Child Loss: What Happens When there is Little Support?
When child loss occurs, nobody knows what to say or do. So, many times people say whatever pops into their minds, and that’s usually never a good thing and offers very little, if any support.
When I delivered my little Samuel, I held him close to me as my tears drenched his face. He was born still. I knew ahead of time that his heart had stopped beating, but never did I dream that my heart would stop beating, too, when he entered this world. Even though he was not alive, I still felt safe and close to him when his body was still inside of mine. Does that makes sense? It’s probably so hard for a father to understand this, but for those of us who are moms, we get it. Our child was a very real part of us — growing inside of us each day, depending on us for nutrients and safe keeping. When my little boy died, part of me died, too.
It’s strange looking back some twenty-five years now since Samuel’s birth (is it called a birth if he never lived outside of my body?). I remember so few details about most of my pregnancy with him, but those final hours — I remember them as clearly as though it was yesterday.
And, I remember what was said to me when Samuel was born still.
One friend (who I later stopped calling “friend”) said, “You’re just lucky that at your age you didn’t have a baby born alive with a hole in the heart. He’s better off. You’re too old to be having kids. This is God’s way of keeping you from a lifetime of pain.”
I can still see her face as she stood in my dining room telling me this. I had just come home from the hospital and she was doing her good deed and delivering food (a pizza) for my family. It was a long, long time until I ever ate pizza again, and a much longer time until I talked to this woman again.
By the way, I was forty when I delivered Samuel — a fine age to be a mama, I thought!
After that comment, I was very selective who I talked with — it was easier to cry in private than it was to share the innermost thoughts of my heart and risk getting hurt all over again.
I didn’t need Scriptures shoved down my throat about how I should have a stronger faith. It certainly didn’t help me to be around other’s babies (why do people think they should shove their baby in your face after yours has just died?).
The fact is — I needed my baby, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I felt like I had dropped into a bottomless pit and the darkness was enveloping me and there would be no way out. I felt alone and hopeless. This was the same frightening despair I felt years before when my sister died. Broken to pieces all over again. How would I ever find the strength to fight my way through this?
My heart hurt so bad that it caused my body to hurt. I had aches and pains and a sick stomach. My back hurt. My head hurt. I had no energy. I couldn’t eat. All I wanted to do is sleep and cry. Day and night — sleep and cry.
Where are my friends? Where is my family? Where did everybody go!
To this day, I don’t get it. I don’t understand how my family didn’t see how much I needed them by my side. I don’t understand where my friends were. I don’t understand, but I did learn some very valuable lessons.
1. Don’t ever place your faith in people! Sooner or later, friends and family will disappoint us. That’s a hard, but true, fact of life.
2. Don’t ever think “this can’t happen to me”. This can happen to me, and often it does!
3. Talk about death as though it is real because it is! Death is very, very real and it’s less frightening when we talk about it openly. Talking about death helps to diminish our fear of death.
4. Force yourself to have positive thoughts for 15 minutes a day. This does help. I know it sounds trite and a bit corny, but this is one of the things that helped pull me out of the deep, dark, angry, frightening pit of despair. I repeated positive thoughts over and over in my mind thousands of times a day so that my grief wouldn’t keep me pressed face down to the ground.
5. Come up with a plan — you are the only one who knows your heart. If your plan is to stay in bed 8 hours today and get up for 1 hour, then that’s the plan. But, if you have no plan, I can guarantee you that you’ll stay in bed for 24 hours. Have a plan and stick to it!
6. Others share similar pain. Find them and get some support flowing. Maybe your support will be found online. Maybe you’ll join a local support group of parents who have lost children. Maybe you’ll buy every book available on child loss to read for your support. Do what works for you, but find support! Most often the support will not come to you.
7. Take a walk every day. I don’t care if it’s only for a minute. When I was at my lowest point following Samuel’s death, my “walk” was 22 steps to the bathroom and back. That’s it. That’s all I could do at first. Slowly, I added steps and an extra two minutes. By the end of a year, I was walking an hour around an open field breathing in fresh air. Sure, I cried many times during my walks, but…..I was walking!
8. Face your grief head on. Scream. Cry. Punch a pillow. Throw a book (preferably not at a person!). Have your “discussion with God” and tell Him how you really feel. Let it all out. And, when you do, you’ll find that afterward, you’ll feel tired enough to sleep — really sleep. Not just toss and turn.
