Monday, June 22, 2020

In Grief: Loving My Baby While Mourning My Son

[Reviewed and updated June 22, 2021]

There's no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were. 
 ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower 

A reader writes: My son, who I raised as a single mom for 17 1/2 years was killed in a totally avoidable car accident last January. This boy was the reason for my life--my rock-- I had to get it together for him--and keep it going for all the years of his life. Although I have a 6-month-old daughter (my son was killed when she was 2 months old) I am having an adjustment problem--as life without my son, my best friend, my heart--is hard to buy into.

I am striving to accept the afterlife ideas, and "know" he is with me always, and our relationship has simply changed- from the physical to the spiritual- and that he will be waiting for me with open arms when my day comes. It has been a long almost 5 months- 18th birthday, grad night, graduation, prom...all that payoff stuff parents of 17 yr olds have been waiting for. I have constructed an online memorial site for him, purchased memorial bricks and plaques at the local park, had an 18th "birthday / graduation" gathering of friends--his friends planted an oak tree in front of our house decorated with bricks painted at the gathering, we have a butterfly garden......and I still am lacking in will to live. 

I know my son wants me to do a good job raising his sister, and as I go through the motions, I can feel no passion-- the passion I had when raising my son. Does anyone get it? Any suggestions for our lives now without the physical presence of the children we love so very much? How do we live with this- and have some quality of life? 

My response: My dear one, you may already be aware of what I’m about to say, and if so please forgive me if I’m telling you what you already know. I want to offer these suggestions anyway, as I think it’s important that others who may be reading this know about them, too. In addition to joining our online Loss of a Child Forum, I hope you have found someone to talk to face-to-face about this. The mourning that accompanies the death of a child is particularly intense, complicated and long-lasting, and it is difficult enough without having to do it all alone. Sharing your feelings, reactions and experiences with another (a trusted friend or family member, a qualified grief counselor, a clergy person or in an in-person support group) gives you a safe place to express yourself, helps you understand that what you're feeling is normal, and may give you the hope that if others have found a way to survive an unspeakable loss like this, then you will find your own way, too.

If you're willing to consider joining a support group where you'll feel welcome and understood, I can think of no better place than The Compassionate Friends, because it is comprised of other grieving parents.

You might begin by contacting your local library, mortuary or hospice organization to find out what bereavement resources are available in your own community. See if there is a local chapter of The Compassionate Friends where you live; you can do so by clicking on TCF's Online Chapter Locator.

I don't know if you've had an opportunity to explore the Death of A Child page on my Grief Healing Web site, but if not I hope you will do so ~ the site offers information, comfort and support to those who are mourning the loss of a loved one, as well as links to many other wonderful sites, each of which I've reviewed personally. See especially these sites developed by parents whose feelings and experiences may be similar to your own:
Many bereaved parents have their own stories to tell, and dozens of books have been written by those whose children have died. These wonderful sources of hope and healing are as near as the Bereavement section of your local library or bookstore. Below are some I’ve read myself and personally recommend. Clicking on the titles will take you to Amazon's description and reviews of each:
You say that you feel no passion as you go through the motions of caring for your baby. Since you've been mourning the death of your son for most of your daughter's very short life, I'm not surprised to learn that "going through the motions" is all that you can muster right now. A certain period of "feeling blue" is not unusual following a pregnancy. Given your circumstances, however, you are particularly at risk for developing postpartum depression. I hope that you are keeping your obstetrician and your pediatrician informed as to what's going on in your life, following their advice, and doing all you can to take good care of yourself physically as well as emotionally. Your memorial site for your boy is profoundly moving and beautiful, and what a lovely tribute to your beloved son. I hope and pray that all the memories that are presented there by those who knew and loved him will bring you some small measure of comfort, and shelter you just a bit from the indescribable pain that is raining down upon you.

I have no profound answer as to how you live with this, other than to acknowledge what you’re already doing and pay you my deepest respect for that. As you already know, we bereaved mothers do this just as you are doing it now: one day at a time, and if that is too much, one hour or even just one moment at a time. I happen to think that someone in your shoes deserves a medal of honor just for having the courage to get out of bed in the morning. Please know that I am thinking of you, pulling for you and holding you in my heart.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here.

Image by Nico Wall from Pixabay 
© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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