ALL I HAVE LEFT AFTER THE DEATH OF MY CHILD

After my father died this past May, I found many beautiful portraits of Jason that I had lost.

After my father died this past May, I found many beautiful portraits of Jason that I had lost. I am grateful for those pictures.

I remember that there were times when my grief was so overwhelming that I gave up hope of ever feeling better. I thought I had given up hope, but instead hope waited for me in the wings.

I want to use a metaphor to describe my grief and healing. It is one of a roaring wildfire that destroyed everything in its path. After my child died, the fire that burned through my soul was a horror beyond anything imaginable. I wished I had been consumed, but instead the fire gleefully tortured me with severe burns. I awoke blistered and everything familiar was gone.

The fire left a blackened and ugly forest. The possibility of that devastated forest ever recovering its former beauty seemed impossible. But eventually, a tiny sapling broke through the ashes. A few plants sprouted because the heat from the fire allowed certain seed pods to germinate. I missed the forest that I remembered and barely noticed those changes.

I knew fires were a part of this world; that they randomly happened. But I was very angry. I never expected to personally witness the horror or experience the suffering.

But the fire that tortured me did not destroy everything – it did not destroy my love.

My life was as gray as ashes for almost two decades. I coped by simply going through the motions for many years. I was alive but not really living, but my love kept my spirit going.

The most amazing part of my story was when I reached a point of exhaustion and acceptance of my fate, something appeared in the ashes of my forest. One day, hope fluttered down from above.

It turned out that when I least expected it my ashen forest began to grow again. Like magic, colors and sounds reappeared. I looked around and noticed the forest was completely different from what I had remembered.

Because it had been so long since I’d heard beautiful sounds and seen gorgeous colors, I found my new surroundings breathtaking. It was not the same forest, but that didn’t matter. My appreciation was limitless because my drab life was over.

The hope that waited in the wings kissed me and took flight. I thanked her for waiting.

Jason drew this while in preschool. For me, I see an angel with a beautiful heart. Jason died from his congenital heart defect.

Jason drew this while in preschool. For me, I see an angel with a beautiful heart. Jason died from his congenital heart defect.

A painting of mine that was part of a memorial for Jason.

A painting of mine that was part of a memorial for Jason.

This story was inspired by a particularly heartbreaking poem that was written by another bereaved mother.

Brenda Lewis lost her 15-year-old son Andrew, when he tragically collapsed on a baseball field and died from an undiagnosed heart ailment.

She writes and shares her poetry and stories at a blog named https://beebeesworld.wordpress.com. Below is her poem and clicking on the title is a link to it on Brenda’s blog:

– 

TILL NOTHING WAS LEFT

This poem is not for my precious son

Whose death
 took everything from me

that I hung onto, believed in

It is for those who can’t see that I am still here

But I have been forced to live in a world

Where there 
is not glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m so tired of it all, so tired of the lies

The further I fall, the higher you rise

It takes all I have, each moment I try

I give and I give, till I think I will die

I’m sorry that I was never enough

My heart is long dead; the road’s been so rough

All that I have, I have given to you.

And what have I left?  No joy and no you

Just leave me here in my prison, my home

Cause when you are here, I still feel alone.

Not a thing I’ve endured, suffered, survived

Has helped you to notice, that I’m still alive

I still feel, I still hope, I still love, I still try

Somehow through the darkness, I still survive

Take just one heartbeat, one touch, one breath

And remember I will love you

till nothing is left 

3261

After reading Brenda’s poem, I wrote to her:

Dear Brenda,

I have no idea how long it has been since your son died. Your words have taken my breath away. My eyes are filled with tears. You think you have nothing left and there is no light in your tunnel.

But you have so much inside that is pouring out of you. It is your love for your son. My son died many years ago. I died inside to be with him for such a long time, but now I’m alive because my suffering has given me clarity about life. My time here is unknown. Each moment is precious and grief stole many years from me.

I wish you could celebrate your beautiful son’s life by finding joy again. I never believed it would happen to me – but it did. I held out hope and waited. Don’t give up!

Brenda replied:

– 

Dear Judy,

It has been 6 years since he died. I have my moments when I feel strong; I fake my way through dinners, activities, but I just lost so much when I lost him, my health, faith, and the closeness with my family. I became angry and when I didn’t get the kind of support I felt I needed and it just got worse and worse. My poem is a way to try to let go of some of that. I have moments of hope and moments of complete despair. Thanks for your encouragement. I had serious doubts about putting this blog on here. I almost feel like I shouldn’t have; I have gotten so many comments that make me feel like I have saddened others…beebee

 

Dear Beebee,

Six years is a long time and the horror is still there. Your soul has been amputated. Like an arm missing, you’ve adjusted and carry scars that no one can visibly see. And that adjustment will continue. Even with family support, no one bears your personal sorrow but you.

 

I believe that the whole point of writing is HONESTY. What else is there? You are expressing feelings that are true for you. No one else can feel what you are going through and it is your gift to find the words to express yourself. People who don’t like sadness can read something else.

