Losing a Child


Losing a child is unimaginable. I still can’t imagine it. I’m just living it.

Losing a child devastates parents. It’s not right; children shouldn’t die before their parents. Children should have a chance to grow up and live a full life. So many shoulds….I’ve worked hard to process them to lessen the pain of loss, but they still come up in waves of grief, and I ride them and continue to process.

Losing a child is an experience than can only be truly understood by parents who have lost a child. It’s a club. It feels good to know there are others who will always understand when the pain arises. We’re called “bereaved parents”; my friend Henry who lost his son wants to see a new name coined just for us, like there are names for “widow” or “widower” or “orphan”. No one wants to give it a name because it is unthinkable.

It’s lonely losing a child. I’m grateful that my support has far outweighed anything I’ll mention in this paragraph. I know there are many who didn’t contact me because they didn’t know what to say, or because their fear of losing their own children was triggered. It’s not a disease, and it’s not contagious. (I remember some people avoided me when I was going through a divorce and a miscarriage, too. They weren’t contagious, either!) There are also some who see me or talk to me on the phone and don’t ask how I am doing. I usually don’t mind (because of all the support I do get), but it is very curious to me why anyone wouldn’t understand that this kind of loss is a pain that is felt daily for a long time, and it feels good to be asked how I’m doing. If I have to, I can share a quick cry and then move on to enjoy life; acknowledging the pain does wonders. I’m manifesting just the right amount of people who check in with me at just the right times when I need it. Most of the time I’m just fine, and I’m grateful for the once-in-a-while check-in.

As much as I’d like to create a painless future, I’m convinced that the pain of losing Jason will never go away. It will diminish and it will transform, and it will always remind me of what an awesome person he was in my life, how much love we shared, and how much I enjoyed being a mother. I do miss that. I really miss that. I still identify with being a mother. In fact, I asked Jason today if I could still be his mother and he said “of course, mom, you’ll always be my mother, you were an awesome mom.” That’s so true – why would I ever doubt that?

I miss holding him. Jason will always be my baby. He was my baby when he was going through his “give me space” teen phase, but I wasn’t attached to cuddling him like when he was younger. I just imagined it. I still do. He sure liked my massages at any age (except as a baby – he was too ticklish and he cried), and I miss giving them. I liked taking care of Jason on the physical plane. I admit it wasn’t always fun, but I treasured my role. I also enjoyed helping him learn how to take care of himself; he was growing up so fast, and I was so blessed to have such a mature young adult.

I don’t plan on being attached to seeing Jason grow up, wondering what he would have been doing at each stage of life. But I probably will wonder. It’s a curiosity, one that I hope won’t bring up an unhealthy level of pain – that’s something I believe I can manage.

I see kids his age or a bit older and wish I could still see Jason coming home from school, or hear his voice on the phone from college. This holiday season wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but I have been triggered when parents talk about their kids coming home for the holidays, or planning their family holiday vacation. I won’t have that experience with Jason coming home from college, or from some new travel adventure. I’ll never experience his physical presence again, but I’m blessed to have his presence with me always, in other ways. And I really do celebrate other parents being able to enjoy being with their children; I know how special that is.

I’ve been intrigued by all the stories I’ve heard of parents who have lost a child, and the years of grieving they experienced. I’m not devastated, as many people predicted – “Oh, you will be devastated, you will be grieving for a very very long time.” The latter will probably be true. However, I’m finding I’m enjoying life at a steadier state with intermittent waves of grief that dissipate more and more quickly, and come less and less frequently. Some of them are big, like the one I had yesterday when I cashed in Jason’s college account. Wow! That hit me like a ton of bricks. I worked hard to save that money, envisioning supporting his dream to be a successful artist and musician. Well, that money is for my life college now. Jason moved on to a different college that doesn’t take earth currency, and I’m guessing he’s still getting A’s; he was always proud of his achievements, on whatever plane of existence.

Losing a child is not like any other loss. No loss should ever be compared to any other loss, but I can confidently say that losing a child is a unique kind of loss. I’ve heard several accounts of people who have lost a sibling, and they refer to the pain of their parents that was so much greater than their own. I’ve done deep grieving when I lost close friends and relatives, but that didn’t come close to even a very small fraction of the grief I have felt losing Jason.

Losing a child sucks. I met someone at a funeral gathering last weekend and mentioned I had just lost my son. She said with great compassion “wow, that really sucks.” I felt so much appreciation for that statement, as crass as it sounded. It’s so true. I’ll never pretend it isn’t.

I was going to end on that note, but I do love life, so I’ll end on this note. It’s a B flat, sing along! Love is all there is….