Child Loss – What’s It Like Years After?

My first son was born sleeping twenty-nine years ago.  I was so devastated with grief that I thought I couldn’t live.  I honestly didn’t want to live for several months after this loss.  It has been almost three decades now since little Samuel was born asleep.  What’s it like?  I did a lot of hard grieving for more than twenty years.  I’m talking hard grieving.  I found it difficult to even look at a baby or a pregnant woman, let alone feel joyful.  When Samuel died, part of me died, too.

This isn’t to say that every day in almost thirty years was filled with raw pain.  That’s not what happened.  But, the first several years were raw and at times so heavy with grief that I lost my enjoyment for life.  Fast forward to now, and I can say that I finally feel “at ease” being around precious babies and their moms.  Thankfully, those initial raw, all-consuming feelings of grief no longer reside in me.  Instead, I have a quiet grief.  A subdued grief about Samuel.  I still place flowers on his special place. I always take a day of remembrance on his birth/death date.  I remember him in the quiet of the night.  But, the nightmares have stopped.  The overwhelming feelings of sadness are nothing with me constantly.  I guess I could say that time has given me the precious gift of remembering without all of the traumatic side effects, and I am ever so thankful for that!

 

Not quite three years ago, I was in bed getting ready for a peaceful night of sleep when the phone call came that once again changed my life.  My adult son Mike died unexpectedly.  It would be weeks until it was confirmed that Mike had what is called the widow maker.  He had a massive heart attack at home with his three young children and died.  In the matter of seconds the lives of so many were changed.  Mike’s wife became a widow.  Mike’s three children became fatherless.  I became a mother of child loss for the second time.  And, Mike’s siblings felt the bitter sting of losing the brother they loved so dearly.  Mike was 42 years old and the picture of health.  He had no signs or symptoms of heart problems.  And, just like that he was gone.  The pain of loss is still indescribable!

 

What’s it like almost three years later?  I’m still not quite out of the numb part of my grief.  There are days when I expect to see Mike come walking through the kitchen door for a visit.  Other times, the pain is so raw that it feels like he just died.  Still other times I feel a calmness knowing that Mike is in a place where he’s not experiencing the pain and toil of this world in which we live.  I’m still riding the roller coaster of emotions.  I find myself feeling a bit jealous when I run into Mike’s old friends and classmates.  That’s when it hits me hard.  The grief engulfs me when I think of Mike’s three children without their daddy.  They loved him so very, very much.  He was such a big part of their lives!  He worked from home so you can imagine the time that he spent with the children.

 

My heart never feels “right.”  Even on my best days there is a nagging pain, more like a deep ache, that let’s me know that Mike isn’t here.  I hate that.  I really, really hate that feeling.  I want to push that ache away, dull it, or ignore it, but nothing works.  The painful ache is always there, and I know that it will be with me forever.  Oh, it will calm down, I’m sure.  It calmed down twenty years after the death of Samuel, and I imagine it the grief will change its course over the next several years with Mike, too.

 

But, it hurts.  The pain hurts every single day.  

 

What has given me relief?  For me, writing has helped tremendously.  When I put down on paper how I feel it somehow makes this crazy journey of grief seem a little less crazy.  Writing helps me to express and release my pain.  Following the death of Samuel, I wrote a book called Silent Grief.  I shared every thought that went through my mind following the death of Samuel.  I needed to know that I wasn’t crazy, and I wanted other parents who had lost a baby know they weren’t crazy, either.  This book is still being used by thousands of newly bereaved parents yet today.  If you’ve lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or if you’ve lost a young child, you will connect at the heart with Silent Grief.  It will help you.  I promise.

A year after the death of Mike I wrote another book, Child Loss – the Heartbreak and the Hope.  I wrote this book because I needed help and I had read numerous books, but nothing helped me to recognize just how this grief was affecting my life and the lives of those I love.  I prayed.  I cried.  I begged God to guide my every word so that I could somehow translate on paper what my heart was feeling and be able to share something that would help parents like me who were in the lonely, dark pit of grief.  Thousands of parents are using this book and have said they have been given hope.  That, in some way, is helping me on my journey.  When we share our grief it somehow doesn’t feel so paralyzing.  If you feel like you’re hanging on by a thread, maybe this book will help you, too.  Oh, how I pray that it will.

 

Time is helping.  Time will NEVER take away this pain, but time is allowing me to face the reality of my son’s death.  When Mike died, it felt like I had been stabbed in the center of my heart — quite literally.  I had a searing pain shooting through me with every breath.  My breathing was shallow.  My thoughts weren’t coherent.  The trauma of the death of my child was too much for me to take in all at once.

