Explaining Child Loss

Child Loss: If I Could Change One Thing in My LIfe…..

Have you ever wondered about the answer to this question:  “What is the one thing that, if given the chance to change, you would change in your life?”

I think about this all of the time as I play different scenarios in my head.  If this would happen, then that would be the result.  “If I had not been born into a poor family, then this is how my life would be now.”  “If I hadn’t been born terribly shy, then I could have gone on to be a super motivating public speaker.”  “If I didn’t have such a large nose (that always bothered me — I have a larger than life Italian nose!) then I wouldn’t have been so shy, and I would have mingled more with people, and would have gone further in my career.”  “If I hadn’t had an alcoholic mother, she might still be alive and maybe our relationship would have been better.”

And, on and on it goes……..

However, after thinking about all of the “what ifs”, the same answer always comes up at the top of the list.  If I could change one thing in my life………      

I would change the fact that my sister died when she was thirteen. 

When my sister Carmella died, that was a turning point in life for my family, and her death is the one single factor that impacted my life more than anything else.

I don’t think people even begin to understand the changes that take place within a family when a child dies unless they’ve lived through that pain.

When my sister died, I no longer had two sisters.  I had one sister.  That had a huge impact on me and on our family!  With just the blink of an eye, we went from a family of five to a family of four!  The pain was crushing.  There’s no other way to explain it, and “family” as we knew it hasn’t been right since.

When Carmella died, God didn’t seem the same to me any more.  My prayer life changed and if I’m truthful I haven’t returned to my very naïve prayers since.  If God can say “no” when you’re begging for healing for a loved one, then why pray?  The basic struggle I still wrestle with every day of my life is not knowing how to pray.  When do I just say, “Thy will be done” and when do I plead for help and intervention?  Does God’s will always prevail?  If God has the final say, then why pray?

Please don’t take these questions as a slam on prayer in any way.  I have a strong faith in God, and I pray daily.  But, my prayers changed following my sister’s death. I realize that not all of my prayers will be answered in a way that I ask –even if it’s for spiritual, emotional, or physical healing.  That’s a bummer for me!  I used to literally believe that if you asked for anything in God’s name, He would answer that prayer affirmatively providing it was for good.  I no longer believe that — another topic for another time.

When my sister died, my parents divorced, they suffered emotional pain to the point of becoming physically ill, and they often neglected my living sister and me because of their intense suffering.  I “get it” now, but I didn’t when I was a child.  My sister Ruth and I needed our parents so much after our sister died, but they weren’t able to provide us the love and support we needed.  They were suffering far too much and there was no real support for them at that time.

A scene that goes through my head is one that is hard to explain unless you actually saw it, but it will help you to understand just how much my mother suffered following the death of my sister.  The cemetery where my sister is buried was only a half-mile up the road from our home.  My mom would follow the same routine night after night after night.  She would load up our push mower in the back of the car, and go to the cemetery.  She’d unload the mower and push it back and forth  over my sister’s gravesite while sobbing, then screaming.  She would also bring a jug of wine with her and drink to numb her pain.  Keep in mind, her daughter had died and so had her marriage.

Nightly, it was my job to walk to the cemetery and pack up the mower, gather up my mother in my arms and get her home where I would try to put her to bed.  Her wails to God would often echo all through the night until she’d finally drift off into a fitful sleep.  When Ruthie and I lost Carmella, we also lost our mom and dad.     And, life was never again the same.  Not even close.

Because of my mom’s inability to regain a bit of life again, she lost her job.  When she lost her job, we lost our home.  From that point on, we never had a “home” to go to again.  She drifted from one-room apartments for the remainder of her days on face of this earth.  And, my dad moved away and distanced himself from everyone.

I’ve asked God a million times why — why did my sister have to die and begin such a domino effect of sadness in our family?  I haven’t gotten a reasonable answer yet, and doubt that I ever will — not in this life.

I just know that if I could change just one thing — I would change the fact that my sister died when she was thirteen!

