Posted by: Jody Glynn Patrick | 12/13/2014

Endurance: living with the impossible — a child’s death.

broke heartYou didn’t train for this marathon. In fact, you hate it… this living day to day when your child is no longer living. The way forward is dark, dangerous and unpredictable. While other people walk in sunshine and bliss, you walk on glass in the dark, trying to anticipate the crevices that will cause you to stumble – the next time someone asks how your (recently departed) daughter or son is doing, the next time your partner suggests it’s time to clean out a room or pack away possessions, the next time a friend suggests getting dressed for an evening out, the next time you wake up to no one else in the house, or pick up a phone that won’t be answered today.

When a child is hurting, we know what to do – we give them a shoulder to lean on, a kiss, a doctor, a safe place to be. When we hurt, we need those same things, but it feels selfish to seek it out or, if you do, perhaps others who have provided that support for a while now think they would be a greater help by insisting you move on, stand on your own feet again, or “deal with it in a healthier way.”

Does your heart agree? Do you feel that I understand your feelings here?

No sermon; merely an observation.

People of faith may find a shoulder to lean on in their belief of a higher power. I’m not pushing any religion at all, only saying that faith in a greater power implies that your deceased child is at peace, guarded, loved elsewhere, and some followers will find some small measure of relief in that. Or, if that angers us even more (“Why would a loving God deny ME the right to shelter, love and guard my own child?”), then perhaps we may find that our faith can give us the strength or foundation to endure the unendurable — the unfair and unmerciful events in our life — because God will hold us up. This is the “one set of footprints” doctrine, and I relied on it heavily in the past and did, indeed, find some comfort there on my darkest days.

My own faith suggests that God did not have a covenant with us to remove sorrow or prevent pain or death or illness or famine from the earth. The covenant was to be present in our time of suffering, should we seek God out, and to offer balm and a heavenly home to the one taken from us. God offered the promise of everlasting life though, dammit, on another plane of existence. That belief gave me the ability to hold steady to my faith after my son’s death. While it was a very tenuous string, sometimes nearly invisible and stretched out of all proportion, I guess over time it was sufficient, as today I am able to live a life which incorporates both Daniel’s memory, the belief in an eventual reunion, and joy again.

No religious strings attached here, however.

In your pain, you may want to believe that your grief is deeper, that you must have loved your child more than I loved my son, if I could actually enjoy living a “new normal” after the tragedy, but that is not true. I am just further up the road, looking back, encouraging you forward. You can find your way. I, and others like me, are here to help shine light on your path. And that light is simply this message: You can endure. If you can’t find any grace or peace or comfort in faith at this moment, please do see the shoulder we offer. We are here, not to convert or even to witness – only to help without any religious or philosophical strings attached. Some have deep faith, others have a weak grasp of faith, and others are atheists or taking a break at the moment from any affiliation. It doesn’t matter to me, frankly. As a greater community, we are simply here because we care about your journey and we understand the unimaginable pain of losing a child. We, too, have suffered this great trauma.

Stay with us, if only because it is true that yes, misery does love company. That’s probably why you first reached out — to find someone who truly understood your pain and sorrow because they have experienced what it feels like to lose a child, too. But hearts also crave hope, and we can help you bridge the pain eventually. You don’t have to believe that now, but stay with us awhile. Read the other blogs. Understand that this is your community and we welcome you, bruised and battered, heartsick or angry, regardless of the number of years it’s been since the separation, or the age of the beloved child you lost. We are here.

Today, let that be enough to know and accept.


Responses

  1. Jody, thank you for capturing so many of our common feelings, struggles, confusion and angst in your words. As someone only 69 days out from losing my beautiful Hannah, I am comforted by this community of fellow mourners. I have huge hugs for you all if I ever get to meet you.

