One day, I decided I wanted to share my writing with other people who were grieving. I joined an online grief forum.
The heartbreaking messages poured in. It was hard for me to read them, because it reminded me so much of my own trauma. I felt like I was unable to reply, because I couldn’t imagine how my words could alleviate anyone’s suffering.
Eventually, I attempted to write something that I hoped might be helpful.
Here was a message that I wrote:
Your honest words were so heartbreaking that they brought tears to my eyes.
The grief journey changes our pathway in life forever. I wrote about my grief experience eighteen years later, and it still felt so fresh.
Here are the words I wrote earlier this year:
“Books have been written about the stages of grief. I have lived all of those stages. The numbness was bizarre. There was no sense of time. Eating, sleeping, living seemed outside the realm of what it once was. There was no purpose for anything anymore. There was no way to control the endless parade of intensely painful, repetitive thoughts. It was difficult to accept that my son’s death was real.
The most difficult moment of every single day was to wake up and face what had really happened. I did not want to wake up again – ever!
I looked at the sky – could he be there? I looked at a bird, at a butterfly – could his soul be within them so he’s visiting me? What was his voice like again; could I still hear him? There was no color in the world anywhere. There was nothing but shades of gray.
It did not seem possible that it could get any worse. It did not seem possible that it could get any better. It just was what it was. Empty. Sad. Excruciating. Endless.”
Just as people are all unique, so is grief. No person experiences grief the same way. Therefore, although I have experienced my own grief and shared in other people’s grief – I do not assume that I have the answers for you.
However, I would like to write about some of what I learned, in the hopes that any part of my words might offer comfort.
First off, I remember people who had experienced grief trying to make me feel better by telling me “time would heal.”
Although that might be true, those words never alleviated any of my pain! That was because time was not my friend; it was my enemy. It was excruciating and endless, and it didn’t seem possible that I could ever survive the intense pain. I never believed I would ever “heal.”
So I won’t say that!
As far as flashbacks go, I described my experience as an “opera of my son’s death.” It played over and over again. I believe that it was my mind’s way of trying to grasp that my son’s death was real. I could not control it at all, and I have so much empathy for what you are experiencing.
You have taken a brave and life-affirming step by joining this group. What helped me the most was grasping the hands of those that were also suffering alongside of me. It wasn’t about someone pulling me out of my grief. It was about holding those hands and together taking baby steps back into the world of the living. Only with those who were also suffering was this possible for me!
Therefore, any kind of support group, whether online or in a meeting place, might be very helpful for you – although once again, what was helpful for me is not for everyone.
I mourned the loss of my innocence and the loss of the happy person I was before my son died.
Now that eighteen years have passed, I can share that I have learned that life is all about losing our innocence. Of course, not everyone loses a child, but loss is definitely a part of life. It has given me great appreciation for my own life and for those I love.
Happiness has returned for me; so I mourned long ago something I just assumed I would never have again. That was a lot of wasted energy!
I would also like to say to be gentle to those who do not understand your level of pain. I remember the angry stage of my grief, and how I ran away from socializing with people because I couldn’t stand the “thoughtless remarks.” Well, those remarks are often not intended to be hurtful – even if they are.
I have learned that if the intentions behind them are “loving” it is best to accept the good intentions. Many people are very awkward in grief situations. Anger can further isolate you, and intensify the sadness.
Of course, anger is very understandable after losing our child. We were supposed to protect our child. Our child’s death feels like the ultimate failure!
Lastly, men and women grieve differently. I don’t know the exact statistics, but I read somewhere that 90% of marriages fail after the death of a child. Do not expect your husband to support you in your grief. Two people falling down and crawling cannot hold each other up. The best you can do is to survive until the day when the sun begins to shine upon you again. If your marriage survives, it is a testament to the child you created and lost. However, sometimes that is simply not possible.
You might have another child someday. However, your dead child can never, ever be replaced. You will always miss your child; your child is a part of you.
You are in my heart, Judy
Yesterday, before I wrote the message above, I felt my heart ache when I read this first message below:
Tomorrow will be a month since I lost my daughter and I am heart-broken. There are days that are worse than others. Today I feel like am living everything all over again, I have flashbacks that take me to the worst moments of my life. I lost my angel Sarah on August 19th at 10:45 am. She had severe abnormalities and if born would had to had heart surgery immediately among other things. All I did was kneel and pray, cry trying to bargain with God. I was so afraid that my worst fears would come true, and it did. I had 3 opinions of different doctors and they all came to the same conclusions. I had to take a heart breaking choice of letting my little girl go to heaven better than to bring her into this world if she made it to suffer eternally.
That was the worst thing I ever had to make in my life. I loved her from the beginning and wanted her so bad. I had so many dreams and hopes, plans…they all went with her. It was the most painful, heart breaking, and nerve wrecking thing I ever went through. They told me I would have twilight anesthesia, I wouldn’t remember anything. Such a lie, I remember a couple of things and the most horrible part when the doctor said we are almost finished I felt her soft little head coming out.
