Posts tagged loosing a child

The Effects and Lessons of Loss-An Anology of Death

 

 

For many years of my young life, I escaped the emotional and physical costs of the death of a loved one who was a part of your daily life. In the past 14 years, it seems to have been nearly continuous, from aunts and uncles, cousins and friend, grandparents and parents to my precious 15 year old son.

I have learned that the deaths of different close friends and family affect us in entirely different ways. To see an older relative who has lived a long life and is now suffering gives us a sense of relief, that they are no longer suffering and are in, what we have been taught and hope, is “a better place. To Christians, and some other religions, that means Heaven.

When my best friend died at 48 after a 15 year battle with cancer, I could not help but feel cheated, for her, for her children and grandchildren, and later, as I faced deaths that were “closer to home”, for myself. I did not have the person I needed to talk to cry with, hug, and find comfort in her compassion.

I had several cousins and neighbors die in their middle-age, usually from cancer. I found myself looking at their lives, the happiness they had with their mates, and children, the love and attention their grandchildren would miss. I felt that they were cheated, they did not smoke, abuse their health or do dangerous things. It was a different grief process than I felt when my elderly relatives died.

I am an only child. I have lost both of my parents within the past 3 ½ years. It has been so difficult to walk into their house, the accept the not-so-good memories and embrace the wonderful support they always gave me, that I have often had to simply put their loss “in a box”, only to be opened at certain times, like birthdays, holidays or even the day they died. I spend a lot of time with my parents, seeing them most every day. When they were sick, I helped care for them, when they were sad, or scared, I listened. I helped them with their financial issues, memorial wishes, and settling estates. I would say it was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it wasn’t.

I lost my beloved son eight years ago at the age of 15. It was very sudden, a regular day, filled with normal activities for a teen-school, buss rides, ball games. On that day, I took him to a ball game and didn’t brink him home. I have written about this many times in my blog, and would love for you to look up the articles and read them and what actions I have taken since, but that is not what this article is about.

There is nothing as painful as loosing a child. There isn’t even a word for a parent who has lost a child. If you loose your parents, you are an orphan, if you loose a mate, you are a widow or widower. What are you when you loose your child? So much of what you are, what you lived for, looked forward to is gone, it is simply indescribable.

In my case, I not only lost my child, I lost my health. Within a few months, I was developing symptoms of Cushings Syndrome, a pituitary disease that has many scopes, causes and outcomes. My doctor kept insisting that what I was suffering from was “just stress”, even though I insisted that it was more than that. First let me point out that stress is not a “Just”. It destroys your health, your ability to function, to deal with work or your family. Never accept this excuse, no matter what you are suffering from.

It wasn’t until I had heart failure 8 months after my son’s sudden death, that a heart doctor started really examining me. He immediately wrote my doctor and told him that I had the typical symptoms of Cushings Disease (some types are called “Syndrome”. Evidently, I wasn’t important enough for my doctor to even read the report because 6 months later, when I went to the Cardiolgist, he was astounded that I had received no help and sent me to the Endocrinologist then next day. Again, I will ask that you read my other articles on my son’s death and my illness and return to the topic of grief and the different ways we, as humans respnd to it.

Men, women and children respond to grief in various ways. Men have a difficult time showing outward grief, having been taught during their whole lives that emotions are a sign of weakness. Therefore, they often take it out on others, especially those that they love them most. It is horrible for a woman to be fighting for her life, and not have the person who is supposed to always be there for her, him being emotional abusive, and often reverting to child-like things to get his mind off of his unfathomable sorrow.

Children under about the age of 12 often have a delayed reaction to grief. When they begin to think in a more adult-like manner, the grief that may have happened several years ago suddenly creeps in. The child may not be able to sleep, have irrational fears for their own safety or for the safety of those they love. They may regress somewhat in their behavior, their grades in school may suffer. It is very important that a child who has lost a sibling gets the help they need, and this can vary from child to child. Do not be afraid to explore your child’s needs with his doctor, counselors, siblings, your spouse or minister. I feel like it has been very difficult for me to be the mom I always was and still meet my child’s needs. Even when I felt that I was, I have realized even years later, that I needed to give him the chance to talk to those he felt comfortable with about his feelings.

The death of someone particularly close to you is often almost impossible to overcome. The effects on my health on top of my emotional grief, unfounded self-grief, and my blaming everyone from God to my child’s friends is something I still struggle with daily. Even though I have made some progress, he physical problems caused by the Cushings Disease will be with me forever, always reminding me of why I have to deal with them.