  2. thks for the support you offer. Almost 10 years we had to part from my son. It still seems like yesterday. But he is in our thoughts and in our hearts and once in a while a feather comes floating by and we know he still is with us. One day we will be able to see him again, giving him a really big hugh.
    Arlette from Belgium

    • I hear this from many mothers in grief; the pain is like yesterday and one day we will see him or her again and everything in between. I am 74 days from losing my daughter and physically closest of my children. we lived together or on the same block, worked together etc
      I miss her so much, my heart is more than broke, it is gone. Seems the longer it goes-the worse I feel, not better?. I can not imagine 10 years without her; I just cant see myself without her that long…

      • Linda, I understand what you are saying. Thank you for adding to our dialogue and being honest about your feelings. I don’t have the knee-jerk response of suggesting counseling, etc., because you are grieving and no one can say or know what is normal grief or what is becoming clinical depression in the early days. Grief causes depression, of course. Who wouldn’t be depressed with a dead child? The only suggestion I feel comfortable making to you is not to push yourself. Go day by day; don’t try to see 10 years into the future when you are less than 3 months out. Please also don’t make decisions about what you can bear, or how long you can bear the unbearable. It will become more bearable as your body and heart acclimates to a higher pain threshold. Don’t imagine yourself with waves crashing against you, a pier in the current of grief, but allow yourself the grace to become a net and let your grief flow through you. Don’t fight it, but don’t cling to it. Differentiate your child from your grief; clinging to one does not bring you closer to the other. I am so very sorry for you loss and we are here for you, to help you in the coming days, weeks and months. We recognize the pain, remember what it was like to be in the dark hole. When you can’t imagine another life, let us reassure you that you will find your way. But it is impossible to imagine now — I do get that. That is in the future; today, just know you are not alone. We hear you. We are here.

      • My heart and prayers go out to you Linda. It’s new for me as well. I would do anything to have my son back with me.

  3. I would like to say thank you. You nailed in on the head in the first paragraph – better than I could have ever put it. It has been almost 5 years for me now, losing my beautiful son Ryan. Thanks for your site and your support. I will accept your help as God probably led me to your site as I too sometimes still wonder how am I going to make it thru.

  4. Very comforting. Jody, you reached out to parents in all different places & stages of loss.

  5. Thank you Jody! After speaking with you about the capacity to endure I am so glad to read this. It is so true that we grow into a place where we still hold tightly to our children, still grieve and miss deeply. But we also endure those feels well enough to function and at times find joy. This week end while others party we will be marking birthday number 2 without BJ. Endurance…I believe God will supply more on that day!
    Blessings
    Julie

    • Julie- I’d love to correspond with you outside of this blog- any ideas?

      • Nancy, I’m not sure how to post my email without it being public so I will send it to Jody and ask her to forward it to you. I would love to talk with you!
        Julie

  6. I haven’t been on here in awhile because I don’t have any wisdom to help anyone else cope. It will be my second christmas without my only son and I am not doing well. I even cry when they advertise Rudolph the red nosed reindeer on tv…we always watched it together when he was little and even as an adult we would remind each other it was coming on and I can’t even hear the song without crying. My husband and I can’t stand being home around the holidays anymore. Last year we went to the mountains and this year we are at the beach. It is better than being around home but we are lonely and lost without him. We don’t have any close family anymore and all of the friends I used to have seemed to have moved on without me and I rarely hear from anyone. One in particular thinks I should have gotten over it by now…she has lost other family members and obviously thinks it’s the same to lose a child. She commented that I can make it better if I want to and be happy and have fun if I want to. I don’t think I will ever be happy again and it makes me angry to hear things like that from someone who thinks she knows how it feels but has children and grandchildren to love. I know people on this site are hurting too and i can vent my sadness and feelings here when I can’t anywhere else. I hope you are coping better than I am and maybe someday we can live without so much pain and enjoy life and holidays again. Thanks for being here.

