How Do You Overcome Losing a Child?
Facing the Indescribable
Losing a child is a horrific experience no parent should ever have to face.
It is one of the most unnatural things that can happen to a parent, particularly a woman. It's something many people fear at one time or another, but probably never expect to actually experience.
Unfortunately, I've been there. I have faced the gut-wrenching pain of losing a child. My son died just two weeks before his 13th birthday. He was my oldest child and would have been 22 now.
You don't ever get over the loss, and parts of you may never accept it, but you always find a ways to cope with it the best you can. I'm not saying it's easy, because it's not. In fact, it may end up being the toughest thing you'll ever endure.
Overcoming the Fear after Losing a Child
For me to begin get over the fear of losing a child and the worry of ever losing another, I had to educate myself. I had to read about other people's experiences. I was compelled to read opinions about life after death, different philosophies, etc. I was reaching, no grasping, for anything, anything at all, that would give me even a sliver of hope. I needed hope that things were going to be ok, hope that I could begin to make some sense of these feelings I was feeling. I had so many questions about why. Why did this have to happen? Why me? Why my son?
I tried to attend local grief support meetings, but I personally did not find them helpful. I do recommend you try it, but don't feel you have to continue if you don't find it helpful. For me, I found it to primarily to be a pity party where everyone was competing to see who had the worst situation. I'm sure it was just this particular group of people and there are probably some wonderful groups that provide lots of support and information for their members. I just found that I didn't want to wallow in self-pity month after month. I wanted hope. I wanted to know that Kevin was ok and I'd eventually be ok. Not perfect, not like we were, but at least ok.
I felt most comfortable searching online and found a wonderful website that helped me tremendously in those early days. The link to this site's message boards is listed below. What I liked about the site is that they have separate sections for people experiencing different types of losses. This allows you to chat with others experiencing a similar loss to you. I'm sure you can appreciate how different it might be to lose a child to cancer versus losing one to an accident to losing one from violence. They all share some core issues, but they each have different emotional needs because of their specific circumstances. Another thing I liked about turning to an online site was that it allowed me that little bit of anonymity allowing me to feel freer to say what I really felt and was able to sit and cry as I read other people's stories. It made me appreciate the 'good' in my own situation as I saw how bad others had it. Those little things meant a lot.
The Seven Stages of Grief
First, it's important to understand that grieving is a process and that process takes time. Every person travels through this process at a different rate. Do not ever try to compare yourself to anyone else to determine how well you're doing. If you're progressing, even slowly, then you're doing just fine. Stay focused on your own recovery.
1. Shock & Denial - At first, losing someone seems unreal. You can't believe it's happened. You play and re-play all of the events that lead up to finding out over and over in your head. You will analyze every word said, every action performed, every detail no matter how small will be examined. You are looking for anything that will make sense. In those early moments, nothing will make sense and you begin to deny it happened and try to convince yourself it was just a dream. You will insist that this can't be happening to you. Not today, not now, you're not ready. You will tell yourself that you cannot handle this.
2.Pain & Guilt - Next the pain sets in. Your stomach hurts or it can feel hollow and numb. You ache inside and nothing soothes it. You begin to blame yourself for their loss. You wonder what you could have done, even should have done, to have prevented it. Without thinking about it, you try accept responsibility and insist that you somehow let them down and if you had just done one thing differently, they'd still be here. You'll shed a lot of tears at this stage.
3. Anger & Bargaining - At this stage, you become angry and indignant. You insist on having answers. You want someone to explain it, you want someone to fix it. You want someone to take responsibility because it just isn't fair. You are willing to make deals with God, the devil, or anyone else if it will just bring them back. And you want it now.
4.Depression & Loneliness - The realization of what's happened begins to set in. You are beginning to accept that they're not coming back. You begin to think about life without them. You experience depression and a gloomy sadness weaves it's way into your everyday routine. You reflect back on how things used to be and try to reconcile it to how things are going to be now without them.
5.Making a Turn - At this stage, you've figured out that life is going on around you whether or not you're fully participating in it. You begin to think about trying to feel better, but you almost feeling guilty for doing it. You start thinking about what the deceased person would have wanted. Would they want you to still be depressed, or would they expect you to carry on?
6. Rebuilding and Working Through It - At this point, you've decided it's time to move on with your life. You begin to create ways to find moments of happiness that still honor their memory. There is a certain respect that you have for the one who has died. You begin to see your work at getting better as something they would be proud of and you feel good about doing it.
7. Acceptance & Hope - At this stage, you have accepted their death and you realize that blaming anyone (including yourself) doesn't bring them back. You realize that life does go on and you will be ok. You have hope for your future, even though your future no longer includes them. You honor their memory with loving thoughts of them. You are proud of yourself for being a survivor. You still miss them, you still wish they were here, but you understand that things will have to be ok like they are.
Sometimes, you'll go through several of the stages all in the one day. Sometimes it may take months to get through one stage. The important thing to understand is that the healing takes time. Give it as much time as you need. Don't get upset with yourself for feeling what you feel. Others may or may not understand what you're feeling. Some may tell you that you're being silly, or ridiculous, or irrational. Don't listen to them. Honor each feeling you have. Only someone in your shoes can appreciate what you're going through.
In a Nutshell
In a nutshell, to begin to cope with the fear of losing a child is to seek more information. Find someone to talk to, in person, or online. Whatever makes you the most comfortable is the best option for you.
Discuss your feelings in whatever environment allows you to express them best. There are no right or wrong feelings, but all of your various emotions deserve proper recognition as you begin to cope with them.
Lastly, time really does heal all wounds and fears. They all subside if you allow them. I'm not saying you'll ever forget, because I promise you won't. But, as time goes on you'll learn to cope with things better. The tears no longer flow as quickly or last as long. The beautiful memories of your child become more and more precious.
Helpful information & Links:
- A Mother's Grief by Fellow Hubber Mekenzie
It was Mother's Day and I was having fun and enjoying my kids and grandkids; when out of the blue .. my thoughts went to Kelly. What was she experiencing this Mothers Day? She had just lost her second baby...
- Beyond Indigo Message Boards
I found this site particularlly helpful. They have a category for different types of losses.