9. There will come a time when we will have to say, “This really did happen and I can’t change it.” Some people like to call this part the reality and acceptance of our child’s death. We can fight it. Kick. Yell. Curse. Hold our breath until we faint. But, the hard, impossible-but-true fact is “my child died” and that is now part of my life.
10. Say it a thousand times over a day until you really believe it. “I am never completely alone.” “I am never completely alone.” “I am never completely alone.” Even if the entire earth has abandoned us, God is still near. Breathe slowly and deeply. Do it several times until you clear your mind a bit. In my pain and sorrow and the depths of my darkness, I was able to find God again. For a long time, I slept with my Bible under my pillow. My tears fell on the pages and soaked them night after night, but I finally was able to find the presence of God and He held me when no one else was near.
This is not an easy journey, and it’s never over. The pain of child loss took residence in my heart the day my sister died, and it reared its ugly head full force again when my Samuel died. But, many years later I’m thankful to say my days are more sunshine than rain now. My nights are more calm than storms.
And, in my loneliness — God hasn’t left me yet! He is still sticking around to support me in my sorrow! It has taken me 25 plus years to say this, but I can finally say in complete confidence that I am not alone, and I thank God for that every day of my life!
Feel free to share how you found your support. As we share ideas and thoughts we grow and learn together. This thing called child loss isn’t easy and we can’t do it alone!
PS I wrote the book Silent Grief following the death of Samuel. If you don’t yet have a copy I’d urge you to get a copy today. The book will become your support and strength. I wrote it and I still use it!
I need your posts every day! My 20 yr 19 day old son was killed at his ex girlfriend house. I’m so empty and lost without him
Michelle, I’m so, so sorry. I can hear the anguish in your written words. I wish I could reach out and hug you and make you feel safe — if even for a moment. Please know that I will hold you close at thought and in my prayers.
I just love you! Ur words echo my heart and thoughts..I’m thanking our Heavenly father for you…I’m not good with words and ur have beco
e my mouth piece …i loss my son Anthony Jr. Four yrs ago. he was 20 yrs old and i miss him so much…my oldest daughter loss two of her babies my grandchild to miscarriage ..Her second miscarriage was she was almost 20 weeks with this baby,she delivered him sleeping and it was horrific to watch my child be in so mu h and there was nothing i could do to make it better for her…we got to hold him and pour all our love into him he was apart of us and we love him much……much ..I cry daily for my beloved son and I’m just heartbroken
.Thanks for all you do…the night my son died my mother and sisters jumped all in my face saying i wanted my son dead it was the sickening to watch how they carried on and still do today…you learn hard lesson in life and i learned much since then
.my son and I had a fight the day before he died and i put him out the house and sincre we fought the night before they feel and tell ppl I hated him and didn’t love him either…talk about evil spirits in this world? Well i was born into a family of plenty evil spirits…i grew up knowing my mother didn’t like me much..but the nightmy baby died i realize how deep her hatred was…i love son deeply and miss so much..
Dianna, I’m so sorry for all that has happened to you. You’ve had so much loss in your life. It’s heartbreaking to hear the things that come out of the mouths of others when we are grieving. Sometimes the words can be so very cruel. I know you loved your son with all of your heart. And, your daughter — I’m so sorry for her losses. Life can be so hard and cruel. You take care of yourself, please. Take it one day, one minute, one step at a time.
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
This is a wonderful article. My youngest daughter, Marsha, died on Feb. 18, 1983 from an accidential gun shot. So 30 years I have been a grieving parent. I have worked with Bereaved Parents for almost the whole time since her birth. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for my God and Savior. He has gotten me this far and I know He will not leave me alone. I also know, that no matter how long it has been, some days I am back at day one, with the hurt so real I can’t hardly breathe.
Thanks so much for posting. I am going to copy it and give it to some newly bereaved parents that are hurting so bad. Is that okay?
Potosi, MO 63664
Brenda, I’m so, so sorry for the loss of your daughter, Marsha. Some days the grief is so raw yet. Isn’t it amazing how grief works? Just about when you think it’s under control it comes back to get us. 🙁
Yes, by all means share this with other bereaved parents. That’s why I write — to share and hopefully help others along this journey.
