Posted by: Jody Glynn Patrick | 02/15/2012

My Child is Dead: Stop telling me to “let go”

Do you understand that I feel I failed to protect my child?

I once interviewed an heir of a national seed company — you likely would recognize his family surname. He told me a true story that, to paraphrase, went something like this:

Every year at Thanksgiving time, when he was a child still living on the family farm, many of the family’s “free-range” geese would be herded into the barn. Inside, one would be selected for the family dinner, separated from the others (who would be released then), and then the chosen goose would be killed in the traditional way of axe and block. It was something of a tradition for a boy of a certain age to kill his first goose, and when he came to be that age, the other male family members helped with the roundup.

On that year, as the selection was made, the mate of that particular gander stepped in front of the goose and spread his wings, as if sheltering her behind him. He then approached the boy who was holding the axe, offering his own neck instead of hers in his final act of charity, bravery and love.

The image of that goose approaching him is an indelible image etched in the now-adult’s memory and, after hearing the story, it is burned in my brain, too. It is such a universal and cellular-level desire to shield those we love from death. Especially our children.

When we cannot step in front of them and let the car hit us, let the rope slip around our necks instead, or let the illness corrode our bodies, it is an acute agony that I believe is worse than death. When their crossing over is at the hands of another, a senseless death with an unknown assailant, or suicide, it is especially hard, I think, to shift our mindset from grieving the particulars of the death to moving ahead with acceptance and any semblance of peace.

Please respect the fact that “peace” is possible but letting go is not an option for me.

People oftentimes confuse “peace” with “letting go” and I don’t know if folks who have not lost a child can every fully appreciate the psychological or relationship damage they can do by hinting that it’s time for a grieving parent or grandparent, a sibling or cousin or aunt or uncle, to “move on” or “let go.”

We may let go of a body or let the ashes slip between our fingers, give up our hopes and dreams of futures imagined or promised. But we do not let go, most of us, of our dead children and our love for them or memories of them. We do not pretend they never had a birthday. We remember that birthday and that death date and we may grieve anew on those days and holidays and dates marking firsts that never came or will never be repeated. But we do know that by not pretending that with their physical disappearance they disappeared in importance in our lives, we frustrate some people who are uncomfortable with grief or with loss.

So be it.

How can I build a bridge from grief to peace without “letting go”?

Time is the strongest foundation. It sounds cliche, that time heals all wounds, and it is. This wound does not heal, but it scabs over. Peace is learning how to acknowledge it without picking it. Peace is finding a way, somehow, to carry our child (whatever their age at death) forward with us in a psychologically healthy way that integrates yesterday and tomorrow and laughter and love again. It allows us to surface from the numbing shell we have necessarily put up, and feel anything beyond guilt, grief or remorse again.

If you need bridge building help, ask for it. And if you as a bereaved loved one are strong enough now to reach out a helping hand, read the comments posted here and leave an answering comment (but not solicitations; those won’t be approved on this site). Connections are the building blocks of any bridge.

Thanks for joining us at The Watering Hole.
JGP


Responses

  1. Unless you have experienced the death of a child, I am beginning to wonder if it’s possible to understand such concepts as this. The prevalent idea “out there” seems to be that one could “get over” or “let go” if only the bereaved would try harder. It sometimes seems to be pushing against the tide to try to promote understanding of what it’s like to be on this side of the fence. Not that we shouldn’t try…it’s just a difficult task to make others understand or want to understand.

  2. My daughter would have been 43 on Feb 4th. She died at 15. My friend, Sabra, still sends me a card on her birthday and her death day. It makes me feel so good that someone still remembers her. Jackie

  3. I have found that, if I am very open and straightforward about my “relationship” with my deceased daughter, it seems to put everyone at ease.

