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On Losing a Child

Cindy Haines, Chief Medical Officer of HealthDay and Managing Editor of Physician’s Briefing recently remarked that “Grief is an inevitable component of life lived fully. It is a rare soul, indeed, who passes through unscathed. But losing a child ranks at the top of the hardest to bear.”

I have thought about this so often: What I would do if one of my kids died before me? I can’t begin to appreciate the pain, the heartache, a bereaved mother or father must feel, and the reserve of strength and determination that is needed to forge ahead.

I know that many of my readers have mourned the loss of their children. Several have asked me to write on this topic. However, as I am a mental-health blogger with two healthy children, I thought it best to get some help from a woman I do know that has lived through this and emerged on the other side successfully.

I sat her down for coffee the other morning and interrogated her.

28 Comments to
On Losing a Child

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  1. Therese, Good for Ms. Dot to keep going and helping other parents who have lost children and good for you to write about a subject that no parent wants to consider. My daughter Katie died of a brain tumor she lived with for 10 years but not before she lived a 1,000 lifetimes of good. Katie was my hero.

    I am also a grief specialist who practices what I share with other bereaved parents. I began a group called “Mothers Finding Meaning Again” and we have been meeting for over a year now and what we find together is strength and meaning to what feels senseless. I’ve written a book When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir on Love, Loss and Life (Simple Abundance Press) because I felt compelled to give a first person account to the loss and grief of a beloved child and take a reader out of the darkness and back into his or her life once more.

    There is a blog on my website and some consolation there, too, for anyone who wants to stop by.

  2. I lost my son to suicide three years ago. The first year was indeed unbelievably hard. I wanted to see him and hug him, and thinking about not being able to was unbearable. But looking back I can see that it has indeed become easier to bear. It doesn’t mean I care less but I do cry less, and I am able to find moments of joy.
    My website is called Surviving a Loss.

  3. My only child, my daughter Serena, died when she was 16 in a car accident. I suffered from guilt along with the grief which complicated surviving her death. Irrationally, I kept thinking I should have put her in the front seat and then she would have lived instead of me. Irrational because she almost always sat in the back seat when there were three of us and because I couldn’t have known we would have a deadly accident.

    Grief crippled me. I was in a clinically depressed state for two years after her death. I finally recovered but it was a long, hard road. I still miss her, I grieve for her. On her birthday and the anniversary of her death I buy her flowers. I will always remember her life.

    • I can totally relate to your posting…. I too lost a daughter in the car accident in 2004. I was driving, I was avoiding a animal and rolled our SUV. She died instantly … her younger sister and herself were in the back…. I have came through a lot of pain and anger learning to deal with loosing a child and finding a future.. I think about her all the time and miss her horribly… please visit her website and hang in there , when our time here is done we will be with them again. God needed them for something more important then being our children.Stay strong remember we are different because we lost a child. OOOXXX

  4. This was a wonderful story.I lost my firstborn
    son 27yrs old this February 2010. I was a crossing lady a few years ago.My son was so well thought of
    in his group of friends.So I feel very much for Dot
    and for me and those that get left behind.I do feel
    a sense of something I dont know what to name because
    my son had negative 100 feelings about his self worth
    but he hid it so well.He self harmed but his death
    wasnt suicide.He was found in his car with the windows down.Somehow his life just gave out.Warm thoughts for others out there going thru this loss.

  5. this article is truly how I “know” grief to be. i have never lost a child but i have friends that have and watched their pain and agony. Seeing it never has closure nor do they get over it. the worst pain I experienced was my sisters death and the call Christmas eve this past 2009. The dysfunction of my parents acting like I expected is crushing. My mother I have not seen or spoken to in too many years to count. the phone call i made to her caught her off guard and she expressed desire to go to the service. She then never called or took my call and did not appear at the mass. I have had no further contact. She told me not to call, write or email. My father wanted the service but all his actions and words display what do you expect if you are a drug addict? she was 51. at the last years of her life i was the only person loving her enough to call for welfare checks etc… Funny I just started to cry how could my parents not care? My father angry at the tangled money mess from her wealth spent away. I suggest my parents are in some sort of denial / blocked area as to pertaining to my sisters problems that lead to drugs. I know of no support groups to deal with parents that say, “go away” or “life goes on so forget it.” “so what if we her birth date on the mass card is wrong?” “I don’t one care.” truth I wonder if anyone else had parents like mine.