Love this advice! I kept a journal to write things I was thankful for everyday. It started as I’m thankful for my 3 daughters the 1 in Heaven the 2 Left behind. And each day went by I’d started adding more things and on the days the load of bricks were on me I’d look at what I had written in the days before to remind me there were things to be thankful for. I also wrote letters to God and my girl and journaled about the days. It gives a perspective on how far I’ve come when I have a hard day almost 3 years later. I begin to see how lucky I was to get 12 years with my girls and journaled about experiences and memories so I never would forget the small stuff. As much as we hate it life really moves forward and we have to move with or lose ourselves completely trying to change the I changeable. I accepted my work on Earth is not done that is why God has made me a mint her of an angel because her work was done. I read poems and stories and found unique ways to celebrate my girl. In fact Jan 30 I take off work and we celebrate Kenzi’s heavenly birthday and on July 8th we celebrate Kenzi’s earthly birthday. The first because it’s the greatest day of her life to live with The Lord and the second because it was the greatest day in her life with us because it’s the day God put her in this word with is!
I’m so glad to hear that you are a journaler, too! I love to do the same thing…..journal so that I can see what direction my grief is going and to see how much progress I’ve made.
I’m so very sorry for the loss of your sweet Kenzi, but I love how you’ve grown to celebrate her time with the Lord! That’s why I think it’s so important that we talk openly and freely about death. That’s the passageway to heaven, and what a great thought that is! That’s not to diminish missing our child with our entire being, but we can still find peace in knowing where our children are — safe in the arms of our Heavenly Father.
Thank you for your comment!
Thanks for posting. I too lost a sister of cancer in 2007 and then my precious daughter of 20 in an accident .. We were so close and we’re best friends. It will be 4 years November 29th. My family has been supportive Andy parents totally understand after losing a daughter .. BUT all my family lives out of state.
Friends are different. Somebody I thought was a close friend hurt me so bad with her words and actions. We talk now but she doesn’t mention or comment when I have tough days or when anniversaries and special days come along. My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer less than 2 months after my daughter’s death. He is still battling the cancer.
Today my dad was diagnosed with cancer and we are waiting to have more tests to find out more.
I am physically alone but have my prayers and faith. This is a loss that can’t be explained and will hurt until we see our child again in heaven. God bless all of the grieving parents
Delaina, I’m so, so sorry for all of the loss that has touched your life. Sometimes we think it’s not humanly possible to survive that much pain — yet, by the grace of God we hold on. It’s so hard without the love and care of family close by. I hope you make good use of the telephone and talk often and gain some family support that way.
You’re so right — losing a child is a loss that can never be explained. I hope and pray for your strength as you not only grieve the loss of your sister and daughter, but also help your husbnd and dad. Please take care of yourself.
Clara I just recieved you book and I am just starting to read it. My consentration is very short these days but my goal is to finish your book. My son Kess passed away at age 26 on July 7, 2012 so I am still new to the horrible journey. I can relate to your story because I have had the same think happen to me. I try not to judge my friends but sometime I feel they are afraid to talk about Kess because they think that death is catching. I have moments during the day when I can smile but my heart aches so much for my son. He was my only child and I miss him so much. I do feel as if God has left me with so many unanswered questions and I feel he is not listening to my prayers or my heart. I know this must be anger directed to him and I do know that he loves me but I do feel so alone in this. I look forward to your daily posts and really appreciate you. Thanks for your counsel everyday. Pat Jackson, Lake Preston, SD
Pat, I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your son Kess. Just read the book in bits and pieces as you are able. Underline the parts that help you and read only those parts and gain strength from those words. It’s too soon for you to be able to concentrate fully. Grief creates such a fog — a veil, so-to-speak to shield us from too much pain all at once.
It’s hard to imagine why God allows this kind of pain to happen, and I will never understand that — not in this life. I was angry with Him for a long time. That’s normal when we’re in deep grief. Later on, God will be your comfort and your strength. But, the answers……I’m convinced that will never happen in this lifetime.
Again, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.
I started following your posts on facebook. I lost my son Isaac on oct 4th when he was 3 months old. He passed suddenly after a horrible accident. I have struggled with deep depression and anxiety. I loved him so much he is well was my second child and i am grateful he is here to keep me moving. Your posts hit the nail on the head for me most days and help me feel like i am not alone. Thank you.
Sorry i ment my other son keeps me moving.
I understood what you meant. 🙂
Jackie, Sometimes it’s so hard for me to know just what to say and how to say it so that it will help each one. I never post anything before I’ve prayed. I always ask God to help me find the words. On those days when you feel a little extra encouragement reading a post, think of it as God speaking to you through those words.