 

Please don’t ever stop yourself because of concern about what others think of your writing. Believe it or not, the more you express your sorrow, the lighter you will feel. Keeping your sadness inside is a heavy cross to bear. Release your pain and share. You will find there are many other people who will appreciate your words. I did.

 

Jason Micky Mouse sweater

Your message mentions how you have been very angry with your family. Their lack of understanding and support has certainly added to your anguish. It sounded like your family’s love was not unconditional – that you’d have their support if you followed their religious beliefs. I am very sorry about that.

When someone commented with a suggestion that implied finding God and another person mentioned an excellent grief counselor, I’m not surprised that those comments triggered your anger. They don’t even have a clue how to ease your anguish.

Their intentions were good and they only wanted to help. I think that sometimes when a person finds something that helps him or her, they wish to bestow it upon someone else. I am that way with my music. It helps me and I love to share it.

I remember that I was very angry after my child died. For years and years, it was difficult for me to contain. I was livid because grief had wrecked my life and I was certain my torment would last until my last breath.

I had more children after my loss, and when someone implied that it was a “replacement” for my dead child it made me furious. I couldn’t handle anyone telling me that time would heal and I let them know it.

Healing is a word I use often for myself. It implies a wound. After my son died, my soul was amputated and my heart continued to bleed for years unseen. The scars left me tormented and numb for almost two decades. I did not believe I would ever feel joy again in my life.

Brenda, in your poem, you want your son to know how much you loved him and how that will continue until your last breath. But you are dying inside every single day because of your grief.

Your poem’s title is “Till Nothing Was Left.” But if you died tomorrow, here’s what was left:

ache and emptiness

anger and fury

isolation and loneliness

torment and torture

I experienced those things, but eventually they eased away. When joy returned to my life, I decided I had healed.

Love replaced my ache, emptiness and isolation. Love soothed my anger and fury about my fate. Love allowed me to accept other people’s good intentions to help me. Love lifted me up.

My love for my son is pure and far preferable to the wreckage I had before. My son loved me. I remind myself of his love every time I take a breath and he has never left me.

With my last breath, what will be left is love.

That is the legacy I want to have left after the loss of my child.

Jason red suspenders & hat 2

Jason Micky Mouse Sweater 3

After I wrote those words to Brenda, another bereaved mother sent me a message:

Judy, I like what you wrote, but I would like to know how to get from feeling angry to feeling love. I feel love all the time, but with my son gone – there is no place for all that love to go. I also want to feel his love for me, not just mine for him. I need him back. I don’t know how to transform all of this to something less raw and painful.

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’m sorry if I sounded simplistic. My perspective about grief has come after many years of suffering. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there are shortcuts when working through grief.

I could not transform myself when my soul was being amputated! My life-blood was pouring from me and nothing could stop it. There aren’t enough ways that I could describe what you clearly are suffering through – the absolute horror of having to accept that you will never again see your precious son that you had hopes and dreams for.

After my son died, I curled up into a ball. Eventually, I crawled slowly. As you know only too well, the journey is horrible as the shock becomes reality. What gave me a reason to keep going, were the other people I loved in my life.

I was angry for many years and I wasn’t able to put a “bandage of love” over it. I was furious at God. I was disgusted by people who made thoughtless remarks. I believe that the angry stage of grief is particularly devastating. People who cannot let go of their anger are lonely and isolated. I did not want bitterness to be my legacy.

Eventually, I let go of anger and what was left was quiet sorrow and numbness.

I didn’t really look forward to anything and felt like the best part of my life was over. I felt doomed to live that way for the rest of my life.

I cannot know where your grief journey will lead or how long it will take you. Right now, there are destinations that you might never imagine reaching. The irony was that I thought my road ended with my scars, but I was wrong.

I found out that I could be happy again! And when I reached that place, I really did discover that my child had never left me. Throughout my journey, he was holding my hand. I do believe I’ll see him when I die. It gives me comfort when I face my own death someday.

I just know my child is celebrating that I am happy again. Now I understand, that with every tear I cried, he cried too.

Jason and ET

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2012. 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.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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12 Responses to ALL I HAVE LEFT AFTER THE DEATH OF MY CHILD

  1. This is absolutely beautiful. And, thank you for the mention, I’m glad that Tersia and Vic also have your thoughts!

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  2. Thank you for explaining. I do learn from other bereaved parents and even though I know it will be years until I can reach a place of peace, I look at the journeys of those who are farther along and I hold onto their (your) words of hope.
    I agree that especially because of my daughter (who is now an only child) I must do my best to try to help her find joy again someday.