    • Haney, I remember 12 years ago when my first husband died suddenly that the second Christmas was more difficult than the first, and that was with a spouse. I am coming up on my first Christmas without my beautiful Hannah and I’m so angry that the day is actually coming. I can’t even imagine how much more horrible next year will be. I do have two other girls, ages 20 & 26, who feel the same way that I do and are in agreement that Christmas will simply not come to our house this year. No decorations, no gifts. None of us can stand to do this without Hannah. I know from my experience with grief that the pain will eventually mellow, but it will never be joyful again. I am trying to find ways to keep Hannah’s love alive by serving others in her name- she cared so much about people in need and it helps to work out my grief by feeling like I’m doing her work. I’m also burning up my journal writing everything I can about her. Hugs to you and enjoy the beach. 🙂

    • Haney , Nancy I feel your pain and weep for you. It my second Christmas too . i don’t know what happened last year .
      This time i went through the motions because i didn’t want to upset my other son I am lucky i have two other sons. I saw my little granddaughter my son Peters child she never mentioned her Dad not a word well shes is only nine but its sad and it hurt. I went to the cemetery i take him flowers i planted snowdrops all i can do now
      Haney ignore that grossly insensitive excuse for a friend if i lived near you i would i am afraid go and give her not just a piece of my mind but a considerable measure of my boot too how dare she the unspeakable clod !
      People are insensitive and I hate them for it.
      I have this awful mask i wear its one that smiles and laughs but underneath I feel nothing but sadness.I hate myself for presenting a face to the world .It feels like a betrayal.
      sorry my friends xx

  7. Thank you all for your comments about the 2nd Christmas being worse. I feel very relieved that more parents feel this way. I could not figure out what was wrong with me this year. Every one talks about the firsts and holds our shaking hands through that year. No one warns you what will hit the second year! Its far worse! I didn’t need a hand holder I needed a doctor.
    It is our second Christmas with out our oldest son and wow was it worse for me! I haven’t been able to even talk to you guys I came so unglued! I’m not at all sure what I did last year as I don’t remember it. I am convinced that shock is a buffer. This year was a full gale force storm in my heart as I grieved and wept and wailed over the loss I felt so profoundly. This year I took those pills to stop the panic. This year I need those and more. This year I wanted to run from everything Christmas and for one of the first times in my life, I skipped church on Christmas eve. Im not mad at God. Just couldn’t stand to see the families sitting in nice rows all happy cause the kids are all home. All dressed up holding their new babies out for all to see. Dont get me wrong I AM happy for them. Im just so sad for me!! Not a pity party per say, just pain.
    Thank you for your honesty here. It helps me so much more than I say.

    Haney, that person that told you go get a move on…..her last page isnt written yet and she needs to tread carefully! We never know when our story will change and our chapters will be black. Just a thought for those who need to be more careful with their words.
    julie

  8. Another year passes I read somewhere a day or so ago that if your child dies you own life will be shortened.I believe this and I see no future at all even for the sake of my other sons, everything will never be the same again it will never be right we are all so changed.Already I am in the dark shadows and I see no way out

  9. Kathy, when someone is clinically depressed, they cannot see hope. They cannot find the energy to continue. Decisions are influenced by the brain chemical that fuels the depression. It sounds like you are very clinically depressed, so please don’t make decisions right now. Other sons are very much a reason to continue and to work through the pain. Please consider a counselor or reaching out, as you have here, to be heard. What you are feeling is real, it is a physical pain, and it is hard. However, you can do it with help to carry the load. Please seek a medical referral for that help right now.

  10. Hi Haney this is my first time on this website. In reading your paragraph I 100 % feel exactly the same as you. This was my 3rd Christmas and 3rd Anniversary of not having my son anymore. It was horrible, worse than the second! I lost my only son at 22 to addiction. Not only is my heart totally broken that he went down that horrible road, on top of it overdosed. My heart is double broken, it aches every night. Last week i went to the ER thinking I was having a heart attack. Just anxiety and heartache, literally. I have been clinically depressed , more so since the incident, on antidepressants, anxiety meds , but still nothing helps. My brain feels “frozen” still with the trauma. I still sit here and can’t make myself do anything . I really tried after the first year to get back to golf, riding my bike, exercise, zumba, etc to the point i hurt my knees,now they ache with osteoarthritis. I truly do NOT believe I will ever have joy or happiness again. Not like the years when they were small, or when
    i still had hope for him staying clean , even the worrying about him day in and day out, but this has totally devastated me. I only can find peace watching hours and hours of tv. I totally get anxiety travelling and being away from the house. My parents have been passed since 1980 and I have sisters, but feel so alone, bewildered and flattened out on the pavement by a steamroller. I’m tired of trying to climb up the mountain over and over and have given in to the pain. I take care of my husband and 3 dachsunds but otherwise I flat out don’t care anymore. He was my life and now i feel i have no life. Sad to say. He was a great person , gave me happiness with all the sports and accomplishments throughout the years, lots of wonderful vacations,too. Took me over 5 years to make it through after my mother passing in a car fatality by a drunk driver in a car i was driving and my dad with heart failure 3 weeks later, at age 21. And now my only child. Boy do i feel cursed. All i think about it the funeral and going to cemetery. Never ever thought my life would be what it is. All i hang onto is that he would want me to be happy , but so hard to get the wheelbarrel rolling again. God Bless us with our pain.

