All loss is hard. All loss is lonely. But there is something about child-loss that puts it in a unique category.
I have experienced other types of loss. When my very much loved father died in 2001, I was devastated. My father was a wonderful, kind man, a devoted husband and father. I grieved for him. I will forever miss having him in my life. I will treasure my wonderful memories of him forever.
Then, in 2006, my 23-year-old daughter suddenly died. In a single phone call, my life as I knew it came to a complete halt. I lost all hope and joy, and the worst was yet to come. Indeed, in the early days and weeks, being able to survive the death of my daughter was seriously in question.
That is why, six months after our children’s death, my fellow bereaved parent, Diana Dimasi, we wrote this piece together. We had been told there must be something wrong with our mental health because we are still obsessing over the loss of our children. You may hear a lot of anger in our words because child-loss is not fair and anger is an immense part of it — raw life-changing anger at the unfairness of it all, much more anger then is associated with other losses.
So we tried to put into words what the pain, heartache, anger, loss of hope and joy does to one when they lose their beloved child. Even our words cannot fully come close to the way our lives are shattered after child-loss
But it is my hope that more people will understand what bereaved parents go through, and how it is the worst loss of all.
The worst loss of all.
I want you to try to imagine, if you can, never seeing your child again, never hearing her laugh, never hearing the sound of their voice, never smelling the scent you have come to recognize as your child’s, never hearing them say “I love you.” Nothing – just silence, emptiness. Now, imagine never seeing your child’s smile, never seeing her upset or happy, never watching her sleep.
Imagine missing them so much that you are twisted up inside and the pain stays with you 24/7. You smell your child’s pillow, clothes, you look at her pictures and can only cry. You have never felt longing like this in your life! Longing to hear her voice, to see her face again, and to know deep in your soul you cannot fix it. Now imagine every single thing that used to give you joy and pleasure turns into hurt and despair overnight. Not a gradual thing, but going from pleasure to hurt, from happiness to sadness, from peace to no peace, changing overnight.
Everything you loved now hurts like hell.
For example: I used to love music. It gave me pleasure. I didn’t realize how much music was a part of my life and how it is everywhere. Now I cannot listen to it; it sears me like a red-hot knife. Every song reminds me of the void in my life without my child. I am not unique in that pain – if you lost a child you would know.
That is just one little example of how your life is affected by the loss of your child.
You also feel the loss with your other children. You still love your other children just as much as always, but as hard as it is, even they hurt you now, because when you see them, you feel the loss of the child that died not being with their siblings. There is a piece missing, a person missing; your whole life doesn’t fit anymore. Things that felt right, now feel wrong. And of course there is always the missing, the horrible gut wrenching, out of your control missing.
As good parents, we were always able to fix things or make things better for our children. This we cannot fix, cannot make it better. So on top of everything else you are feeling, you also feel helpless…out of control and hopeless…and this is universal.
Are you starting to imagine now how it feels?
Day after day, month after month, and no matter what you are doing or who you are talking to, a tape of your child plays over and over in your mind: your child when she was a baby, a laughing happy little girl, a cute young teen, a wonderful young man or women. It plays in your head, and you do not want to forget even a single second of your beautiful child’s life.
And that is a fear you have, that as time passes you will start to forget
This is what it really feels like: A part of you has died… a real, beautiful, living part of you has died… and you are still living, left behind to try to pick up the pieces of your shattered life and not having a clue where to even begin. No wonder a high percentage of marriages break up, parents have breakdowns, turn to alcohol, drugs or a destructive way of life.
A part of you does not exist anymore and it is scary as hell.
That is why when we hear other people say to us: “I want the old you back” or “It’s been a 6 months, and don’t you feel better yet?” or “You are making it harder on yourself” or “grief can become a selfish thing you know” — when we hear these, we can only shake our heads and feel sadness and hopelessness, because there is no way our lives will ever be like it was when our child was alive.
Now go on and put on your favorite CD to listen to, enjoy the music. Go home and hug your children, listen to them laugh, watch them smile, smell their scent. And please do not tell me how I should feel.