    Simply stating up front, when the subject comes up, that, “It’s odd to say this, but she stays very close by me; for me she is very present in a spiritual and emotional sense. It doesn’t lessen my missing her physical presence in my life. I still grieve for all the things we won’t ever do together — that grief will never go away — but knowing that she remains present to my spirit is very comforting. So if I speak about her in a way that makes it seems she’s close by, don’t let that freak you out. For me, she is.”

    It doesn’t obligate anyone else to acknowledge her, but it also doesn’t keep anyone from doing so. If others bring her up, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s fine too. Inviting her along, in my heart, definitely keeps gatherings from feeling like funerals. I’m grateful for her.

  4. My son hung himself on May 24th 2013. Everyday I see him alone in that closet choosing to do something so unimaginable. He was smart and beautiful and so very kind. He loved everyone but himself. I ask over and over why. But I know I’ll never have any answers. My spirit is fractured I miss him so much. I don’t know how to move forward

    • *hug* I’m so sorry. What an awful tragedy for all of you. You’re still so early in this process that “moving forward” must seem completely impossible and overwhelming. My heart aches for you.

      It won’t always be like this. It gets easier. You will find your way, in time. In time, you may even start to find some answers, in your heart. But it’s going to take time.

      Find a good grief counselor to talk to. It helps. It really does. In the meantime, my thoughts are with you.

    • Im so very sorry about your son. I lost my son Cory on 12/18/2011. Two weeks before his 19th birthday, which would’ve been New Years day. I cant offer you much as I still seem to be “stuck” on his death day or proper refrase our death day. I dont know if it ever gets easier…I cant say that I know what easy is anymore but you have to know that even through your sons sadness he loved you ever moment of every day. From one mother to another, some how we will make it through and continue to live to some degree. Please note, normal is a new normal of living without but keeping memories alive. I wish I could give you a hug. We have long roads ahead, yours just started but this journey we can walk hand in hand. Thinking of you, Janet

    • Please remember only physical body die, soul never dies, it moves on and takes birth again. Death is renewal.

      After losing my baby, knowing that he is somewhere in the renewed body gives me peace.

      • My heart aches for you. My daughter died 29 years ago at 15 (she jumped from a moving car). At first I was so angry with her for doing such a stupid thing. I finally forgave her. There is no answer to “why did this happen to us.” I think of her every day – now it’s the good memories I remember. You will never forget him and all your wonderful memories. How he left you doesn’t matter, it’s how you love him that does.

    • Hello there:
      I just want to tell you, I understand what you’re going through, I too lost my daughter almost 4 years ago, She hung herself from her closet as well, I found your posting today cause I googled “Where is my dead daughter?” I know I will never find an answer, but I keep wondering where slifehe’s at, where did she go, what went through her head at that moment, we’llfor probably never get an answer to that and it seems that you’re marked for life, but it gets a little easier to deal with life in a day to day basis, I wish I could be there by you so I can give you a hug and cry with you about our loss, Message me if you wanna talk about your feelings!!!

    • My son was murdered on June 24th at the age of 23. I miss him beyond words. Parents invest everything into their children with great hope for their futures. I attended, along with my family, group grief counseling. We learned about the 10 steps of grieving. All the attendees were in the same boat as us – had lost a loved one. We cried, a lot, and talked about our feelings. It is exhausting, but very necessary. You will find the support very comforting and forums such as this help. Additionally, I’m reading everything in sight: the Bible, CS Lewis, publications written by grieving parents. Rick Warren has three sermons on the web on getting through what you’re going through: his son committed suicide earlier this year. My message to you is to not lose hope. There is no quick cure. The valley will be deep, but you will come out on the other side a stronger person. Keep talking, keep crying. May God bless you.

    • I too lost my son to suicide by hanging in september.I ache every second every minute of every day.I feel i should just die of a broken heart.I dont know how i am going to live without him.I love and miss him so desperately and feel so guilty i didnt pick up on any signs that he was so depressed and felt he had to take this option .I died that day along with my son,i have other children so have to live but that is the only reason,i cant wait until my time comes i just want to hugg him tight and tell him how much i love him.This is torture my heart is pounding day and night and i cant believe this has happened.