  6. I lost my only adult son two years ago. His loss is a scab on my heart. I doubt if there will ever be a scar. Every now and then the scab is torn off by something I see or hear, I bleed and a new scab is formed. I still find it hard to believe I have gone on with life, after losing him, but I have.

  7. we lost are son in august 2008 in a helicopter crash,in fact there was nine that died that day.they were wildland firefighters.losing a child is the hardest thing that i have ever been through.he was our only son though we are blessed with three daughters.before the crash my son graduated from college and was married five weeks before.having family and friends come to the wedding just to turn around a month later for the funeral.its been two years and the first year was unspeakable grief,going through this second year has been much healing.the thing is it has affected my whole family,and if it wasn’t for compassionate friends and prayer i don’t know where we would a time where i know the necessity to draw close to my immediate family it has done the opposite with everyone struggling with their own grief.i am so sorry for all that struggle with losing a child,but losing a spouse or sibling hurts just the same.everyones pain is real as the only suggestion is to show compassion and mercy and love,and to just listen and be their for those much has been said with the right intentions by people who haven’t been their or don’t have a clue of the deep deep hurt you have, so for all those people who have all their credentials or ministerial watch what you say and let them see your love through the window to the soul. god bless and their is light at the end of the tunnel

  8. THE PRAYER REGISTRY! Please see my website and read about The Prayer Registry. This free website service is dedicated to all of the families who have lost children, whatever age that child was when they passed. This site registers the anniversary day of our children’s crossing. The members of this online community,the Prayer Team, have the opportunity to honor their child’s legacy, connect with other bereaved parents, and participate in world-wide group prayer for every registered loved one on the anniversary day of their passing.

    There is no charge for this service; it is my sincere hope that every bereaved parent who registers a child will join the Prayer Team and be a source of prayer for all of the children on the other side. Each time another child is registered, the Prayer Team grows larger and stronger.

    Please email Sheri at [email protected] to register your loved one on The Prayer Registry. By registering, you will have a forum to connect to other bereaved parents and you will be able to upload comments, photographs, biographies, or any other information you want to share about your child with our community of bereaved parents. Once registered, you will be a member of the Prayer Team and will receive Prayer Registry reminders one day before the anniversary day of one of our kids.

    Please feel free to email any questions, concerns or feelings that you would like to share. My door is always open. I hope that this site provides some small measure of balm for the wounds of loss. From one bereaved parent to another, I welcome you to my site and offer my support.

    This is one club that none of us would join by choice, but since we find ourselves in this unthinkable place, we stand stronger when we stand side by side.

  9. Thanks so much for all of the various experiences! I lost my 18 year old son on May 11th, 2011. Not quite two months ago. My wife and I have two other wonderful children, but Chase was our youngest. I have not been fully able to express to anyone how I really feel. But it is a pain, and an emptiness that is indescribable. He was a talented musican, and singer, so full of promise. We have found just enough strength to make it day by day.

    • Terry , That is all you can do!!