  11. I have read and reread this message several times because I don’t know where to go from here, so I just re-read your email. 6ou hit the nail on the head on so many points. Usually I can figure things out, but I truly think something happened in my brain 13 weeks ago. At that moment I received an hysterical call from my 11 yr old grandaughter. “Mom’s cold, I can’t blow enough air in her cuz her lips are so cold and purple. I can’t do it grandma. My mom is dead.” Sobs
    I collapsed, a gutteral, animalistic sound was coming from my mouth, loud. I was at work, as a mental heath therapist, at 8 am, and I remember all the therapists, nurse and staff barging into my office. As I writhed and continued screaming from a primal place, it hit me in waves, I must get to my granddaughter who was doing the same thing in the dirt outside her home where she found her mommy. After some time I went back to the house (taking the 11 yr old child to a family member) the corornor was there. My baby in a body bag, I had not seen her, as I’m not sure exactly I retrieved my granddaughter, but I lay on/next to that bsg, held on to each side of her arms beneath, screamung, “I gave her life, I took very good care of my children as,a single mother and for this daughter I was helping her through the death of her daughter/my granddaughter exactly five years prior. I couldn’t walk, breathe,. I wanted to crawl into that bag and go with her to heaven.
    Those moments of That day haunt me in panic attacks, nightm as res, flashbacks (not just rememberin and feeling sad; but seeing and hearing the scream, As If I Were in That Moment Again ) I cry all day, I have zero motivation. I stand at my island, make lists of things or projects I could do in my home since I am not working (which is how I deal during losses), but I cannot do anything but pace around my island. I say aloud, come on Lunda, you will feel better if you accomplish something/anything today. But I seem frozen. And I pace. Lack Motivation.
    People seem tired of hearing it when I do leave my home on occasional store runs and ‘run into a acquaintance or my own therapy visits. I can’t be released to work until I am better, as a therapist I must be stable, I am alone as I’ve been for 22 years, (9 of which the children have all left the nest). I must work, my home mortgage must be paid monthly, as do all other bills. I am so afraid that if I don’t get back to work I will lose everything I worked for as a single mother. My Children are my life, I supported them emotionally and financially. I fixed thier pains and booboo’s; I bettered my life and was an example to them by Going to College Full-time at the age of 44, from GED, Zero college credits to a Masters Degree in 8 years while working two jobs to support my family. Purchasing my home (a first). And now ALL OF THAT SEEMS FOR NOT, if I cant ‘look stable’ . I just don’t know if I can be completely stable in 13 weeks (thus far).
    I am so saddened by the loss of my child, only 33), angry because she wasn’t given treatment needed for lack of onsurance, angry that my grandbabies are in so much heartache. Scared due to loss of income. Ashamed because I guess I’m not healing on schedule. I thought I had known how bad this hurts. My mother lived with me when her son/my brother died at 41 and a little more than a year later my grandaughter at the age of seven, (the now 11 yr old who found her mom also was witness to her sisters death, ss they slept together that evening), I lived across the street when my daughter lost that child. I lost my mom three years ago. I really thought I had a good idea, w h en I has a client with grief and loss, depressed in my office. I honestly thought I had a grip on how they were feeling. I had lost my granddaughter a n d brother. I HAD NO CLUE HOW BAD THIS PAIN WAS FOR MY MOTHER AND DAUGHTER. I now do not have either of them to apologize for not understanding thier pain.
    I am rambling and probably not making much sense. Basically I have lost all four of these family members, in five year period. The most devastating by far is my child. It feels as though a vaccum is sucking from belly button area, my lungs and heart out from my chest. Yet expected to ‘move on and let go’, and the stressor of being alone without support, emotionally or financially.
    So I read and re-read for someone who understands my horrific pain. Thank you for making this available.
    Linda Wishart MS/MFCT, MFT-I a n d PhD Candidate.