 

Three years later I understand that Mike died.  I know he’s not coming back.  Yet, I still wait.  Only a parent of child loss is able to understand what I mean by that.

 

I long for the day when I can say:  I know my child died and I will always remember his death.  But, I remember more vividly his life and I will forever celebrate the fact that he lived!

 

I’d love to hear from you.  How are YOU feeling?  What has helped you on this ever so difficult journey of grief?  Together we can support one another.

 

Thank you so much for allowing me to share with you.  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

With love,

Clara

 

Child Loss – the Heartbreak and the Hope – a book on child loss

Silent Grief – Finding your way through the darkness of child loss

Hope 365 — A book of 365 short meditations for the grieving heart

 

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23 Comments

  1. Tomorrow will be 2 years my son left this world. I guess I’m still at the “raw pain ” stage. Haven’t figured a comfortable way to live without him yet. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. God bless you.

    1. Joyce, I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your son. That two year mark for me was really hard. I think that’s when some of the reality begins to settle on our hearts and we know that this is real. I think time gives us a certain way of looking at the loss of our children through deeper, gentler eyes and we begin to see things somewhat in more of a spiritual realm. I’m not sure if that makes any sense. I tend to think more of my son now as being in a “spiritual place” where he only knows love and peace and joy. That thought helps me through the really, really hard days of grief. I hope that will be true for you, too. My thoughts are with you so much. Love, Clara

  2. Clara, thank you for sharing your story.
    I too have lost two young son’s both had terminal illnesses.
    I hate life now,hate being here with out my two special son’s.
    the bond between my two very sick boy’s was unreal.
    I miss thier love.
    My heart is shattered into too many pieces to be fixed.
    Only those who have lost children understand how it feels.
    I don’t like leaving the house anymore or laughing…
    Feels like my boy’s are missing out.
    Feel so numb and lost.

    1. Susan, You have no idea how much this makes my heart hurt. I think this is the worst possible pain any of us can ever go through. Oh, how much I understand what you’re saying about your heart being shattered too much to ever be fixed.

      I hope with everything in me that there will come a day when you can find a small amount of peace. I don’t have any wise words to share with you — there are none. Not when there is brokenness such as this. I can only say that I hurt with you, and I pray for better days. Much love, Clara

    2. Thank you Clara, for all you write
      your thoughts are mine, though we have never met. My beautiful son died 18 months ago of cancer. Watching him suffer and then watching his last breath has broken me and yet even after all the pain, I am learning to pick up the pieces.
      The most difficult thing I find now is judgement of others in how I am grieving. People saying, ‘if it was me I would hope I would have moved on by now’. Indeed the word ‘ wallowing’ as in grief was used. I realise now that nobody who hasn’t lost a child ‘gets it’ and there are far more parents who haven’t lost a child than have. So this is the loneliest road on earth. I feel mainstream t.v. should dedicate a programme to grieving parents, to try and impart some understanding of this totally misunderstood grief.

  3. I lost my daughter 4 years ago from cancer. She was 39, married with two young boys. Even 4 yrs later I feel the pain. There’s a hole in my heart that will never heal. I miss her so much. I moved across country to be near my son after my son-in-law remarried. The pain came right along with me. No escaping it. I put my happy face on in front of people but behind closed doors there is sadness and tears. Thank you for sharing your grief with me. I know I’m not alone on this journey

    1. Judy, I’ll be the first one to say that I hate cancer. I hate everything about it. I’m so very, very sorry to hear of the loss of your precious daughter — so young, and leaving behind her sweet boys.

      You’re so very right. There is no escaping this pain of loss. We can temporarily busy ourselves, but at the end of the day that ache is still there. That hole in the heart remains. Nobody can understand this, either, except those of us who are traveling this long, difficult road of loss.

      I hope and I pray that there will be a day when your heart will feel more peaceful. I pray that all of the time. There is so much beauty in this world, but when we’re seeing through tear-stained eyes that beauty doesn’t come through clearly, does it? My heart aches with you. Love, Clara

    2. Linda, You’re so right. Others definitely do not get it. It’s impossible for them to feel this pain. Why? Because they still have their child with them. I’m so sorry that others have implied you’re not grieving according to what they think you should. There will always be those who think they know how long we should grieve, but they have no clue.

      I agree with you on having some kind of mainstream TV program dedicated to grieving parents. This world needs to be educated on the grief of child loss so much! Plus, a program like that would be such a huge encouragement to parents who are traveling this lonely path of grief.

      Thanks so much for your comments. My love to you. I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your son. Cancer is a word that I wish could be eliminated. It has taken so many precious lives.