    • We lost our beautiful 7 year old son on may 10, 2011. He has c
      Visited us and tried to comfort us in many ways but the pain and shock are so much

    • We just lost our son, a talented, happy, funny, awsome 18 year old taken long before his time, he hugged, kissed us told us he loved us and left from our cain for a hockey camp. full of energy life and future… and in less then 2 hours we recieved acall to say he was gone…I still can’t believe it, it hurts so much, I can’t look too long at his pictures one day and can’t stop lookng the next… we adopted Jeff at 18 months after waiting 7 years for placement, I don’t understand how I could fight sooo hard to get a child and have him taken from me, I am not with out Thanks I did give birth to a son, his big brother,13 years before, and then was blessed with adoption 4 years later with a daughter,who both are so grief sticken,I have to find some sence in all this but can’t but don’t think I will, they say a No fault accident, wrong place at the same time, it was 9 am, just so wrong… so sad so pain full so dumb…

  10. My darling daughter died almost 2 years ago.She was 32 years old. There is a hole in my soul. But she left two beautiful children for me to love endlessly. For the first time tonight I looked at her funeral vistor book and I do not remember most of the people there. I was in shock and in many ways I still am.

    • Grace my daughter was shoot in 1996 and died in 1998. She had seven little children which I raised. At the time of the shooting her children was 13, 12, 11, 9, 8, 7, and 6. I can truely say I know how you felt when you said it felt like a hole in your soul. I was very bitter with the world. But when I forgave her boyfriend, God open windows and doors for the children and I. You know I actully felt what he was going through in that jail and prison system. My heart cried for him, I felt his pain. I never understood why I was feeling his pain, and he shoot my daughter. I knew it was not me,it was the Jesus in me.

  11. I lost my son Blaine on October 30,2010, 376 days ago. He was 26 years old and in near perfect health, 6’7″ tall and 185lbs+/-, handsome, bright, witty, funny, loving, and a great joy to be around. He died in his sleep of S.A.D.S (sudden arrhythmic death syndrome). Lends new meaning to that silly childhood prayer “…now I lay me down to sleep, I pray The Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake …”. Today, over a year later I have much to be thankful for. I thank The Lord I had Blaine for 26 years. I thank The Lord Blaine had such a great life during his short time here. I thank The Lord for the merciful way He called Blaine home. I thank The Lord for where He took Blaine to. I thank The Lord for the hope of salvation, and the promise of eternal life. When we were all in the womb we had no concept of the world beyond us. We had no knowledge of life outside of our mother. We knew there was something out there, but we could not comprehend what it was. Birth took us to a new dimension, a new place. A place we could not comprehend during our life in the womb. Death, I think is no different. When we die, our lives change, but they do not end. And although we can not comprehend what lies on this other side, God made us a promise, the promise of eternal life. Our children are all there, where all is perfect. If we, as parents, find this purpose here, we will be reunited with our lovely children there, in the peaceful presents of The Lord. Therefore, try to find a way to be thankful. I have now lost two children. I still find a way to be thankful. The only thing I want now, is to be reunited with my children in Gods’ Kingdom. I work hard everyday to see this thing through. It is my purpose.

  12. I stumbled upon this website and I am saddened to hear of all the loss. We lost our son December 21, 2007 4 days before Christmas. The day will be here in 2 days. Even though it has been 5 years I will tell you for some reason this year is as hard as the initial hearing from the officers. Maybe I thought 5 years was the magic number where it’s not suppose to hurt this much anymore but dear God it hurts so much. Two 19 year old guys were street racing in Orlando when one lost control went over the median went airborne and landed on top of our son killing him instantly, he didn’t know what hit him. The kid killed 2 people in the wreck. He was going over 100 miles an hour BUT his attorney got him to walk!!! Not even a slap on the wrist. After being in a courtroom and watching our legal system it’s a joke. He left a 2 year old daughter who I see him every time I look at her face. She wants her daddy. Thank God for family friends and a strong belief or there is no getting thru this. I feel a lot of resentment sadness. I use to be the “fun loving life loving” friend everyone said they wish they could be like since I celebrate everyday. But that is gone and I need it back.