  5. I lost my son on March 10 2006. He was my only child. He would have been 30 on April 19. We were very close because his Dad was killed when he was five. Once my child reached adulthood, he became my friend as well as my child. We discussed everything! Since his death, I have grieved hard for him and his dad. However, through the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, I believe I have let go. Not of the memories, not of how much he meant to me, not of the love I have for him, not of the happy times, not of what type of man he was, not of what type of child he was, but of the grief, the pain I used to feel whenever I thought of him. I still miss him every day, however, I have not allowed his death to consume me to the point where I feel guilty for happiness. God has given me comfort through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. I take comfort in knowing that he is with the Lord. May God bring peace and comfort to all who have lost a child.

  6. My son drowned fishing September 16 2008. The worst day of my life. I miss him everyday. I still have his shirt next to my pillow he died in. I have been told to let go, I dont think I every will or can. I cry often.
    We

  7. Rebecca, I am sorry about your lost. My son died of pancreatitus at the age of 29. An illness that most people survive. In 2013, I lost my mother. While in church during a women’s conference, I prayed for God to give me peace and take away the grief and pain I was feeling especially during certain times of the year. Every year during March, April and May, I would grieve so hard for him. He died in March, his birthday was in April and May was Mother’s day. I know God answered my prayers, because this year the date of his death and burial went by and I didn’t even realize it. I remembered toward the end of the month, but I did not grieve. I think about him all the time, but I didn’t grieve during the month of March.

  8. my two sons died 5 days apart my eldest died in Nice France on 12/11/2014 and my youngest son 17/11/2014 I I want to go asleep and never wake up again how do I cope its unbearable

    • Hilary: Oh how my heart goes out to you. I have not been in your shoes, so all I can say is that it will probably be one breath at a time. Some sleep may actually help and relieve you for short periods of times as you try to integrate what has happened. I’m sure others who have had two children die could offer you more than I can. I hope you have people around you who can offer you hands and feet to support and help you. My heartfelt sympathy about both of your sons.

  9. I lost my beloved daughter 2 years ago today. I knew there were many like me who’s hearts were broken beyond repair. I didn’t know how I got through that first day, I have a very sketchy memory of it and the days that followed. As the weeks and months went by I thought “How have I survived this nightmare” Then I remembered the poem “Foot prints in the sand” and realized Jesus had carried me all that time. There is no other answer that makes any sense. I know my baby is with her her Lord and Savior and have found comfort in that because in the end we will be together forever and will never be separated again for all eternity, My relationship with Jesus Christ and the sure hope I have in Him is my peace and comfort. I hope others can find that truth for themselves if you don’t already have it. I know of no other hope. And it is the truth. God has done amazing things in my life regarding my loss that are beyond explanation..Every time I see and hear of another family enduring the loss of a child I cry for them and pray for them. And hope it helps them. To you who are suffering; you are not alone; we are many and pray for you daily. God Bless you and give you the peace that passes understanding. God be with you.

  10. There is no better way to put it. It’s nice to know these feelings we are forced to cope with day after day until our time has been served, as unnatural as they may feel, are natural after all.

  11. I lost my oldest son at age 15 to cancer four years ago. I’ve been told sorrow will kill you if you don’t let him go. He was the eldest of four kids at the time of death. He was full of laughter and an overall good honest kid. God took him in 5 weeks time to Heaven. I can’t forget him nor can I let him go from my everyday thoughts. I once heard that losing a child is like loosing a limb but it’s not….it’s worse than just loosing a limb. As I watch his siblings grow I am reminded of my deceased son. I miss my son every moment of the day. I will never let him go he did not deserve to leave us. I want to honor him so that is what I’m working towards. Has anyone let their child go? What were the results how can a mother let her bond just go?


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