    Like

  3. Judy says:

    That is true about your surviving child, giving you purpose. That is also why I became pregnant one month after the loss of my child, too. It was a “life line.” My parents also helped me.
    When I speak of the “wreckage of grief,” it is about all the other people who suffer terribly – siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles all come to mind. Even if it is not their “flesh and blood” (because adoptive parents suffer as much as any parent) – there is no point to measure or compare pain.
    What is so horrible is that you are truly alone with this. You cannot really help your daughter with her own grief or anyone else. If you are able to find her support, please do. She could benefit greatly from a sibling grief support group. Certainly, you are on the path toward healing because you are actively reading and searching for comfort. That is a huge step!
    Keep holding on to my words of hope. Never forget them. It is not about saying “time will heal.” I am honest; it gets far worse before it starts to get better. At those times when you feel hopeless, just keep crawling and moving forward. And keep reading and seeking out other grieving people.
    I am too far along in the grief journey to hold your hand. Find others in your situation to clasp onto, so you can take baby steps together back into the land of the living. I’ll be your light ahead of you.
    Hang in there.
    Love, Judy

    Like

  4. Ruth Mattucci says:

    Absolutely wonderful blog.

    Like

  5. beebeesworld says:

    I have lost a child as well-15 healthy, handsome, died playing baseball-we found out after he died he had viral myocarditis-the person I screamed to call 9111 apparently didnt stay on the line-there was a fire dept in sight if the field-they coud have walked there in 2 minutes-it was 10-12 before an ambulance cam-a nurse did nothing-i found out a few months later that I should have immediately began heart compressions-I stood and watched him die-i may have told you this before-sorry if i did, I felt God was with us-I had experience some bad feelings-I have almost died 5 times since. There is no pain, no comforting words, noting that really changes things, as someone who knows, I will think of you. beebeeworld

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    • Judy says:

      You are right, Brenda. Nothing really changes the fact that our beautiful boys are dead. But what can change is the death inside our soul. There will always be something missing; that doesn’t change. But I maintain hopefulness that one day you will heal and find peace. As long as you focus on the “what if’s” your soul will continue to bleed. Some bereaved parents have moved forward despite murders, suicides and accidents. I refuse to believe that you were cursed because there were circumstances that could have saved your son. Your son does not want you to be cursed and tortured. You are suffering with post traumatic stress over witnessing his death. I cry to imagine what you live with. Brenda, just know that you have the ability to let go of it all when you are ready. I hope you will someday find peace, rather than dying while you are alive to be with him.

      Like

  6. So much of what you’ve written her speaks to me, and this jumped out.
    “Through the years, many people have confided in me. They have said that their greatest fear would be to lose one of their children. I’ve been praised for my courage and strength. When life deals you certain cards, there aren’t too many choices. What may appear to be strength, is just dealing with something that unfortunately has happened to you. It is not a choice. ”
    Being long-term bereaved as well, it is wonderful to have found someone else who wants to share their experience and their child with the world. I love your photographs of Jason. He looks like an amazing little boy and the love you have for each other just shines out.

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  7. Sue says:

    Thank you so much for these incredibly encouraging words. It is seven months since my son left us aged 33, much too soon. I am already beginning to see that little glimmer of hope – I am determined to lead a productive and compassionate life because he would have wanted me to and he can’t! I have my husband and other son; my Pete also left me the wonderful legacy of three children. I will not let our lives become a traincrash however hard it us. I listen to my Pete’s favourite music and any other inspiring music I can find, I try to reply to other mums when I can identify with them and I write and write and write my pain away. Sometimes I am so angry; I just write it all out and then rip it all up. Thank you so much for your compassion and bless your kind heart❤❤❤

    Like

  8. tersiaburger says:

    Hope you are keeping well my friend. I have awarded you the Most Influential Blogger Award – I know you are very busy.so no rush. One year when you have time…I just wanted you to know that you are one of the Most Influential Bloggers in my life. Thank you for your love and support. http://tersiaburger.com/2013/05/25/most-influential-blogger-award/

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  9. Lindz says:

    I got to this blog because I’m searching. The anguish is unbearable. I am dead inside. I just go through the motions daily.have lost interest in everything. My son was stillborn at full term. He would’ve been 4 months now. It kills me when I see babies. …..I wonder sometimes if I’ll ever be happy again. It helps to hear from others who’ve gone through loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy says:

      Hi Lindz, I received your comment yesterday and I’m sorry I didn’t reply sooner.
      I understand the unbearable anguish. After my son died, I had a very good friend who experience a stillbirth support me. I learned so much from her. Every year, I remember her little girl who never grew up – it has been almost 30 years now and her daughter has never been forgotten.
      You are still in shock. Life goes on – but not for you. Everyone around you thinks you just “get over it.” That’s just not going to happen.
      It changes you into someone else. Right now you cannot see ahead, but I guarantee you that one day you will feel better.
      You are on a grief journey. It’s not for everyone, but what helped me the most was to have someone else close to me that had experienced this kind of loss. I went to different support groups. Are there any groups you could attend? Then if you find someone that you could relate to – you will get support and that is very helpful.
      In the meantime, feel free to write to me anytime. I really care and am so sorry for this Hell that you never anticipated. If you prefer to use my email it is: judyungers@sbcglobal.net.

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