  13. I lost my baby a few days before I got to meet him I know it’s not the same but the pain is there I can’t seem to get over it that day plays over and over again in my mind x

  14. It’s been almost 5 yrs since my only son died. He enlisted in the USMC at age of 25. I flipped out said why didn’t you tell me you would have stuffed me in suitcase and taken me to another country. One year after enlisting he died. I repressed my feelings thinking I was tough and had to be for my daughter’s but my ex and daughters didn’t speak much to me. The other day when I realized I had to much on my plate, major surgery, can’t work, feel like I’m a burden to my boyfriend, can’t drive yet cooped up, holidays, no family to spend it with I’m alone. I feel like I’m in quicksand and at first want to fight my way out but then I raise my hands and let it take peaceful to be with son. The ONLY reason I’m fighting to live is one word KAYLEIGH my youngest daughters child my first grandchild. My ex husband who was close to KAYLEIGH died few years after Robert died. I can’t leave her the legacy of losing another grandparent. She doesn’t realize it but she gives me a gift every day even though she is 3hrs away. She has given me the gift to fight. She is only 5yrs old but I will write her a letter for her to read when she’s 18 to let her know the gift she gave her MiMi every day even she didn’t know she was doing it. So I made a conscious decision to start bereavement counseling. They want me on anti depressants but I don’t want to mask my grief. She said it would help. If I stop crying for Robert, laugh it means I’m forgetting him. I’ll get through Christmas, I’ll get through March 2nd day he died, March 22nd his b’day, Valentine’s day surprise at 4:30 in morning before heading out. I answered do it and there he was in dress blues saying “Happy Valentine’s day momee(his unique way of spelling mommy)your not alone I’m here to spend it with the woman I love the most. I was fortunate God gave me that weekends 18 days before he died. I can’t forget him and I feel the anti depressants will do that

  15. I lost my middle son Steven just one month ago. He was murdered for no other reason than an argument with a stranger. Everyone one says it will get easer but it will take awhile. How do you get thru now?

    • Cheryl, pray for him. This will make you feeling him closer. I unexpectedly lost my dad 2 years ago and what helps me is to speak to him, telling him how my life works and especially to pray for his soul. I close my eyes and I smile to him from deep inside. Their spirits feel us, in the way telepathy functions. It’s a direct communication, more than when you are both in flesh and blood, because there is no more noise in their minds. So send him a landscape, a beautiful image, a song, many smiles, everything related to good feelings. Just use your mind as an instrument, after you empty it from other thoughts. But send the emotion. Breath, relaxed. Focus on you chest, where the emotion is. I feel he’s smiling back to me. Sometimes (very rarely lately) I dream him, talking to me. One day I ignored my alarm so I was almost late for my exam. Then I had a dream and he was throwing a newspaper towards me. The shock made me to wake up. I thanked him for his care. There is life after death, this is what I think. Pray for them, even for a few seconds, when you miss them and you guys will see how a new energy comes to you. Make little food gifts to other people in their name. Be better persons for them. Think to value yourselves and others more for them, for their souls. And I think there is a destiny (at least when it comes to death). I think you can’t change that. So don’t feel guilty for anything that you did or didn’t do. It had to happen like this for a reason that right now we don’t have access to. In my father’s case, it’s unbelievable how many things came together, preparing his death. Including that he was alone when he had the stroke. It’s not in your power to avoid someone’s death. When it has to happen, it happens. May them all be with God now and forever!

    • Cheryl, my thoughts are with you. I can only say that you have to take each day as it comes, and cry and weep whenever you need to. The loss will always be there, but the sharpness of the pain will ease with time. Please use your friends and professional counsellors to let you talk, talk, talk, and cry, cry, cry. It’s a very long road but eventually it will ease. Wendy x

  16. I just lost my 18 year old son in Dec of 13 ,he had a heart attack for no reason! Just like that my son is gone ,life is so hard , I cry daily how can I subside this unbearable pain ?

