Going Into the New Year Without My Child

The New Year has arrived, but it didn’t arrive fresh and new with a clean slate like promised. For me the lingering pain of child loss resides in my heart and has taken permanent residence. I guess I wasn’t expecting the pain to go away; but I was hoping it would somehow feel lighter this year. It doesn’t. 

My son died unexpectedly almost three years ago of a massive heart attack. I still feel the shock waves of that news almost every day. Trauma does that to us. I don’t know if the trauma part will ever completely go away. I still jump any time my phone rings around 8:00 in the evening. I freeze. I refuse to answer. I never want to hear those words ever again. “They tried. They tried for almost an hour, but he didn’t make it. I’m so sorry.”  My body is trembling as I’m typing the words that forever changed my life and the lives of so many that I love.

I’m trying to figure out how to move forward in this New Year with some kind of hope and joy. After all, isn’t that what the New Year is all about? I’ve spent weeks thinking about this knowing that January 1 would be here and I want so badly for this year to be better, to be brighter, to be a more peaceful year.

I sat on Mike’s memorial bench for a long time with snow blowing against my cheeks as my tears froze on my face. “Mike, how am I going to do this? I know you don’t want me to feel so sad all of the time. I can feel you pushing me out of this dark hole of grief. But, I need some help from you. I need you to show me how to live within this grief with some kind of hope and joy. Help me.”

I talk to Mike often. It helps me to feel his presence. I need so much to feel him nearby. As I sat on the snow covered bench, off to the left of me three deer inched their way out of the woods. They stood within feet of me and stared not showing any fear. Mike loved the snow and he loved the deer.  He loved everything that was part of country living.  I locked eyes with those deer and I saw a gentleness that I needed to see. They stayed for a good ten minutes then wandered back into the woods as the sun began setting.

For the first time in a long time my shoulders eased,  the tension grew less,  and my tears stopped. I felt somehow warmed as I sat on that bench by Mike’s memorial garden. Those deer seemed to deliver a message of peace to me.  It was as if Mike had sent them to let me know that all was well with him. I was sitting in his happy place among the things that made him so happy as a young child growing up. He moved to Tennessee with his wife and three children but he always made a trip home each year to spend time in the snow, in the woods and among the wildlife.  I was doing what he loved, and I felt him right there with me. 

Is this the peace I was searching for? Is the inner calm I was feeling the joy that would somehow reside in my heart this year in order to calm my grief? 

Today, January 1, 2018, was a blustery, snowy day in Pennsylvania. I got up early and walked outside to take in the early morning air. I felt the snow falling against my face. I looked to the heavens and prayed a prayer of thanks for giving me this day. I felt the ache of missing my son. I know that ache will always be there. But, as I looked to the heavens I imagined him watching his mom from above feeling the gentle peace of this day and I know he was smiling.

And, I began this first day of the New Year wrapped in peace and a quiet inner joy understanding the message of hope sent to me from my son.

I think as parents of child loss we all want this terrible emptiness to somehow leave.  I don’t think we’ll ever feel whole again — not in the sense we were whole before our child died.  How could we?  There will always be that aching, emptiness of missing our child. But, I’m convinced that we can have a meaningful peace-filled life even within the brokenness of loss.

If you have lost a child and you’re struggling with finding your way into this New Year, I hope that something I’ve shared will help you in some small way.  This is a difficult journey we’re on. There’s nothing easy about child loss. But, as we love and support one another we can be encouraged along the way.

May I suggest you get a copy of the book Hope 365? I keep my copy with me at all times.  I read from it throughout the day for an added boost of encouragement. The short, hopeful messages really do help!

If you’re still in the early raw pain of child loss, I’d encourage you to get a copy of the book Child Loss – the Heartbreak and the Hope. I wrote this book about a year and a half after my son died. I think you will find a lot in there that will help you.

My love to you. May you find your way to inner peace, hope and inner joy during this New Year.



Child Loss Book

Hope 365

Silent Grief


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  1. Thank you got your insight and support for all of us grieving parents.. January 4th will be the anniversary date for my son(died 1/4/91)….you never know what will trigger you tears…you just learn to do whatever helps and honors your child…God bless you!

    1. Janis, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son. You’re so right about not knowing what will trigger tears. We never know. I find my tears flowing at the most unusual times. Oh, how much we miss our children!!

      My love to you, Clara

  2. I lost my eldest daughter Claire 16 months ago, she was 34, she left a husband and 4 beautiful children. Like you, I hated the thought of going into a New Year, as it’s the start of another New Year without her. My daughter died so suddenly, she had a massive pulmonary embolism. I was living in France, along with her family she was travelling down to stay with me, when she collapsed. She was rushed to hospital, medics tried to save her, but it was impossible. her husband had to stay outside the room as they worked on her. I imagine that moment every day of my life, as she lay ther dying, alone. She knew she was dying, and told the doctor, ‘ tell my family and my Mother I love them very much’ The doctor was crying when she told me this. I struggle knowing she was there alone, frightened. The pain is with me every day, I miss her so much, and still can’t believe she is not here.

    1. Dear Sian, I’m so very sorry. I “get it” about finding it hard to believe your daughter Claire is gone. I still feel that way about my son most days. When death happens so unexpectedly like this, we are never in a million years expecting our healthy child to die.

      I can’t tell you how sorry I am that your daughter was alone during her final moments. The only way I can offer any kind of encouragement is to say that it is such a blessing your daughter got her message of love to you and to her family. When my son Mike died he was with his 14 year old son. It was so horrific for his son to watch. As moms we want so badly to be with our children during every heartache. I, too, struggle with the fact that Mike didn’t have someone with him comforting him. I would have loved to be the one holding his hand as he died. There are simply some really hard things about the death of a child that we somehow must learn to live with, and this is one of them.

      My love to you, Clara

    2. I lost my son the same way. He just fell over in the kitchen. My husband is disabled and threw his cane down and we both sat on the floor and watched our son pass away before the medics even arrived. It seems to get more difficult for me as the years go by. It was really difficult to watch. At least your daughter was able to send her love. My condolences to you. May your suffering be less.

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