One of the best things we can do to help someone we love who is greiving is simpy to listen. Let them be angry, blame people, feel what they feel. Just getting these things out of their system for a few minutes can be tremendously helpful. Since it is difficult to deal with those who are grieving, especially over a child or a person to whom they were particularly close, we often cut ourselves off from them just when they need us the most. It is not easy to allow a person who is in the midst of grief to express feelings that we may not agree with, but we have to be able to, and, hopefully, over time, we can help lead them back to a better place. Simply learning not to blame themselves is a big step in finding a way back to a better place.

I don’t think I will ever heal from the emotional loss of my child and some of the circumstances around it, but I KNOW I will never get over the physical scars and pain that I have to live with every day of my life. I am sure that living with me is not easy for those I love. They try, and I am very grateful that they put forth this effort.

Eventually, we will all have to deal with loss in some form. Having our family and friends around us is critical in getting back to a place where we can at least function to the best of our ability. Each person’s reaction to grief varies just as their path to healing is different. Try to stand back and see what your loved one needs and be there for them, even if it is difficult for you. You, their support team can make all the difference in the world to someone suffering from loss. Take the time to talk to them, not only right after the death of a loved one, but years later as well. Send a card on the loved ones birthday or mention then on a holiday card. Help them laugh (or even cry) over some of the memories you have of their loved one. Remind them of the joy they had when they were with them and let them know that it is alright to be angry, sad, frustrated or even overcome with emotion.

One thing that has helped me is for someone to take me to dinner, on a walk, read favorite poems, or listen to music near the “anniversary” of their loss, but perhaps not on the exact day. Sometimes, the anniversary of a death, or even the persons birthday may be simply too emotionafor them to profit from your good intentions.

Remember, our day will come, and in that sense, if we have been there for someone else, it will be easier for us to accept the help of friends and benefit from it. Love involves the risk of hurt, whether from loss, breakup, moving away or simply from a child growing up and concentrating on their own life. Stand back and see if you need to “be there” or “give them space” because each of those times will come. I have found that when I lost my son, I often lost my friends as well, not from “meanness” but simply because they didn’t know what to do or say. Do not abandon your loved one in their time of need,no matter how hard it may be. Neither should you smother them, because they are having to learn to live in a completely different way than they did before.

Whether they are able to express it or not, the fact that you care will make a huge difference as the person who has experienced loss begins this new and difficult path. Simply knowing that you are there for them may be the best “medicine” you can give.

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CHILDHOOD REVISITED DAILY PROMPT

Childhood-is there anything I would change?  That opens so many doors.  Of course as a parent and grandparents, there are many philosophies, ideas, decisions that we all wish we could change. Since it is late and I am tired I will stay with one thing that I wish I could change about my childhood and one thing I wish I could change about being a mother.

I was an only child.  I hated it. It was often lonely, I never really felt good about myself or happy.  It wasn’t for lack of love, perhaps, I had more than I could handle.  I lived next door to my grandparents, and my aunt and uncle.  They had not children. We even had a “party line” telephone.  You have to be pretty old to remember when two people shared one :line” and even though they had separate phone numbers, if one “person was on the phone, not only could you hear their conversation, you could not make a call of your own.  Imagine being a teen sharing a phone with six adult who could listen in or pick up the phone at anytime.  I have always referred to my childhood as “Life under the microscope.”

The natural wish for an only child ho hated it is to ant a big family of her own.  Through many trials and difficulties, I did have a big family-4 boys and 2 girls. There are so many things that a parent wishes they had done differently when the numerous decisions of being a parent have to be made.  NO! becomes an echo, of sorts. Each child is different. One approach to a problem make work well for one child and not at all for another.  I always felt it was important for my teens to learn to say “No’ on their own. I would tell them, they we welcome to say, “I can’t do that, mom would kill me if she found out.”, but one day. mom or dad may not be there and they would have to have the courage to say “no” on their own.  I think I did a good job with this philosophy on the big decisions, but one winter, when my 5th child,a son told me he didn’t want to play baseball on the school team, I was elated. I had been having thoughts and dreams about something happening to him elated to baseball.  The thoughts  and feeling really didn’t make sense. I never liked baseball, and thought that maybe it was just that I was glad I wouldn’t have to put up with the practices and games in bad weather, the schedule conflicts and such.