  17. Cheryl, you break it down to as small time periods as you need. I use to say that i can get through this hour , eventually a day then longer. I also recommend either grief counseling , group or private. It does help to have someone to speak with, a lot. If you have a good friend they can help …
    some people get better by remembering or doing something in the person’s name. Others, like my mother, could not and would not allow anyone to even mention my brother’s name. She get hostile when friends would give sympathy.
    I hope it is bit better. I should say, you do not cry so much but the pain will always be just as bad.
    Yesterday was my brother’s death 26 anniversary, and it still was something i recalled. I was able to spend most of the day fine only few times with tears.
    Stating that, i like to say that siblings when you lose one very young is very hard, extremely hard. Losing anyone you love young, is just very hard. I am glad that my brother was able to have most of his deepest dreams fulfilled. His daughter is about to become a parent herself shortly…i just wish he had been able to see his own children grow up.
    one thing i realized now too is that it is not that unusual for children to die before their parents, sadly.

  18. I am most impressed by your article Cindy and how honest of you to say that while you make these comments you have actually never experienced this Cindy I though your article was well written with great understanding and compassion
    It is so sad that there is no word in the dictionary to describe it.
    Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my son but I don’t dwell on it but move on with my life as he would want.
    He has had three kidney transplants the last with me as a donor. He never complained and to my wife and self we are consoled by the facts that he never had a painful death and will no longer suffer
    We are fortunate that we have never suffered some of the tragedies as some of the people have who have written to you
    To all these people I send them my best wishes and realize how hard their loss is but try to keep busy

  19. Dreams and prayers are just so much bullshit to me. The supernatural is of no comfort over the loss of my daughter to murder and as a thinking human being, I’m insulted that you think it should be. I can’t just choose to believe such nonsense because ‘it would be nice if it were true’ like some of you. Premature death of a loved one is a horrible ordeal, not made any easier by fanciful guff.

    • Dear H t D, I’m so sorry for your loss. What you’re going through is the worst thing anyone can go through, and I wish I could say something to make you feel better. Your daughter was murdered and so of course there is much anger you have to deal with.

      I too have to fight against anger because of why my son killed himself. Won’t go into too much of the story because it’s so long, and I’m in the midst of dealing with it now. My son took his life a little over 9 months ago. He was on Ambien, and though he was depressed, and he had told me during a very difficult time about 11 months earlier that he wanted to kill himself, I don’t think he would have done it if he hadn’t been on this drug, and if he wouldn’t have been depressed he wouldn’t have been on Ambien and he wouldn’t have killed himself. If he wouldn’t have gone back to his situation he’d be alive now. The list of things go on and on. Many days I don’t know how I’ll make it, I really don’t want to be here. It’s a vicious circle of if only’s and praying forgiveness.

      I DON”T believe in mediums or any sort of psychic. BUT, I do believe in God and I’ve heard from many Christians that God allows them to have dreams where they know their children are okay. I haven’t had one yet, but when I pray I ask God to help me feel his love surround my son. I feel it, although life is life and so I just have to keep praying.

      Nothing will take away the pain, but I’m fighting to deal with it: I just want to say what has kept me from dying of a broken heart, or letting anger take over is to read Scripture and pray first thing in the morning and just before bed. I keep a bible verse in my bed and read it the moment i awake before all the memories become too vivid, before I may in fact go crazy. I listen to a Christian television like Power Point, Michael Yousif, or on the radaio: Alistiar Begg and Chuck Swindle. THESE things are what have kept me going. I’ve joined groups online and talk to other grieving mothers, and that helps because only those who have lost a child can know of the wrenching pain that is ours. Some people say that after a few years it gets better. I don’t believe that. I believe we just become better at distracting our minds. I believe God made our mins so that we are able to do this.

      I will pray for you and hope you’ll consider what I’ve said.

  20. Sorry I should have edited the previous comment before I hit send.

  21. I was a single father for 16 years. Today is the fifth anniversary of my son’s death. I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog, it really hits home. The best advice that I can give to anyone struggling with this loss is to accept that you will never “get over it”, so don’t put that pressure on yourself. However, you can live life after it. That life will be different for each person, and that’s okay. We were all different before our loss. Embrace the great memories and open yourself to the possibilities of a great future. Best wishes to you all.



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