  12. I sit here sobbing as I read this amazing message. It’s only been a couple of months since my four year old son was tragically struck by a car. I’ve never felt so much pain I’m my life. Reading this is like someone reading mind. I really didn’t think anyone truly knew and understood what I’m going through. I’m in a haze everyday of my life. I can’t concentrate and I go days without sleep. I have become completely reclusive in my day to day life. I go on emotional roller coaster rides. One part of the day I’m doing ok. Then I get so angry, usually it’s a trigger of some sort that makes me think about him. I’m a 25 year old single guy that lives alone. I’m kinda just taking everything head on and very aggressively. I was blown up on my second tour to Afghanistan. My son died only a couple of weeks after I came home. Everything is so overwhelming and I’m on a downward spiral hard and fast. I’m reaching out now in desperation. I need to get a grip but I just don’t know how to shake this off of me.

    • Sometimes all we can do is be here and truly hear you. We are here and we do understand and we do feel your pain with you. There is no magic to help you through it, as you know from your service overseas (thank you for that — my daughter was 5 years USAF in the middle east). I am so glad that you are reaching out here. We are here and you can know that we care and want to help you, William. We have walked at least half a mile in your shoes; our paths may have been different, but the destination — living on without our child in some state of grace or at least, in some state of “nearly sane” — is the same. I can only imagine that people on death row, on the day their execution date comes, can understand our devastation. It is complete. But the difference is that the sun continues to rise for us, and there are more days to struggle through. Know that you can do this and (not now, but eventually), you will welcome the sun on your face again. You will never stop loving or missing your child, but you will make your way through the grief. We are here to help you with that.

      • Everybody keeps telling me that god has a plan. I can’t help but think, What??! What kind of plan is that? My son? My baby? Why would something like that happen? I’m not a bad person. I’ve worked hard. I played with him everyday. He looked at me like no one else in this world could look at me. How can you just let that go? How can life just keep going like nothing happened? This has rocked my whole foundation and way of life.

  13. William, I read you post days ago and I have kept thinking about you. Im so deeply sorry that your baby is gone and that you are so heart broken. Please tell us about him. What is his name and what did he love the most? I would like to know who he is.
    You have begun to talk to the right people. We all know what you are feeling, why your saying what you do and why your asking the questions that you are. Some of us even know what will come next as we are a bit further along than you. Knowing a bit more does not make it better or easier but has given me a better picture of enduring this pain. There is a space what expands to hold it better and cope better. However, I do not believe it just happens. I believe it is a choice. Endurance is a choice. One that is made along the way. It takes time to chose to survive, than to be sane, than to act “normal”, than to laugh a little. It takes time. Dont beat on yourself, your not far enough away from “that day” yet to do these things.
    Shaken to the foundation! That is a very accurate description of what happens. The rebuilding is very, very difficult but not impossible. That does not say that you will be the same ever again. Who you were is gone. The choice to be the best you can be without your son is just that, a choice. Dont rush!!! Grieve and grieve deeply but grieve well. I know that you are most likely yelling at me 🙂 What the hell does that mean????
    Our boys expected, relied on us, to behave in a manner of honour. This has not changed because they are gone. What we do now will honour them or is unbecoming to us and them. Don’t get me wrong, I have lost my crazy all over the place!!! And we are all entitled to do that at times and in certain places. We dont just let go. We don’t just go on. The world around us does but we don’t. We start a whole new life, being a whole new person even if it is one we don’t want to be.
    William, I remember yelling at God “that’s your plan? That’s all you’ve got? Really a plan that would leave me in this world without my son?” This was not a one time event! God heard me scream that for months and that is all He heard from me.
    Yes, God does have a plan. I will NEVER understand it but I trust God who holds my son to NEVER get it wrong. How would we ever heal to “nearly sane” if we got bitter and hated? God can deal with angry, yelling, accusations etc. So have at it! it’s soul cleansing. Then if the only reason you have to trust God is because He now holds your precious son, start there.
    Our babies deserve more honour in memories than us being bitter. It’s almost 2 years for me and I am making every effort to act in ways that would honour my son and not embarrass him if he were still here. Maybe thats a place to start when you can stand a little.
    Your a man who seems to know a lot about the capacity to love a little one so I know that your a man who will know when to chose to endure more than you can today. We are all right here……keep talking. Just keep talking and some one of us will be able to help you
    Blessings
    Julie

