Sunday, April 28, 2013

Losing a Child

Today marks six years since we lost our oldest son, Joseph to cancer. Six years ago was the darkest, most excruciating day of my life. Today we are in a much better place, but it has been a long journey from that horrid place.

Losing a child changes you. That seems so obvious, but you really cannot predict how it will change you.

You may feel guilty about anything that makes you happy. You may feel that in enjoying something you are some how letting down your loved one. It takes a long time to truly enjoy things in life again.

You remove yourself more often from social situations. Begin social is utterly exhausting after losing a loved one. Getting to that level where you're chatting, relaxed, and happy is more difficult than you imagine. Being around people that are happy somehow reminds you that you are not and that someone you care about is missing. And then you don't really want to explain that to people so you slowly stop going to things.

You don't give as much of yourself away any more. If you were once open and friendly and loving, you find that you don't share as much of yourself any more. You find that in opening up that side of you, you may open up the wound and you just don't want to chance that. So you love and enjoy at a different level because it's sometimes the only way to cope with the pain.

You miss one of the most important parts of yourself. You constantly feel like your child should be coming home any moment. And while you know they are gone, you still look for them and feel as if they should be home. Then you remember they are not coming home again, and the ache is just so powerful.

You are hyper aware of other people's suffering, and you wish so desperately that they were not facing pain. And while you have so recently been through something similar, you still have no words to truly ease their suffering. But you wish constantly that you did.

You watch your other children suffer in the loss of their brother. You watch them cry because they can't remember how their brother looks or sounds. You watch them trying to keep it together on their brother's birthday or special events while their friends have no idea how much they are hurting inside. You put aside your own pain to hold up the child who is currently hurting because nothing is more important than healing the rest of your family.

You wonder constantly how to celebrate special events such as Christmas, your child's birthday, and vacations. You sometimes want to get lost in the moment of the holiday or sometimes you want nothing to do with it.

You find yourself wanting to share your child's memory with everyone, but you don't want to burden them with a pain they can't understand. You recognize that uncomfortable look in others' eyes when you've discussed your pain too much, and you fold back into yourself because it really is your own burden to carry.

You struggle to know how to continue caring for a child that is no longer with you. You feel lost and confused about how to still parent from a distance so they still feel your love. You never quite figure it out.

You watch your spouse suffer differently from you, and you ache all over again knowing you can't make it better for them. You take turns suffering: one falling apart while the other one stands strong. And sometimes you have to put away for a bit because it threatens to consume you.

You find you mourn for him in the most unlikely places: vacations, dates with your spouse, getting ready in the morning, driving down the freeway. It washes over you suddenly, and without warning and you weep when no one's looking.

You find yourself comforting others that miss him too. And sometimes that is exactly what you want to do, and other times you wish you could selfishly miss him by yourself. You want to share him and yet keep him all to yourself.

You learn you are stronger than you ever thought you were. You learn you can wake up day after day and keep moving forward despite a pain that consumes you. You learn that even after the most awful thing your heart has ever had to endure, you can be happy again. You can find peace again. You can love again. You can heal.

For me, having faith that I will see Joseph again has been the biggest source of peace and comfort for me again. Believing that one day we will not only see him, but raise him again as a family helps me move not away from the pain, but towards being with him again.

Having a loving husband to stand with has given me strength at those moments when I was on the verge of breaking down. Loving each other through it has proven to me the strength of our love. We continue to lean on each other constantly.

Having other children who needed me, who are bright stars of their own has given me purpose and a place to put my heart.

Having extended family who listen and understand and try to give us space when we need it has been a tribute to the kind of people they are.

Having friends all over the world who remember, comment, care, and support us makes me feel his memory lives on, and that will always be important to me.

On this sixth anniversary of my son's passing, I feel at peace. I will never stop missing him, and some years are more difficult than others. But I know he is well. I know he is at peace with my brother. And I KNOW I will be with him again. I'm grateful for this knowledge.

34 comments:

  1. Beautiful. So true. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  2. Melissa Mann8:27 AM

    Beautiful words. ((hugs))

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  3. So sorry for your loss Jen. I know through your pictures and words what a sweet boy your son was. Praying for you and thinking of him. It is a privilege to read your words. We are dealing with a loss right now and even though it is not the same I can relate so well to what you wrote. Be well.

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  4. Wilna9:41 AM

    Reading this with tears. I know that no words can bring comfort. But it makes me happy to know one can get to a place of peace. And yes, you will meet again!! Life is so incredibly fragile. And beautiful. And hard. Love you. Hugs and kisses on this day.

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  5. This is so beautiful and sweet. I love your words. Straight from the heart, honest and true. Life shouldn't be so hard. Sending big hugs your way.

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  6. Thank you for having the courage to share your heart with us, Jen. I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm so thankful you can tell others about your experience, so they too can find hope of being at peace again.

