What is this Gnawing Feeling I Have in my Stomach?

Following the loss of a child, there is a feeling that most parents get that they can’t seem to explain other than it’s a “gnawing feeling.”  It’s not an outright ache, nor is it a sharp pain.  It’s just a “feeling” that is always there when you are awake.  It feels empty and hollow, and food doesn’t seem to fill it or lessen the feeling. 

Quite often, after multiple visits to the doctor, there is a shrug of the shoulders and you hear the words, “I just don’t know what this could be.  Let’s wait it out and see.  All of the tests are coming back negative.”

Since I’ve personally experienced that gnawing feeling, I can tell you that it’s an awful type of nagging reminder that something isn’t right.  It’s that feeling that lets you know that something is missing.  Following the death of each of my baby losses, the feeling was horrible.  It was an empty ache.  It was a feeling of nothingness.  Sometimes I would awaken in the middle of the night and be so happy.  That gnawing feeling wasn’t there until I got fully awake.  But, as soon as got awake, I remembered that my baby was no longer here with me and that awful gnawing feeling returned.

The same was true following the death of my 13-year-old sister.  I was always a teen who loved food of any kind.  I was blessed with a high metabolism and could eat anything at any time of the day or night and never gain an ounce, and that made me enjoy food all the more! 

But, following the death of my sister, not only did food lose its taste, but there was a sick feeling that lingered with me all day and all night for months on end.  I ate to fill my stomach and give me nourishment, but the pleasure of eating was gone because there was never a feeling of being satisfied.  And, there was always that gnawing ache in my stomach.  I hated that so much! 

If you have lost a child, you know what that ache feels like.  If you’re grieving any kind of loss right now you probably have that feeling as we speak.  It continues to remind you over and over and over again that life has changed.  Something is missing in your life that you need, and that something is your child.  The one you loved with all of your heart.  Our bodies have such a unique way of letting us know when something is wrong!

How long does it take for this gnawing feeling to go away?  I don’t have a timeline to give you for that, nor does any doctor, therapist, or pastor.  

The good news is that this feeling does begin to lessen with time.  And, the more real the death is, and the more we understand grief and how it works, the less of the gnawing ache we have in our stomach. 

It took me over two years for the ache to finally go away each time my heart went through a major loss.  Little by little the days were spread further apart until finally, I had trouble remembering what that gnawing feeling was like.  And, then I knew. I finally knew that joy was beginning to filter back into my life again.

Be kind to yourself.  Be aware of this gnawing feeling and give it time.  Grief is a journey and it touches every area of our lives – even our tummies!

Clara Hinton

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Clara Hinton

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Clara Hinton has a burning passion to lend support to parents grieving the loss of a child. At the age of 15, Clara’s 13-year-old sister died tragically, and that loss began a series of events in her life that made grief all-too-real. While experiencing the blessing of living children, Clara has also felt the pain of losing six children due to miscarriage, and has delivered one stillborn son. Knowing the grief of child-loss first-hand prompted Clara to write a book, Silent Grief, as well as begin a grief support website, www.silentgrief.com, for parents seeking support while going through the pain of loss. Clara also teaches grief coping skills on college campuses, as well as coordinates grief workshops for schools, churches, and hospitals. The first Silent Grief Retreat for Bereaved Parents was held in October 2008, and the Retreats are now planned to be an annual coming together for bereaved parents. For more information, contact Clara at chinton@wpia.net or visit the Silent Grief website. Clara also invites you to follow her on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sicilianitaliano/ Clara appeared on the “Healing the Grieving Heart Radio Show” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “Finding Your Way After Sibling and Child Loss.” To hear Clara being interviewed on this show, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley052208.mp3

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