Obviously, there were layers of pain added to this throughout the years in my life that all can be linked back to my sister’s death.  I ended up losing a son — which was my biggest fear following the death of my sister.  Many, many friends did not understand at all and went by the wayside of our family.  I’m sure we weren’t fun to be around, and most people went on with their own lives when we needed them most.

My sister’s death also effected the faith of others.  Many people began to question the meaning and purpose of prayer.

My family was instrumental in beginning a church in  our hometown.  That church remains intact to this day, but my own parents did not remain faithful to God for years and years following Carmella’s death.  What an irony!  We began the church and we were the ones who fell away from the church while the church that we started remained strong.

Yes, I wish my sister had never died!

I wish my sister never had a reason to die.  Why should any child suffer and be sick most of his/her life?  Why do children have to experience so much pain?  Why do parents have to suffer as they watch helplessly as their children suffer?

And, on and on the questions go.

And, so I’m left saying very confidently, “The one thing I would change in my life if I could is the fact that my sister died when she was thirteen.”

But, the one thing that I cannot ever change is the fact that my sister Carmella died.  And, so life remains a mystery.  Grief continues.  And, as each day unfolds I try to find the blessings in life rather than the pain because after living this many years I know that some questions will never be answered in this life.  Some things can never be changed.  We have to take the horrible with the good, and sometimes the horrible really does outweigh the good for a very, very long time.

Thank you dear friends of mine for reading this.  As I’ve said before, on this blog we will talk about the “un-talkables” — the questions that parents and families of child loss have, but are often too afraid to address for fear of being wrongfully judged or misunderstood.

The question posed today is a legitimate one.  It’s one that I feel is safe to say most of us have thought about time and time again.  Yet, we are so afraid to talk about it.  It’s time to break the chains of fear, break down the thick walls of grief, and become more transparent.  It’s time for us to support one another in our pain and as we do we will learn and grow together!

I welcome your comments and your thoughts on this topic of what one thing you would change in your life — if you could.  We all know that in reality we can never go back and change the death of a child.  But, what we can do is learn to face our fears and grief head on and by doing so release some of the hold that grief has over us!

My love to each one!


PS Be sure to check out the “Healing Foods” section of this site. A new recipe will be added this week!


  • chattylill

    Beautifully written and for me the one thing I would change is 1/17/14 I would have been paying more attention to have avoided the chain of events that lead to my daughter Nickie’s death.

    • Clara Hinton

      Thank you so much for your comment. If only we could go back in time…………..

      I’m so very sorry for the death of your daughter Nickie. My thoughts are with you.

  • Brenda

    Oh how I really needed to hear this today. My Faith in God is not the same anymore and I am so ashamed to admit it to anyone. I prayed so hard the night my baby girl died, that God would heal her little body, but she died. I have been so angry with God for so many years, but I know that will not bring her back. I live with my grief each day and will until I die. And it just does not seem to get any less, but as I get older I can’t wait until I see my precious baby girl in Heaven. I just hope that God will forgive me and I will finally know answers that I won’t know here on Earth. Thank you for allowing me to express myself here.

    • Clara Hinton

      Brenda, Thank you for your honest comment. I think we do feel shame and guilt for questioning God. But, truthfully, there’s nothing that makes sense about pain, suffering and death when it comes to our children. God understands and knows our hearts and I have full assurance we are not sinning by asking Him questions.

      I’m so very sorry for the loss of your little girl. Thank you for sharing a portion of your heart.

  • Kathy Brandenstein

    I think about this often also…. There are a couple things that I could have changed and my life would have been totally different, but the one thing that I would have changed would been better aware how to help my youngest son, when he started on drugs, if only I had gotten him treatment, into rehab…but I always tried, he wouldn’t go……if i had been more aware of the signs when he first started…..If only…. then maybe he would have gotten to meet his son, so many things he missed….and my whole life stopped…..

    • Clara Hinton

      Kathy, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son. We learn through our pain. You are now equipped to be aware of so many telltale signs of drug use and help others who don’t have that knowledge. It still pains us to the very core of our being that this awareness comes through death, though.

