He’s not My Andy’s bio-dad). I know I’ve changed. Sometimes I can’t bear to be around myself but I have no choice. There’s no way for me to escape the pain in my heart. WHO AM I? I am a broken mom who desperately needed strong arms wrapped around me to hold me together….just for a while. That’s all.

    1. Ann, You’ve put into words what thousands upon thousands of bereaved moms are feeling today. We long for those strong arms to help us during those horrible moments when we can’t tell light from dark because we’re in so much agony and pain. It sounds like you haven’t had much support at all, and I’m so very sorry about that. I pray that there will be a day when Andy’s death will not hurt in the same way as it does now. I don’t think the pain ever goes away, but thankfully for most of us it does change some over the years. My thoughts are with you.

  8. I haven’t ever doubted who I am. I am the mother of six. I think if I was to admit that one was now in Hevean, I would probably shatter. When I am asked, which has already happened in the two months 3 weeks since Robbie left, I say six. Mostly because I do have six children and its an automatic response. Then again, just because I can’t hug him doesn’t mean I have quit being his mom. I love him, I’m proud of him, I hurt when he hurt, I relish the funny memories, I AM HIS MOM!

    1. Donna, Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts! So many of us struggle daily feeling less than a mother when child loss occurs, or somehow like a “broken mother.” It’s a blessing to hear your emphatic, “I AM HIS MOM!” because you are Robbie’s mom! Always and forever Robbie’s mom!

  9. Our daughter,Victoria, was born with CP. I left the workplace to care for her and she became my full time job. Together with a team of doctors, in home caregivers and a lot of prayer, we gave her many more years than was first predicted. However, when she left us for Heaven, not only did I loose my precious child, I lost my job, and those doctors and nurses who were such a huge part of my life and many of whom were friends, suddenly they too were gone. I remember vividly the morning my husband returned to work after her death. I sat in that empty house, built specifically for her needs, and realized that this was the first time in 10 years that I had been alone in that house. I still dread the question “How many children do you have” To tell them about Tori opens up many wounds, and to deny her seems so wrong. I am just now 5 years later, finding my identity without her. I am and always will be her mom, she will always be my one and only daughter.

    1. Angela, Thank you so much for sharing your special thoughts and for sharing a bit of Victoria with us. You’ve brought up so much about loss when a child passes that has had special needs. Your life was consumed by caring for Victoria for 10 years and to have all of that end so suddenly is to experience real trauma and deep grief. I’m so thankful that you are on the road to finding you way and your identity here on earth without her. And, as you stated so well, there is one part of your identity that will never change — You will always be Victoria’s mother! I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your special Victoria.

  10. This is a perfect article for me today. Someone just asked me why I can’t be like I used to. I will have them read this. Thank you.

  11. I actually had someone say to me, “At least it wasn’t a baby yet. That would be really hard,” when speaking of the baby I lost when I was 12 weeks pregnant. Unfortunately, this person didn’t understand the grief and the pain I was feeling. She didn’t understand that over those three months I had formed a bond and had hopes and dreams for my yet unborn child. Hearing these hurtful words made me question if the pain I was feeling was real. Should I really be this upset? After all, I was only 12 weeks pregnant. It wasn’t until my mom showed me a sympathy card she had received from a couple at her church. It simply read, “We’re so sorry for the loss of your grandchild.” That was what I needed to validate my feelings. I did lose my child, and my parents lost a grandchild. I have three children…one is in heaven…but I have three children. I can’t wait to see my baby some day.

    1. Stephanie, What wonderful friends your mom has to send a card like that! Yes, you certainly did lose a baby, and a very special part of your life! There will always be a special place in your heart reserved just for your sweet baby. I’m so sorry for the careless words spoken to you. So many times a baby isn’t real to others because they didn’t “see” the baby with their own eyes. But, we know the bond that was formed — special, strong, and lasting. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your sweet baby.

  12. Thank you. Not just for this but for all that you do and say. You have helped me more than you will ever know not to feel “crazy” about what I was thinking, feeling and even speaking about. I have never questioned who I am as I will always be Jeannalynne’s mom. I had the problem of what now. She was born in 1984 and I lost a child at 4 months pregnant in 1988. Her father was not in her life much and it was always me and her. Everything I did was for her. No matter what I was going through or how bad a day I had, it was okay and better because I had her. I remember when she went to heaven 10/13/13 thinking “Now what?” Why work, get up, etc. But Jeannalynne is still with me and I am still doing everything for her. She was such a fighter and never gave up and I can’t either.