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.
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