The Unthinkable: Dealing with the Loss of a Child

What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.

Helen Keller

One of the worst pains that anyone can endure is undoubtedly the loss of a child.  Each year statistics show that about 53,000 parents face the loss of a child in the U.S.  As the mother of two, the thought is just inconceivable to me.

LND.jpegIt doesn’t matter if the child is young or an adult, parents are supposed to go before their children.  My father’s sister (my aunt Mary) lost two daughters.  One daughter, my cousin Debbie, died when she was a young teenager from brain cancer.  It was so hard for me and my family to witness the excruciating pain that my cousin endured until she finally crossed over.  But as hard as it was for us, nothing compares to the pain my aunt and uncle had to suffer.

Years later, Debbie’s oldest sister Lina was diagnosed with Leukemia.  Although Lina was much older than her sister when she was diagnosed, the pain was the same.  My Aunt Mary had suffered through the loss of her daughter and then her husband.  Losing her oldest daughter was more than she could handle.

We’ve had many heartfelt conversations about my two deceased cousins.  My aunt always cries and says, “I lost two daughters, Jo.  I lost two.”  My assurances that she will see Debbie and Lina again do bring her comfort yet the pain of losing a child remains.  Life has in many ways stopped for my aunt as she now feels guilty about moving on and enjoying her life.

I bring up my aunt because July is Bereaved Parents Awareness Month.  As an author and afterlife researcher, I’ve had many people ask me, “Josie, knowing what you know now (that there is life after death), does it make it easier for you when you lose a loved one?  My answer is always the same.  Yes, it’s easier but it’s not easy.  Losing a loved one hurts.  It really hurts.

Sure, I know I will see them again.  Because of my experiences, I do not fear death.  Love never dies.  It’s always there but it is that same love that we shared with the deceased that causes us pain.  It is that love that causes us grief.  Think about it.   You cannot have one without the other.

If I had a choice and could deny myself love so as to not experience grief, I would refuse it.  I will always choose love.

On Grief and Grieving, a book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, describes the five stages of grief.  They are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.  It’s important to note, however, that not everyone goes through all of them, nor do they necessarily occur in this order.  A parent who is dealing with the unexpected murder of their child, for example, may be stuck in the anger stage.  Grief is a deeply personal and singular experience.

In other words, it’s your own.  No one can tell you how you should feel, how to get over it or how long it should take.  The only person who can understand and deal with the emotions you are going through is you.

True grief is, of course, normal.  However, burying our children seems unnatural.  Although we are never prepared to bury a loved one, we are certainly more prepared when it comes to an aging parent, etc.  We don’t expect to have to bury our children.

If you know someone who has lost a child, just let them know you are there for them.  Very often, people don’t know what to say and it sometimes comes out all wrong.  If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything at all.  Listen more than you talk.

If you are a bereaved parent, don’t ignore your feelings.  Allow yourself to grieve anyway that you choose and take as much time as you need.  Don’t hesitate to lean on your friends and family and keep the lines of communication open.

Of course, many of my readers are dealing with the heartache of losing loved ones.  Often they reach out to me seeking comfort.  Time after time, my heart always breaks for each and every one of them.  I wish there was something that I could do to quickly take away the pain but there are no quick fixes when it comes to grief.

The best thing I can do is help them understand that although the body dies, the spirit lives and also try to help others understand that love never dies.  To demonstrate this, I want to share a brief excerpt from my book, Visits from Heaven.  The story entitled “Tanya’s Heavenly Bracelet” appears on page 203.  It is an amazing story of one bereaved mom’s struggle with the loss of her daughter, Tanya.  Through her grief, Carol discovers that her daughter never really left her.

Tanya’s Heavenly Bracelet (An excerpt from Visits from Heaven/4th Dimension Press)

After her death we began to receive many comforting signs, but Tanya’s appearance and hug was the most precious gift of them all.  At this point in my life, I did not want to go on living; I missed my daughter so much.  She always had a way of giving the best hugs.  She’d squeeze real tight and hang on for the longest time.  I would go to her grave site every morning before work and every evening after work.  Each time I would tell her how much I loved and missed her.  Each time I would say, “I’d give anything for one last hug.”

VFHbookOne night just before her sixteenth birthday, I walked into my room and sat at the edge of my bed.  When I looked up, Tanya was there! She didn’t say anything but her eyes expressed so much love and she had the most beautiful smile.

Tanya wrapped her arms around me.  I put my right hand on her left arm.  She was cool yet not cold, solid but not quite hard.  My hand did not go through her, but I was just so different; it felt kind of like touching “Jell-O.”

The texture of her skin startled me.  There are no words to describe what her arm felt like.  I drew a quick breath, and then Tanya gave me the most beautiful loving smile.  She just backed away and was gone.  I can’t even begin to convey how much her “visit” meant to me.

I hope Carol’s story brings some comfort to those of you who are grieving.  Focus on the love within.  As I always say, love is the one thing that transcends death.  No one, absolutely no one, can ever take that love away from you.

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5 thoughts on “The Unthinkable: Dealing with the Loss of a Child

  1. I love this story , I have been to heaven . My dad died when I was only 12 it was so hard for me I would look for him every day. Then one night he came and had tea with me and did so till I was 16 .We talked and would tell me to always be a lady. Help mom and be a good girl. Till this day I miss him and wish I could see him one more time.

  2. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about the 5 stages of DYING, not grieving. It is often quoted this way, but it is incorrect. Grief is not linear, and there are many more stages involved, including guilt, depression, etc. Hoever, the article is excellent. Since my young daughter’s passing, i have been visited by her and receive many signs that she has never left my side. It’s so important for people, especially grieving parents, to understand that the spirit never, ever dies. It has helped me keep living when I wanted to die. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I apologize for my delayed response but I totally missed your comment. I am so sorry about your daughter. I am the mother of two girls. I can’t even imagine. Yes, it is very important that people understand our loved ones are always near us. Love truly does never die. She is as you wrote with you every step you take. And she always will be.

  3. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about the 5 stages of DYING, not grief. However, it is often misquoted, which is often detrimental to a mother grieving her child. There are many more “stages”, including guilt, depression, etc. Grief isn’t linear, and we don’t stop grieving after passing thru some arbitrary steps. Often this makes the griever feel like they aren’t normal. However, great article about understanding that spirit never dies. Our loved ones are not truly gone. My young daughter has visited and sends many signs to let me know that she is with me every step I take. If I didn’t know this, I would have never survived when I wanted to die. Thanks for the beautiful reminder.

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