My son, nearly 15, did not play in spring or summer.  My heart was so relieved.  I actually believed God was helping me avoid some crisis when he decided not to play.  Then one day right after school started, we were getting ready to leave when his friends and a father who was going to coach “fall ball” zoomed up our driveway and begged my son to go to their last practice.  Out of boredom, he decide to go, it was just one game.  he still liked to play, just not on an organized team.

I reluctantly said it was alright, but when he came home, he slammed down the new hat and jersey and said, Mom, I don’t want to play” and they just threw the uniform at me and said “See ya at the game.”

“Call the and tell them you aren’t playing>’ I said, reminding him that he had promised not to play.

” I can’t”. He said, his he turned to the floor, “They said they wouldn’t have enough players without me and I can’t disappoint my friends.”

I wanted so bad to tell him, “Then I will say NO for you” But I didn’t.  I remembered my vow to make them learn to ay “no” on their own. I actually felt like God was telling me that I had to let him learn this lesson, he was 15, a sophomore in high school.

“It is only a few weeks I said, a tear running down my cheek.  The feeling of worry kept coming back about something bad happening to him that involved baseball. I had prayed and prayed about it. i felt God had promised to keep him safe and me strong, that God had jobs for us to do, and he was with us.

On the night of October 4, 2006, my husband, younger son , my 15-year-old and his best friend prepared to go to his second game in three days. I had to hurry home from volunteering to coach a play at my younger sons school and we were running late.  I quickly opened the door when i got home , and  my son was standing there with his quiet sly smile.  “Oh, you scared me!” I said.

We grabbed something to eat at a fast food place and hurried to the game.  Twice, I almost took his picture and didn’t because this as in the day of film and I as about on my last shot.  I came so close to taking his picture when he made a great double and stole third.  The next player struck out.  He told a friend in the dugout that h didn’t feel good, but he went on to right field, expecting not to have to do much and it was the last inning.

Before they started playing again, I heard a mom say, “Is something wrong with Andrew?” and looked out to see him holding his head.  He started running to me, and I started running to him. Right as i got to him, he grabbed his chest, then threw his hands out as if to break a fall.

He landed hard on the ground, I will never forget the slow-motion scene of him falling in the dirt, hitting his nose and forehead as dust rose around him.  I was screaming, ” Call 911! Call 911! A parent called out that they would as everyone crowded around my son.

He was unconscious, unresponsive. No one knew what to do, There was a fire station within sight of the park, and we were all looking for the fire truck  to take a left and rush down the parking lot. They didn’t.  I honestly feel the man who called 911 panicked and hung up before telling the operator that the child wasn’t hurt playing and that the fire dept. was right above us.  It was 10-12 minutes before an ambulance came. A man ran us, said he was a nurse, but did nothing.

“He isn’t breathing well”. The nurse said, and I was crying “Well, can;t you do something?  All he did was turn his head upward a bit.  At this time,we had been taught not to do CPR if the patient was breathing-it is what i was taught, and perhaps he was as well. Finally, an ambulance came. His blood gases were very bad, as rode to the hospital in the ambulance, i could see the ambulance attendance using a defibrillator on him.  I coudn’t believe it his heart had stopped.

A  chaplain met  us at the hospital door.  My husband and the whole team we already there-before the ambulance. For an hour, we were consoled, given hope, then told his condition was very bad.  When the chaplain told us to bring the family to a side room, we knew what we would hear.

“You mean he’s dead?” I sobbed, shaking,nauseous.   I don’t even remember the doctors words, just some “we tried so hard” statement and the chaplain asking us if we wanted to go see him, warning us to be quiet that there were other patients in the emergency room.

The rest is a story of shock, grief and the purest of hell a mother can face.  My handsome healthy 15-year-old was dead and we had no idea why. He n no sign of sickness.  We later found out he had contracted “viral myocarditis” and the last play, the great hit, stealing third base.  I guess his heart got out of rhythm then, because he had told several friends h didn’t feel well.

This has been a long story to tell the reader the thing I wish most i could change about being a parent.  It is saying “NO”, for your child, when they don’t do it themselves.  If i had, my son would likely be here, if the ambulance we could see had come, if we had already left that day his friends pulled up, wanting him to come to their “last” practice.

There will be people who are angry at me for writing this, they may make up excuses fir God, or say other ridiculous, irrelevant things.  All mothers who have lost a child have heard them.  My only point here is to answer the question asked by the prompt-“If you could change ONE thing…”  and  my answer is this, “I would not be afraid to say “NO” if that is what my heart was telling me I should do.

Please read my other blogs on Parent Heart Watch and on loosing my son.

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