    You are such a generous soul, and I so appreciate you.

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  7. Thinking of you today Jennifer. Sending love and prayers to you and your family.

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  8. I am so sorry for your loss Jennifer. I cannot imagine what you have had to endure. My parents have gone through the same thing with my younger brother passing away 6 years ago and I wanted to share your blog post with them because I am sure they will understand. Hugs to you and your family.

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  9. Thanks for saying in words things I can't often express. We lost our son Jan-Eric almost 31 years ago. Some days it feels like yesterday and other days it seems like a long time ago. We never forget we just learn to keep those memories in a safe place. I don't talk about it often as it always makes me sad at what could have been.

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  10. Oh my goodness. I can't begin to understand ( and for that i thank God)but I admire your strength in sharing this

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  11. Anonymous12:58 PM

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  12. I am so sorry for your lost,parents shouldn't have to lose their children but they do. In my case it is me who are sick and I hope I will survive since I have two little girls, but if I don't I know that I will see them in heaven.

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  13. I am so very, very sorry for the loss of your dear son. I'm glad you've found peace. Your beautiful words will surely comfort and bring peace to others. xxoo

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  14. You write with such heart and eloquence, I don't know how you do it. I am sorry for your loss and am amazed at the strength that it must take to carry forward. My prayers are with you and your family.

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  15. I was really touched by your words Jen, particularly the confusion of feeling one thing and then feeling the opposite. It is definitely when you least expect it that the grief causes more pain. A good friend of mine summed it up really well, "You don't ever get over it, you just learn to live with it." Hugs and blessings to you all x

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  16. Oh, Jen. My heart is with you today. So sorry for your loss.

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  17. Anonymous2:45 PM

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  18. So sorry for you and your families loss. I can not imagine losing a child. Thank you for having the courage to share this with all of us. I am always amazed when you share pages about your son and the great example he was. You have an amazing talent. Thank you for sharing with us. Love and hugs sent to you and your family.

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  19. You are an amazing woman and an incredibly strong mom, and I hope for more joy and peace for you each day.
    Sending lots of hugs and thinking of Joey and your family today.

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  20. Thank you for sharing with us a heartbreaking piece of yourself. As hard as I'm sure the daily wait is I believe that you one day will see him again and that he is such a happy, painfree place. Hugs!

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  21. What beautiful sentiments--there are no words to describe how you have touched me deep inside. Know that my prayers are with you through your journey in life. I, too, believe you will be together again to enjoy one another fully. Continue to live with faith. There is no more true and real promise.

    Thank you so much for sharing,
    Merilee

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  22. Oh what a terrible thing that no mother should ever have to live through. My heart hurts for you. Hugs and prayers to you and your family.

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  23. Tanya Hughes Australia4:40 PM

    Thank you Jen for sharing these feelings - I have two best friends one who lost her brother to cancer and one who lost her son to cancer - your words have so beautifully expressed what I know both women are going through...it helps me understand on a whole different level. And yes I can see how faith would help you through - that strong faith that you will be together again

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  24. I am so sorry. I am glad to read you have been able to find peace in it all. It is amazing how hard times really do make you hyper aware of other people's pain. I could relate to some of your feelings after just endurng a failed adoption, nothing like what you have been through. Big hugs to you!!

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  25. Beautiful thoughts and words... sending love and prayers for you and your family ((hugs))

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  26. I continue to pray for you and your family - for continued strength to carry on. I can sympathize, your words are right on, losing a love one is so hard.
    Sandra

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  27. Praying for peace and comfort for you and your family and rejoicing in the reunion you will all have with each other someday!

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  28. ginny7:41 PM

    There are no words to express how your words have touched me. I wish no one had to endure that kind of pain. I see the your love for your children in your scrapbook pages. I can only send you hugs & love.

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  29. Very well stated and thank you for sharing pain yet growth.

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  30. That might be the most beautiful and well expressed thing I have ever read. You are amazing Jen.
    Carina

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  31. My heart goes out to you, and your family.

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  32. you shared him with us and I feel as though I miss him too!! lots of hugs and prayers. Your strength is inspiring.

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  33. Jen, thank you so much for sharing this. Everything you wrote fell heavy on my mother's heart, but I also share with you the hope that you will be together with your son someday.

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  34. The words you spoke are so true on losing a loved one. When my mom died I was only 21 and had not lost a single person. I remember feeling sad and lonely and really not wanting to be around anyone. Then when my dad remarried a few years later I did not call my step mom Mom because I felt like I was dishonoring my mom. As time passed I am now able to call my step mom Mom and truly love it. Even after the passing of my dad I remain very close with my step mom and wouldn't trade it for the world. Do I miss my mom any less No and do I feel guilty any longer know. I know one day we will be reunited and she will be proud of the woman and mom I have become. Hugs and much love being sent your way!

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