      So much pain, and so few answers. Again, I’m so very sorry.

    • Dee Dee Sheehan

      Dear Kathy,
      My 21 year old daughter went to Heaven last November. I ask myself similar questions: If I’d only stayed near her (I moved overseas 4 months before), wouldn’t I have been able to make sure she went to her doctor/ took her medication/ ate correctly/ didn’t drink/ paid attention to her lab work???? If we had been wiser about the affect of the steroids on her thinking….made her go to counseling as well….I had tried so, so, so many interventions…but she was SO headstrong….so difficult, ….yet so, so wonderful….I also have a 25 year old son who is addicted to opiates (though he takes meds for it) but is an active alcoholic presently (also depressed & anxious….unemployed….) You tried to help your son. I am so sorry for your grief and great loss. Surely there is good we can still bring to this world…and still receive from this world. It is so, so hard. My prayers are for you dear Kathy.

    • patricia

      If I could change thimgs. Kevin swopped shifts, he was a paramedic and should have been on the night shift. He changed to day shoft in order to go to a meeti g that eve ing. His ambulamce was hit ny a car that morning rolled andh e was the only one killed! He should have stuck to his night shift.

  • Melissa Trauth

    Wow this is a question I have asked myself a lot lately and I keep coming up with the same answer. I lost my son on 10/14/13 to a heroin over dose. The last year of his life was filled with relaps after relaps. He wanted to get better, for himself and for his son. My husband and I did everything we could have possibly done to help him. So the one thing I would go back and change is to realize that he had a problem sooner. Maybe if I had not been to busy with everyday life I would have seen that he needed help. Maybe before he even tried heroin. I would go back 9 yrs when he started getting in trouble at school. Because that is when his problems with drugs started. But I didn’t realize this until 2 yrs ago. As I sit and read your wise words I only hope that my other children do not suffer the loss of their brother over and over because of my grief now.

    • Dee Dee Sheehan

      Dear Melissa,
      It is the death of my 21 year old daughter, last November, that has sadly brought me to this site, but it was always my oldest, 25 year old son who I have feared would die, as he has been addicted to opiates for 7 years now. I can see from your note that you and your husband did the very best that you could in the circumstances you were in. I too have beaten myself up over his life (and my daughter’s death)….We sent him to 3 residential rehabs and 2 outpatient programs…but in the end, it is only himself that can pull him out of this. I sat here right now reiterating the importance to staying drug and alcohol free to my youngest 16 year old son…We can only do as much as we can. Please give yourself grace and love….You are obviously a beautiful mother who has had to endure incredible stress, sorrow, and pain, that most of your family and friends could not even begin to fathom. I know the horrible world of heroin and I am praying for you and your family right now. May God’s comfort be wrapped around you dear one.

      • Melissa Trauth

        Thank you Dee Dee, It has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, coming to the realization that my son was the only one who could have helped himself. As a parent we want to protect our children from all the bad things life will throw at them. But somethings they have to do for themselves. I will you keep you and your son in my prayers. You both have a long hard road ahead of you, but he needs to take the first step. God bless you!!

  • Susan Carr

    I would change the fact that my seemingly healthy vibrant 16 year old only child Justin Carr the swimmer, that talented visual and performing artist and an all around good kid had undiagnosed idiopathic hypertropic cardiomyopathy which caused his sudden death 2/22/13.

  • Karen

    I would have called my son on that Sunday and told him how much I loved him. Maybe this would have changed his mind from going out that night. He was such a good person, he touched so many lives. He should have lived longer than 25 yrs. I miss him terribly.

