When a parent dies it is like losing the past, when a spouse dies it is like losing the present but when a child dies it is like losing the future. A child dying is not the natural sync of life and the shock of it is extremely traumatic. It is the most excruciating pain any parent could experience. Having experienced the death of two daughters, a daughter at age twenty-two and a grand-daughter I was raising at age thirteen, the agony and anguish of losing them both was devastating. I believe losing a child is one of the most horrific traumas that anyone could ever endure no matter what age, whether it is during pregnancy, after birth, a young child or an adult child. The reality is, it is your child and the onset of grief is inevitable.
Personally, the suddenness of Danielle’s murder and a plane crash that took my husband and my grand-daughter were like a rock being thrown at a glass window shattering it into a thousand pieces. My life was shattered. My heart was shattered. After reading about a condition known in the medical field as “broken heart syndrome” which is also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy, I totally understand the condition having experienced it. The symptoms are the same as one having a heart attack, sudden chest pain in the neck and arm areas. Any stress or particularly the death of a loved one or loss of something dear to us can trigger these symptoms and cause the person to think they are having a heart attack.
As I was in the process of writing my memoirs in my recently released book “Despite the Odds” unbeknown to me, writing the book and re-living the traumas and associated emotions brought on chest pains which were so intense I was admitted to hospital on two occasions. Angina, shortness of breath and low blood pressure due to the in ability of the heart to pump enough blood to the brain became apparent, as was a return to a depressed emotional state. After numerous tests, both occasions came back negative to heart problems but stress-induced cardiomyopathy was the cause.
We have heard people coin the phrase “she died of a broken heart” when a person loses someone dear to them. It is not uncommon to see an aged person lose a spouse and the remaining partner to pass on in a short amount of time after the initial spouse’s loss. Clearly the loneliness and anguish of not having their soul-mate triggers immense sadness which in turn affects the person physically and ultimately in death. It sounds incredible but it is a scientific fact. However, a word of advice, always see your doctor if any of these symptoms occur.
When a child dies it is like losing the future and all dreams and aspirations once held for the child are quashed. I went through a torrid time of focusing on my girl’s lost graduations and careers, partners, weddings, children and the future with them. Even as I write, my heart aches for them. The emptiness of losing a child leaves a hole that is ever-present. I would love to do coffee or go shopping with my girls but focusing on what will never be is futile and will pull you down into a pit of despair. Pulling oneself back to the present is imperative for psychological and physical health and well-being.
Grieving is fundamental to the process of healing. However, numbness due to the shock of the loss can vary significantly for each person. The reality of the loss is often too hard to bear so the body puts a safe-guard around the emotions allowing numbness to set in. It takes time to adjust to a loss and as we are unprepared for it, we cope the best way we know how. A sense of guilt can overcome a parent who has lost a child due to the unnatural order of the death. It is so easy to get trapped in the guilt cycle and “if only” cries are common and may include recrimination which exacerbates the loss even further. More often than not these feelings of guilt are unfounded. A word of advice, it is unhealthy to carry feelings of guilt into your future for an extended period of time. It is not uncommon to see people carry it around lie a backpack all their lives which is devastating to see. Guilt changes nothing except your well-being which is affected for the worse, so let go and live.
Loss of a baby to miscarriage, cot-death, illness or circumstances that force a parent to put a child up for adoption is profoundly painful. A sudden loss due to trauma is shockingly harrowing for a parent too. Adjusting to the new normal after losing a child takes time where empathy and support from family and friends is crucial. Allow yourself some grace to walk the journey without placing high expectations upon your-self. Often we are our hardest taskmaster. There is no one-size-fits-all grieving process so give yourself a break and just get through today.
Exercise is crucial for your mental well-being; escapism like movies or books is also beneficial as is time out with your girlfriends for coffee or shopping. Any distraction is a good one when grieving. Take one day at a time and look for the small blessings in each day. You deserve it.
Don’t live with regret over what has happened in the past, events that cannot be altered. Regret is like a parasite that eats away at your mind and your well-being. Both regret and guilt are culprits that rob you of your peace. Contend for your peace and fight for what is important by not following a rabbit hole that leads you nowhere.
When a child dies lena on your family and friends. Never do grief alone.