Phases of Recovery from Child-Loss

The death of a loved one is far worse than any physical pain that we can imagine. I wrote a book called An Angel is Born. The book was inspired by the death of my sister’s child, who passed away in 2011. The theme of the book is parents who lose their children before their own death. I would like to share with you some of the phases of recovery that I’ve experienced with her parents.

At this point, their lives take on a different dimension. Time for them is like a cog of slow grinding gears. Time flows for those around them; but for them, the gears hold it back. They sleep only when sheer exhaustion knocks them out. Then one awakens wondering if it was only a bad dream. Then one reaches out to the other for reassurance, only to find him or her already awake and wondering the same.

As they crawl out of bed, nothing is certain. Not even the clock on the nightstand. For how is it possible that they’ve only slept for two hours? Then they enter the child’s room to find the bed is neatly made up–but empty. The clothes still hang in the closet, and the books and toys are just where the child left them.

They can’t eat, watch TV, nor listen to music for it would seem selfish not to share it with their child. Perhaps going for a drive would make them feel better; but then one says, “Remember when we stopped here for gas last summer?” Or “There’s the park where our child used to play.” The reminders make the gears hold fast.

So the gears hold back time until wonderful, little things begin to occur causing the gears to slip. It might be nothing more than an exceptionally bright moon or a beautiful sunset. If only for a few seconds, their attention is diverted and the gears slip.

The next thing that happens is that a friend or family member gives them a pet. The first thought is probably going to be, “We don’t want a pet.” However the pet senses their grief and clings to them with unconditional love, causing the gears to slip even more often.

There are no good days, only some days that are not as horrible as others. Sunday, December the 22, 2013, was one of the bad ones. Lily and Bill Skiles went to the cemetery, where they talked to Angel. This is something they do almost every day. They returned home to find the house dark. This was the third Christmas season that they had not decorated. That’s something that Angel loved and they just couldn’t bear to have decorations without her.

I called that day and Bill answered. He seemed happier than usual, so I asked, “What are you in to Bill?” He said, “I’m just sitting here watching your sister make Christmas cookies.” I said, “Well, don’t bother her if she’s busy, I’ll call her later.” He said, “No, she wants to tell you something.”

She said, “Do you remember I told you that I sent one of your books to Joe Mullins at WBZI radio in Xenia?” I said, “Yes, Lily, I think I remember that.” “Well,” she said, “Let me tell you about Joe. He’s a good Christian man, he’s been on the Grand Ole Opry, and he’s quite a radio personality. He read your book and said it was wonderful.” “I said, “That’s great, Lily, I’m honored.” She said, “Wait, there’s more. About four this afternoon a large bus pulled up in front of our house and Joe stepped off followed by fifty to sixty people. They stood in our front yard and sang Christmas carols to Bill and me.”

I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Joe and his congregation. Events such as these will begin to break away the gears and allow life to continue. There is hope; and as time passes, the pain will hurt less and not as often. There’s one word of advice that I would like to add. Please do not face your grief alone.

May God’s love be with you always.

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  • Julie Cable says:

    I lost my only son in 2011. I KNOW the phases of loss: devastation, anger, depression, slow recovery via involvement. The only part of this article I can relate to is getting a pet–that actually helped me a lot. What I’m wondering is, what does publishing a book have to do w/anything? Seriously, this article seems so superficial with respect to anything even resembling what I’ve gone through. As for a “good Christian man” well, I’ll say this: Christianity has NOTHING to offer people who have experienced the truth. Myths about certain special people rising from the dead, being “saved” and floating around in “heaven” waiting for their loved ones are childish. It’s like putting a band-aide on a gaping wound. I had to do the real work of acceptance of death and all it entails in this world. Love is what heals. That’s all. Everything else is lace on a pig.

  • Danette Williams says:

    Your description of your sister and brother in laws existence and pain is beautifully insightful! How blessed they are to have someone recognize and respect their struggles! God bless you and keep writing!

  • Ron Styer says:

    I just lost my daughter to cancer. She passed away Dec 10, 2014.

    • Ron Styer says:

      I loved my daughter very much and will truly miss her. I know things will be better for me as I go through this grieving period. I have hope. She left two girls behind. My wife and I will truly miss her. People are very good and offer there sympathy. But right now I have a hard time accepting it all I want is my daughter back which I know will never happen. She was very bright and intelligent. I was blessed to have such wonderful daughter. She made everyone smile and she always had a smile on face. That happy feeling she broadcasted to the world will be missed. She had battling cancer for nearly two years. She never let it get her down everyone that knew her was surprised she always positive and smiling. Even after chemo she stayed positive for herself and her family. Sometimes I don’t feel like talking to my wife I feel angry not at her just not happy. Most the my feelings are to be expected after a loss such as this. Thanks.