  14. William, I could not help but want to reach out to you. The loss of your precious son is terrible, absolutely terrible and tragic. I too have a hard time with the “God’s Plan” message. People say all kinds of things that they think are helpful but aren’t. I still don’t like to hear the God’s Plan excuse. I think, if anything, that if there is a god, that he/she/it had nothing to do with your son’s death. Your son’s precious life and having him die does rock every bit of foundation. The world is going on, people are living their lives, and you are left in this void where the most precious thing in the world has been taken from you. Both sadly and fortunately, none of them will understand until this happens to them.

    Grieving is a sacred act, so this is a sacred time. I say sacred because you are going to feel deeper than you ever thought possible, with both the pain and the love you have for your son. It is also a crazy time, as you try to function in the world and hold on to the depth of connection you feel for your boy. I don’t know if my words will make any sense to you right now.

    Anger, sadness, deep deep sorrow, regret, love, hatred, weariness, etc., etc. all happen and often at once. I call it the swamp. Sometimes I sink into the muck, sometimes I manage, sometimes I cling to branches to steady myself, sometimes I sleep too much because I’m spent, sometimes I do things for others. It is a roller coaster. We have all been on it and we understand. Please keep reaching out to others who know what this is about.

    I am so, so very sorry about your son. Please do tell us about him.

    Dru

    • My son, my beautiful brown haired brown eyed four year old clone of myself. He was light of my life, I could do no wrong. He was so energetic, loved anything to do with flying or aviation. He loved helicopters especially. He called them(keli hopters) I got divorced about a year ago. I was on my way to pick up both my sons. ( I have a two year old as well) We we’re suppose to go to the water park here in Baton Rouge La. I got the call from my ex wife, she was frantic. He was playing in my front yard. When my ex wife’s mother drove through the front yard in her Tahoe. She just didn’t see him playing. He was flown out on a keli hopter… I went to the hospital where I saw my ex wife in the lobby. We sat in front of god and everyone holding each other on the floor of the waiting room crying frantically. They suggested I not go back and see him. I just couldn’t do that. When I saw my son in the condition he was in. It took a piece of my soul. The days following were just a blurr. Before the wake I went to the funeral home with my sons favorite spider man costume. He wore it constantly! It had a half mask which was perfect to cover his injuries so we could have an open casket. We had a catholic funeral then sent my son to be cremated. He brought so much happiness to anyone that was around him. He climbed on EVERYTHING it didn’t matter where we were. He climbed and climbed no matter what. We had three horses at the time of our marriage. He was so stubborn about going to see the horses. Just %100 boy through and through. That was my best friend.

      • William, Thank you for telling us about your beautiful, beautiful boy. I think of how I will now think of keli-hopters when I see one. He does sound “all” boy and so confident in himself to want to climb everything. My heart breaks for what happened to him and what you have gone through and will still go through. I believe you and he are still best friends. Tell us his name, but only if you want. Sending you a hug.

  15. William, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful boy. If you’d wish, we could add a formal memorial page with his picture — that’s up to you. Meanwhile, we now all hold him in our hearts, our prayers, our grief, and our love as well.

    • His name is Carson William Hall you can google the obituary. It tells a lot about him as well. Thank y’all so much for your thoughts and prayers. This page helps me a lot. Being able to openly communicate with others that understand the pain. Bless y’all


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