  4. Thank you Clara for opening up your heart with your books to help other grieving parents! I’ve ordered 3 of your books but I’m reading Child Loss The Heartbreak and Hope right now. I also love that you have the site on facebook I read it everyday and the comments. It really helps to hear the feelings of other parents to know I’m not alone. I lost my son 71/2 years ago to a off duty cop that was drunk driving and the cop got away with a $100 reckless driving ticket because the trooper didn’t give him a breathalizer because he was a cop!although there was alcohol allin the road from the cops vehicile. My son had a traumatic brain injury which led me to donate his organs. At the time of his death he had a son that was only a year old and he doesn’t remember his daddy and that is so heartbreaking too. He’ll be nine in Feb.My son would have been 29 on October 28. This has been a hard month. I’ve also in the last 6 months discovered heart problems after going to the doctor for a regular check up but while there my blood pressure was very high and had symptoms of a heart attack(which some symptoms I didn’t know were symptoms)so the dr. called 911 and sent me to the ER.then to heart dr. and thats when I found out the word for dying from a broken heart.(can’t think of it right now) I truly believe thats what’s going on with me. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to write a book I guess I just needed to tell you❤ I would like to write a book. A couple of friens told me I should that it would be a best seller. Thank you for being here Clara.

  5. My younger son, Tony, passes January 8, 2016. As you know my life changed forever. He was my “baby”. I too experienced the loss of two pregnancies painful but I was able to experience healing. I just finished reading your book about child loss. I have to say it took me a very long time to get through it. I was only able to read it in snippets. It was such a relevant and healing book. I finished the last 3 chapters last month, on the beach on our first vacation in over five years. Then and there I decided take your advice about the choices I have. I will not get stuck in grief. My heart aches every single minute of every single day. But we have to go on. He left us two handsome wonderful identical twin boys who wil be16 on November 4. They are our miracles. They were born 11 weeks prematurely. They attain honors with distinction as freshman and now as sophomores. I digress. I just can’t thank you enough for your book. Your love. Your support. Your foresight. For everything you do for those suffering the grief of losing a child. The night he died I had a dream of him and he just kept repeating “I’m alright mom, I’m alright. I’m just asleep. I’m just asleep, mom. I feel blessed to have had that dream. Thank you for listening.

  6. I misscarried at 5 months and I lost my 10 year old son in 2003 when we were hit by a drunk driver. I was in pretty bad shape myself so I don’t remember much about the accident or his funeral, which is good because I’m afraid remembering the details may push me over the edge and be to hard for me. Even now after 14 years I still wait for him to get off the school bus and come running in the door to tell me about his day. I still miss him like it happened yesterday. I was a single parent and he was my life. I attend all his ballgames, school functions etc. i was a big mess for for a long time afterward and basically gave up for about 3 years until I realized that josh would be kicking my butt for sitting around crying and grieving over him so I got myself together and started living life again. But I’m not the same person I was before he died and people can’t understand why I changed. But it’s hard to be the same happy person you were before you lost a child because now part of my heart is missing. You never get over the loss of a child, you just learn to deal with/live with the pain.

    1. Vanessa, When I hear stories such as yours, my insides just shake. I’m so very, very sorry for your losses. I cannot imagine a loss due to a drunk driver. I know my mind would be driving me crazy for a long, long, long time. How terrible it must be for you and the thousands upon thousands of others who have lost children in such a tragic way.

      My heart hurts with you. I’m so very happy to hear of your decision to begin living life again — certainly not easy to do! I know that Josh is smiling at you for being so brave! Our joy is a different kind of joy following the loss of a child, but……with time and lots of hard work you are an example that we can re-enter life again.

      Thanks so very much for your comments and for your encouragement. Love, Clara

  7. My son Brandon has been gone for 7 years. He was 27 and died of cancer. I will never get over the loss but I cope by keeping a promise that I made to him. I promised him that he will not be responsible for me being miserable for the rest of my life because he existed. I promised him that although I don’t know why I am still here I will honour his life by being thankful everyday for the time that I had with him. He brought love into my life and I will be forever grateful. I still cry but I also allow myself to smile and enjoy things in life. And when I am enjoying myself I always think of how proud he would be of me.