I’m so, so sorry for the loss of your little Isaac. Please take special care of yourself. Grief is hard — there’s no denying that fact. My thoughts are with you.
i lost my sweet boy to a horrible dna disorder called NKH this year at 2 days old. He was born 8/8/13 and was with us for 58 hours. Our daughter is 1 with the same condition and we know one day we will lose her. Hardest thing is knowing you will outlive your child. Most of my extended family has not acknowledged or even spoke with me on our loss. it is so frustrating. Soe of what you posts really describes howI felt at some point. Thank you
Rachel, I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your sweet little baby boy. I cannot imagine how much you will hold onto those 58 hours and replay those hours with him over and over and over again for all of your days. There will be a time when you will be able to smile through your tears, but that will be a long time coming. It’s so tragic that your little daughter has the same condition. I pray that medicine will find a way to a cure soon!!!!!
It baffles me as to why families don’t give support when they know the kind of pain we’re in. I pray that you can find some kind of support in your local area — people who will love you and hold you and wipe your tears. I’m so glad that some of the posts are able to help you. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
I lost my son 9-12-11. Even though I have 2 other sons, my Joshua was my life. He was special in every way. Sad to say, that my husband and I cannot even talk about our grief. And my mother told me this past June, it was time for me to stop grieving. But, she grieves for my dad, but doesn’t understand why I still grieve. Needless to say, it has out a wedge between us. I keep a journal and write in it every day. I record my dreams, and my friends, except one, do not even speak his name. My heart will never be the same. And I miss him more each day. My mind has accepted my loss, but my heart has not.
Karen, I’m so, so sorry for the loss of your Joshua. Men grieve in such a different way that often we can’t communicate well with them. I devote a lot of time in my book, Silent Grief, to the difference between the way dads and moms grieve. Reading that might help you in some small but significant way. I don’t know why or how your mother could even begin to imagine you should stop grieving. It’s hardly time for the loss of your son to have become reality!
I’m so very glad that you’re journaling. That will help you a lot!
And, you’re so very right……we are never, ever the same following the loss of our child. Please know that my thoughts are with you.
I’ve followed you on Facebook for over a year & I just wanted to tell you how much your words mean to me. I may not reply to your posts, but they do help. You have such a way with words. There are times when I feel so alone & depressed. Just knowIng I’m not alone makes such a difference. My beautiful son passed away when he was almost 6. He had Cystic Fibrosis. His name was Christian. Some days it feels like I can’t breathe & that my heart physically hurts. I don’t think those feelings are going go disappear anytime soon.
Clara, I’m so sorry for your losses I loss my little Sister in 1984 I read your posts & blogs they help so much so thank you for that I have a friend who loss her son this last May and I would like to buy your book for her where do I buy it at? Thank you again for your bueatful posts may Gid be with you Linda Hult
Linda, sibling loss is something that isn’t mentioned often enough. Sometimes people don’t even give it much thought, but……the truth is that losing a brother or sister is traumatic on so many levels. I’m so glad that the posts are able to help you some.
And, I see that you found Silent Grief, the book. I pray that the words in it will help your friend who lost her son.
Oops i just found it on amazon thx
I have just started following you after the loss of my beautiful Son Dan, who died in a road traffic accident ! he was 24 yrs old, and my absolute rock, my best friend and life adviser.
Iam 44yrs old and feel like im 84!! Im totally lost without him, and broken is the only word i can describe myself!
He left a wonderful Son 8 mths old…my Grandson!
I have lost friends and family members since this, which shocks me to the core ! Im sick of hearing people telling me, be lucky you have 2 other children!… you are lucky you have a Grandson!.. get back to work and do something positive!
Yes i agree with all these, but can i do it…NO,these people have their children and life carries on for them after they leave me after a coffee…..
I can not accept he has gone and dont want to, its too painful!
I can see him and hear him so clearly its driving me mad!
The words you write make absolute sense, and i say out load…. YES somebody gets it !
I am so sorry for the loss of your son Dan. It hurts so deep that we can’t begin to explain it when a loss like this occurs.
There have been volumes written on child loss and how to help those grieving. Sometimes I have to wonder how long it’s going to take to make a lasting impact on others when they say such things as were said to you. Just a bit of common sense will let them know that, ‘No matter how many children I have, there can never be a replacement.’ And, yes, we’re always thankful when we have other children, but…..that NEVER diminishes the grief of the one who is no loner here with us.
Every time I write, I say a prayer asking God to lead and guide the words to help others. Thank you for letting me know that in some small way you have been helped.