I felt I was dying with my daughter; I couldn’t stop crying through it all. I cry every day mostly when I’m in the car. I also have a 3-year-old boy; his name is Christopher and he is the purpose for continuing my life. He saw me crying so much one day he touched my face and said, “ma, no cry, please!” I told him I miss the baby, his little sister. He put his arms up and jumped up then he kneeled towards me with his arms toward me as if he was giving me the baby from up above. That was the most touching moment with my son. Every time I hug him I close my eyes and think I’m hugging my little angel as well.
Today I miss her more than any other day. I wish I had her in my arms. Sometimes I wish I had a grave to go to and cry my daughter than looking up at the sky and crying my heart out. My husband says that would have been worse for him but sometimes I wish I had one to go to. Thank you for listening to me.
Mother of an Angel in Heaven
I am so, so sorry for your pain! I remember so well going through this. It is agonizing and endless – I understand.
It has been 18 years since my son, Jason, died and I still think of him every day. However, it does get easier. It has been helpful for me to write about my loss, and I started doing that recently.
I wish there was a way I could help you feel better. Just know that you are doing the best you can by surviving. I found the organization Compassionate Friends very helpful. You might want to see if there is a chapter in your area.
Hang in there!
I shared this exchange with some friends. Steve wrote below:
Wow. I think many would think it would be “easier” (for lack of a better word) to lose an unborn baby you have never seen or even named, but I guess not. 😦 Steve
I learned otherwise from my friends, Josh and Jeanie who took care of Mike and I during our first month of bereavement how horrible was their grief after a stillbirth.
In some ways, it is an exquisite heartache to never have had the opportunity to know your child. My friend, Magda could tell you about that.
However, it was never helpful for me to compare grief – that was one of my greatest lessons.
I have written on my blog before about my friend, Magda. Briefly, during the oppressive regime in Romania, a cesarean section was not allowed because it allowed woman the option of not having further pregnancies. The regime wanted to increase the population; taking away basic human rights and dignity. Magda went into premature labor. Rather than deliver her baby, she was tied up in a hospital bed to labor for perhaps almost a week. She told me that she wished she were dead, because the pain was so horrible. Her dead baby was finally delivered, and her life was forever altered. She never had another child.
Magda read Janett’s story and responded:
JANETT’S STORY MADE ME CRY, I UNDERSTAND HER SO WELL. SHE WANTED HER DAUGHTER SO BADLY . . .
Here are sad emails I continued to receive from the “loss of a child” forum. I received these two messages:
This is my first time writing the group. My sweet baby was born July 6th, 2010. She was the most beautiful and sweet girl! We had a wonderful day together! It was so peaceful!
Anyhow, she wouldn’t eat for me the next day. So I called the nurse in. And that s when the nightmare started! My baby was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. She was rushed to another hospital, where she fought for her life. We had to make the most agonizing decision to turn off the machines and let her go on July 19th. It has been so hard! I miss her sooooo much!
I am hurt and angry! I try to understand what went wrong! I feel guilty to not have been able to protect her as her mother! I hate that she suffered so much!
I recently went back to work. It is difficult to keep it together. I do have faith! I know that she is in good hands now. But I should have been able to take care of her!!! I don’t know how it can possibly get any easier without her! Our family is incomplete. I feel like I am missing a huge part of me.
Thank you for listening! I get lonely. My husband will listen, but won’t talk about it much. So I feel like I bring him down, since I am constantly talking about it.
Wow I can’t believe it has been almost three and a half years since I lost my son, Hayden. I guess I pretty much blocked out the day of his passing and the few days after. For some reason, I am starting to get flashbacks of those days. Have you guys done this? My husband said it is just memories that my mind hid; and now they are coming out. I want the memories to be of my son when he was alive, not the memories of finding him. My son passed away in his sleep when he was 14 months old and I found him. Please help me.
Later on in the day, these messages to Ellen appeared. It absolutely reinforced my words about reaching out in your own suffering to grasp for support.
Ellen, I really relate to what you are going through. My four-month-old son, passed away suddenly in his sleep. He was so wanted, loved, and he completed me. Now I’m left with a shattered heart and I truly don’t know how I can survive without him! It breaks my heart and just crushes my soul knowing I will never know the toddler, the boy, the teen, the young man, the husband, the father he should have become. I have been ripped off so much and no one knows why he died. They said he was so healthy and well loved……..the death of a baby/child is so wrong and cruel!
Ellen, so sorry you are having such a hard time. I think from my experience and reading others on this list that the horrible guilt is normal, not sure how to make it go away, as I still am haunted by my guilt.
It has not been long since you lost your sweet baby, I lost my son on July 7th of this year so am not much further on this horrible journey, but want you to know that we are here for you.
I used to “compare my grief,” and thought it was “worse” to lose an older child. Of course, it was also worse than losing a “much older” child, too – there was more day to day involvement, I rationalized.
I easily admit how wrong I was! What was my purpose of measuring pain? All that led to was more loneliness!
The pain of grief is truly not measurable, and everyone handles their grief differently.
I feel compelled to share more about how heartbreaking the loss of an infant is. I plan to write more about this on a later post.
There is definitely “exquisite pain” for missing the opportunity to even form memories of a dead child!
© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.