  8. My 38 y.o. son, only child, died from Stage 3 Liver Disease due to alcoholism June 2016. 3 different admissions for treatment were in vain. He had it all, then suddenly lost it all. He was a “WHY,WHY,WHY” scenario. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2013 and his death exascerbated my symptoms from the extreme stress of grief. I also had to leave a 29 year job due to being a “risk”. I also suffer from deep depression and sleep deprivation. To hopefully help with my heartache, I used the whole side of my house to make a Memorial Garden with a bench with plaque, stepping stones, and probably 100 plants. I have my morning coffee on the bench and read my daily meditation for “lossing a child” out loud to him. I sit on the bench often just to feel I am close to him and will receive some sign one day; it’s been 1 yr. 4 mons without any “sign”. I have attended individual therapy and Grief Group Therapy since and I’ve missed very few meetings. Being with other in grief make my feel like I’m not a nusance to “a normal person”. I’m 64 and just now getting out with those friends that sincerely care and call me to get me out. I would not wish this feeling of heartbreaking grief on anyone.

  9. I am 13 years into my loss of my daughter. I still have the night mares. They start a month before her death day. I relive so many moments before her death. Some are very poingent and comforting, and others are gut renching. Not your “Hallmark Movie” moments. I still feel guilt. I feel like I let her down and wasn’t there when she needed me most. I still have the “heart ache” moments, and they wear me out. Not every day is hard, but so many of them are. I keep hoping that my faith that I will see her again will comfort me, but it hasn’t happened. I wonder if my faith isn’t strong enough. I worry that I put too much pressure on my other daughter that I am pushing her away. None of this is easy.

    1. Linda, I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter. Nothing at all is easy about child loss. We do tend to hover over our living children more so than if we hadn’t lost a child. Hopefully your daughter understands. The nightmares are part of the trauma. Have you seen a counselor to help you work through that part of your grief? There are ways to help control the trauma so that you won’t continue to have the nightmares. That’s so frightening, I’m sure.

      Do you have a copy of the book Hope 365? I really and truly believe that the words in that book will help you so much. It will help you to rest from your guilt, and it will help you to see hope once again. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. My love and prayers are with you, Clara

  10. It is just about at xmas I lost my 33 year old son in a car accident he had a 2 yr old son and married . So it is nearly 10 years when he died at xmas. I think that is when I died as well as I don’t see my grandson nor my daughter and 2 other grandsons as they live along way from me. Ane now I have no family left and I cannot get over what happened with family when he passed so I am lost . I don’t want to go out I laugh for people to see that I ,m alright but they don’t know my heart is dead . I don’t want to see kids or happy familys with there grand children I don’t care any more about other peoples familys. I don’t see his mates anymore they are too busy I will never get over it thank god I am on the way out

    1. Joan, I’m so, so sorry. I wish that I lived nearby you and I could come visit you and talk with you and share stories with you. It sounds like you’re so alone, and I hate hearing that. Ten years this Christmas is such a long time for your son to be gone, yet it feels like only yesterday, I’m sure. I truly do believe that part of us dies when our child dies. I feel sad that you’re so sad. I just wish I could visit you and give you a hug. I’m praying that your daughter and grandchildren will open their eyes and see how lonely you are. My love and prayers to you. I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your son. Love, Clara

  11. I lost my Micah,2years9months and21 days,you have said it all in you’re book, I spend most of my time at the cemetery, its on fort Knox where my older family once lived,Fort Knox does not take care of it,(we did not know this) so we make it really pretty.my husband says there is no afterlife ,that when you go that’s it, I feel I have NOTHING.we lost Micah to drugs.

    1. Jenny, I’m so, so sorry for the loss of your son, Micah. My heart aches with you. Addiction is so difficult, and I’m so very sorry that Micah’s life ended far, far too soon. As parents we hurt on a level that only those who have felt child loss can understand. I’m so glad that you’re able to take care of Micah’s resting place at the cemetery. As hard as it is to be there, it’s still something that we are parents want to do because of our love for our child. There are many others who don’t believe in an afterlife, but I personally do believe that we are spiritual beings. This has given me comfort. It really and truly does feel as though we’ve lost everything when our child dies. I believe that part of us dies along with our child — that’s just how deep our love is. Thank you for sharing Micah with me. I pray that as you continue to travel on this path of child loss, there will be a day when your grief will be more gentle and that hope will somehow enter your heart once again. My sincere thoughts are with you. Love, Clara

  12. We lost three adult sons. Some days the pain is unbearable. Our youngest died first, then our oldest and then our middle. We ask ourselves all the time WHY? No answer. None were in the military . We are good people and I ask God when he took all of our sons. No answer. I know time is suppose to help, but not yet!

    1. This is one of those times when I’m sure nobody has an answer. Why do things like this happen? I don’t know. This is so sad, so terribly, terribly sad. My many, many thoughts and prayers are with you. To lose one child is traumatic. To lose another child doubles the pain. But, to lose a third is the unimaginable. Again, I’m so very, very sorry. I wish I could give you a big hug right now. My love to you as your work through the pain of the losses of your precious sons.