    • Clara Hinton

      Karen, I’ve found that I’ve learned so much since the deaths of my sister and my son about saying “I love you” to my children and often even my friends. My heart aches, as yours does I’m sure, that death is our reminder. 🙁

  • Rita Bleicher

    “And life was never the same again”. These words ring so true. My son past July 2014. The relationship with my husband, my daughter and my son have changed. My daughter said she can’t imagine how I’m managing while she was looking at her little girls. She was uncomfortable to tell me she was pregnant, bringing a new life into the world. Friends and neighbors are uncomfortable too. What are they worried about? I don’t have a communicable disease! Why did these people promise to keep in touch right after the death and now they scurry away faster than a jack rabbit?
    Daughter in law is uncomfortable. Can’t I be part of the lives of my baby’s children?
    Yes, “And life was never the same again”.

    • Clara Hinton

      Rita, I’m so very sorry.

      Most often I think others are so afraid to bring up the topic of the death of our child thinking they’re going to make us sad. What they don’t realize is the fact that we’re always thinking of our child — always — and we want to know that others are too!

      I hope that your friends and family will surround you with the love and encouragement you need!

  • Nancy K.

    The sudden death of my 25 year old daughter last July due to a pulmonary embolism would be the one thing I would change. The other would be the car accident a few months earlier that caused the eventual blood clot would be another thing I would change. I loved this article. It was almost as if I was reading things I am experiencing. I had an extremely strong faith in God until my Nicole died. Although I still believe and do pray, I feel my faith was dramatically shaken. Praying isn’t the same and I am glad there are others who experience this. But now I live with guilt for that too. Hard to explain, even to myself. I question how God could take someone who was doing His work on earth and who was so young and just getting started in her professional life and was so passionate about helping others. I also can’t comprehend how it seems He forgot about me and the pain I am enduring. I just take things day by day and it’s so hard without her here. I miss her so very much.

    • Clara Hinton

      Nancy, Thank you so much for your comment. I think this is something many, many of us struggle with daily and we’re often too afraid to admit because it does make us feel afraid. My prayer life has been greatly altered — actually for the better, I believe. I used to have “begging prayers” and “nagging prayers” and “prayers of fear”, but now I pray for me to have the strength to endure God’s will for my life. And, my talks with God through prayer are often explaining to Him that I don’t understand Him. I don’t feel guilt over saying this, and I hope you will shed your guilt, too.

      I think a lot of us are anxious for that moment when we can sit at the feet of our Lord and listen as He answers our questions.

      I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your daughter. She sounds like such a special young woman. And, child loss never makes sense — ever! 🙁

  • dawnopfer

    Of course if I could change one thing, it would have been for Stephen not to die, but if I couldn’t have that one thing – I’d at least have wanted to see him one more time, or have his car not have caught fire so we could have had a body to say goodbye to.

    • Clara Hinton

      Dawn, I’m so very sorry for the tragic loss of your Stephen. I wish so much things were different for you. Very rarely do parents mention about the importance of having a body to say good-by to because usually people assume that’s a given. But, as you’ve shared so beautifully, you didn’t get that chance. I’m so sorry you didn’t have the opportunity to view Stephen’s body. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Mike

    I was off working and had the chance to come home the night before and I didn’t. Wish I had so could have seen him just one more time!

    • Clara Hinton

      Mike, I think that “one more time” is the cry of each of us. How many times I’ve fallen to my knees with that wish …. just “one more time.”

      I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your son.

  • janice heard

    IF i could have one thing back and i know every parent would agree with me is having your child back but we know we can’t i remember when i talk to my daughter that day she was so excited about meeting my family we was having a birthday and a family reunion the nexts day she was so happy i talk to her about an hour before her accident happen she was showing off her dress to my my son and saying bubba is my dress pretty and they were laughing and she got ready to leave his house not even 5 minutes from his house she left the road and hit a tree she was in icu for 11 days we had to make that choice that is another thing that i wish we could take back she never got to meet my side of the family and it will be 2 yrs the end of march she was 21yrs old and full of life i miss her so much i don’t think i could put a family reunion together again it hurts so bad my heart aches for everyone that has lost a child that we all love so much.