My love to you,
I read your book after I had a miscarriage several years ago. I have returned to it many times after my son was murdered. A lot of what you said in your post rings true for me. I have let go of many friendships since my son was killed. People just didn’t understand that I’m never going to be the same person that I was. So if they can’t accept that, I’m done. My tolerance for friends and family’s insensitivity is pretty much nil at this point. I’m more concerned with taking care of myself and my surviving son than I am with babying them.
Oh, my….I’m so very sorry for your losses. Murder is a loss that is a very complicated grief, and one that takes years and years of hard work to finally find our way to a more gentle way of grieving. Thank you for letting me know that the book Silent Grief has helped you many times over. That makes it all so worthwhile to me.
Please do take care of yourself first and foremost. There comes a time when we have to ask ourselves, “Is this relationship benefiting me or is it dragging me down?” If it’s dragging us down, then it’s time to let go and just do what is best for our own health.
My special thoughts and prayers are with you.
I am so sorry for your loss. The link to your blog came up on my facebook page at the perfect time-just before the holidays, me second holiday season without my son Andy. He and I were so close. He died because his pain management doctor put him on the fentanyl patch despite him having severe central sleep apnea. Not only that he INCREASED his dosage after he went into resp. failure the first month on the patch (thank God his fiancé was here visiting from Switzerland then or we would have lost him then)
Since his death only my former sister in law has come to the house to stay with me and that was immediately following his death. Some of his friends, who are like my own since they grew up spending so much time at my house, have visited regularly but not one single adult (and I come from a large family-I’m the youngest of 5 and have a very large extended family) not one has been there for me. One sister has been supportive via the computer. The others are all angry with me because I can’t bring myself to come to family gatherings. I can’t get them to understand how hard it is for me to see them with their kids, their families complete and happy while the last thing I want to do is celebrate ESPECIALLY when not one of them has cared enough to visit, write or call.
We recently moved from the house he passed away in. I *thought it would help. I never expected it to hit me so painfully hard as it has. I hadn’t touched his room and was forced to go in and pack my son away in totes.
Since it’s been over a year and a half it seems that not even my husband or daughter understands. Yet I’m having such a hard time..I don’t believe I have hurt this bad since he passed. What helped me up until now was riding long distances on my bike. Now cold weather is setting in, school has started and it honestly feels like my family is doing everything possible to make sure I can’t ride. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! I have a neuro-muscular disease and cannot support myself let alone myself and my daughter. And quite honestly it makes me angry. I carried my son, I raised him alone for several years, my children were my life, I was the one who was there by his side as his under went all the painful procedures and humiliation They didn’t find his injury at first and many doctors were quite rude..even after a being told to return to the ER of a major hospital where he had just had a procedure done which is basically a lumbar puncture because he developed a horrible headache (turned out he had a leak so bad that the doctor who performed a blood patch said he thought he had the wrong place he had NEVER seen a leak that bad before) the ER doctor would not listen to us. He insisted that my son was a “drug seeker” and had him standing and bending etc when he was suppose to remain lying at a slight angle. It wasn’t until I was in tears and bawling and had to leave the room so as not to upset my son more that a male nurse approached me and asked what was wrong..he listened and got a different doctor in there who admitted my son which started still a long road of a week of caffeine drips and nurses who tried to start one right after another (over doses of caffeine can kill too..and they argued with me. I never had to be so outspoken and assertive in my life!) Even during all of this nobody came, nobody was there. It was just me and Andy. I was the one who held my son who was a strong healthy football player just weeks before and now was clinging to me crying, my son who played with a broken arm because he loved the game so much and knew if he complained they’d bench him, my son who also was an all star baseball player and took a line drive straight to his eye hard enough to leave the imprint of the stitches of the ball and shook it off and continued playing, my son who refused pain medication when he had appendicitis because it caused him to throw up, my honor’s student, class president, and was neck and neck for top in his class until his accident…now being accused of being a drug seeker, in such pain that he couldn’t walk (due to the accident) and now the spinal headache. He did so much for others but thru his battle and after his death we had no support. I’ve been flung into the “This really did happen and I can’t change it” (I did want to move but that wasn’t why we moved. We were renting to own and our landlord said they were letting the house go back to the bank. These same people insisted on coming and collecting their rent the week of his funeral!)
I lost my brother who I was closest to when I was 13, my mom when I was 24 and my Dad when I was 34 (10 years to the day and time of my mom), had 4 miscarriages. Andy is the hardest by far and I just don’t think I can get thru it! HOW? I cannot imagine living another year like this let alone many.:( (I apologize for writing so much) Thank you.