    • Deirdre

      I am so sorry for your loss and pain. I can see from you words your daughter was well loved and a beautiful person. I too, lost my 21 year old daughter Nov. 2013. Her name is Claire.
      Jesus made the way for us to return to happiness in our post-Earthly lives…and actually be far, far more joyful and at peace than we ever were on Earth. There we will see our loved ones again!!! We cry, but we await with hope and assurance. May God give you knowledge, wisdom, and strength.

  • Barbara Zajicek

    If I could change one thing in this life…I think it would be I wish I didnt have addiction. I would have different type of thinking. I probably would have self esteem, i wouldnt think i was worthless all the time. I wouldnt have live in fear of what others think. AND MAYBE MY SON WOULD NOT BE AN ADDICT AND JUST MAYBE HE WOULD BE ALIVE TODAY.

    • Clara Hinton

      Barbara, I can feel the pain in your heart and the struggles in your life as you’ve written these words. Addiction is so hard to understand and just thinking that possibly we’ve passed on those addictive genes to a child of ours is heartbreaking. I do believe that certain people are more prone to addiction than others, but we still have individual choices we can make. Maybe your son didn’t know how to reach out for proper help. Again, I’m so very, very sorry. Addiction is a grief all its own, and unless someone has lived it, they really don’t understand.

      I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son. You’re close in my thoughts and prayers.

    • Deirdre

      You are a lovely, beautiful person. Don’t let the darkness tell you otherwise. You are made in the image of God. May his LOVE wash over you. He loves you just as you are now. On this Easter weekend, I pray you will find hope and wholeness. We all need this Divine love and it is here for us. We cry, we grieve, but take courage, God has overcome the darkness


  • Stephanie

    If I could change one thing.. I would want to change the fact that my daughter got polycystic kidney disease when I was 25 weeks pregnant with her. Because of this awful disease I didn’t have any fluid so her lungs didn’t develop. I tried so hard to have faith that God would heal her I told myself God wouldn’t give me the daughter I prayed for, dreamed of just to take her away. They told me I wouldn’t even get pregnant and then after a year and a half of trying I did! They said I would have a miscarriage in the beginning but I didn’t! So after all that surly SURLY God wouldn’t take her from me now! The doctors said there was no hope but still I held on thinking no they just don’t get it God’s going to let her live! Chloe was born early at 33 weeks November 16th 2013 she lived for 1 hour 27 mins but never took a breath I held her.. loved her.. felt her heart beat stop, felt her go cold, watched her as she slipped from this world into God’s hands and turn a shade of purple that I never want to see again.. I just couldn’t believe after everything she was gone.. was there something I did wrong? Was there something I could have done to save her? Maybe if I was a better person? Maybe if I had more faith? Maybe if I had died she could have lived? WHY? Why did she have to die? I don’t understand I had faith I knew what faith was I had seen God do miracles so I knew he could do this.. But he didn’t heal her or not in the way I had wanted he took her into his arms and loved her so much that he couldn’t give her back.. My 7 year old son told me don’t worry mommy you will always be her mom she always be your daughter and heavens not a bad place she will be happy and healthy there… my 7 year old could understand this he could grasp this he was okay with this because he knew without a doubt that his sister was in heaven he knew without a doubt that she was okay now.. THIS is what helped me in my times of grief what stopped me from ranting and raving at God what showed me God healed her just not as I had planed. I still have my moments I still cry for her I still grieve for her I still just want to hold her and do all the things mothers get to do with their daughters but for me this will never be.. This is what I would change.. This is what I can never change..

  • sonya bray

    If I could change one thing in life my 22 year old son would not have died I love and miss you coty austin bray

  • Andrew

    Hi Everyone, I’ve read your comments and I can empathize with all of you as I lost my mother to a rare form of cancer and all i can remember was the pain that she went through and the countless prayers i made to God for her healing to no avail. I myself have questioned the point of prayer especially as God always has the final say. If I could turn back time I would have my mother back in a heartbeat as she was a wonderful mum and woman who raised me by herself. I miss you Dear Mama you are loved and appreciated.