Saturday, July 07, 2007

What It Feels Like to Lose a Child

Last week, a friend of mine (a friend of a friend, who became a friend) lost her two only children in a car accident. Her sister-in-law was driving the car with her neice and nephew, Sophie-5 and Nicholas-9, and her own two children (a 2 year old and a nine month old). She pulled out in front of a semi and he crashed into the side of her car. The sister in law broke her back and may be paralyzed and the 2 year old is in critical condition. The other three children died. It's too tragic to even fathom. Now this couple is childless. We were going out of town the week of the funeral so I wrote her a letter. I'm embarrassed to say that I e-mailed it to her (I explained why in the letter). I almost didn't share it because it is very heartfelt and I almost wasn't sure that I did the right thing by getting so descriptive of what I imagined her pain to be. I have to say, the reason why I pushed myself to do it, is because I received a very heartfelt letter when I had a stillbirth and it was my very favorite letter. I took a chance and hoped it would help her like it helped me. Everyone is different. I put myself out on a limb, and wrote from my heart. I felt that if I did that, it would be hard to go wrong. I never expected a response, but always wondered if she had read it. Today I found out from another friend, that she told her unprompted that I wrote her a letter and it really helped a lot. Since it actually helped, I've decided to share it with you. And maybe someone else might find it helpful too.

"First of all, I know it is rude to send this message via e-mail…I wasn’t sure that I had your latest address and I knew your e-mail address. Also, I wanted to make sure you got this right away.

When Vicki called me and told me what happened to Nicholas and Sophie, I was shocked. It just didn’t seem real. That the two lives we just saw in February…the two lively children that played with ours in Erin’s basement…certainly they can’t be gone so quickly?? It is too tragic, too horrible, too shocking to take it all in at once. And if it is too tragic, horrible and shocking for ME, you must feel 100 times more. No one can even begin to fathom your loss. No one will scrape the surface of your grief in their attempts to comfort you with their words. Every person who comes to you will feel greatly inadequate…and I am no different. Some might even say things that hurt you. I think it will be frustrating to realize how little anyone can help you and all the kind words, actions and money given, will feel like droplets in your huge empty well. Despite all of this, you will feel their love, their compassion and their heartfelt attempts and as little as they feel, SOMETHING is making your load just a little lighter. It doesn’t make sense that they would actually have any effect at all, but SOMEHOW you will feel God’s grace. God won’t take it away, but all the prayers that are going up for you right now will be like a blanket of protection around you and Kevin. They will not take your pain away, but be there, day to day to make it just a little easier and will help you to put one foot in front of the other, when you feel totally lost.

Your family has been gouged. Your heart has been gouged and ripped open like a gaping wound. You are missing your most precious children. Everywhere you will be reminded of your loss. You will wonder what your purpose to life is without them. I have NO idea how it must feel. I’m trying to share your grief in my mind and tears flow as I write this. I’m NOT pretending to know how you feel. I’m putting myself in your shoes every day and I cry for you. I believe that when people cry for you, they are taking one small portion of your grief and feeling it themselves so you will have less. I actually believe when other people grieve for you, they share your load and yours will be ever so slightly less. It’s hard to believe but it is true. You will be blessed by every tear shed for you and your children. But I know you must feel like every where you turn you are reminded of the gaping hole in your heart. When you see their shoes lying on the floor, their rooms that are now empty and uninhabited, the dirty clothes in the hamper that still have their smell, their favorite snacks in the pantry. You will realize how much you were dedicated to them, did for them, lived for them. How much of your purposed existed for THEM. When you go the store and see parents scold their children, your heart will cry out, “Love them!!!! Mine were taken away!! You are so lucky to still have yours…” . I think with every new realization of what has happened, it will open a new door of grief and more buckets of grief will pour in. Even being with us, your friends, will be hard and not the way it used to be. You may feel like you don’t fit the way you did before. Everything has changed. Everything feels gone. I imagined your mother and father-in-law…how they must be so crushed. Their family is no longer the same. They have three grandchildren gone. One daughter and grandchild who are struggling to live. It will take them a long time too.

It will be a pain that is always there, but somehow you will go on. And you will inspire people around you. You will surprise yourself the day you can wake up without crying. I hope this doesn’t sound like a know what you will go through. It’s my own vain attempt to understand. It’s the one thing I can try to give as one mother sharing the grief of another mother. Little Sophie. Everytime I saw her, I imagined my Maggie. She was my reminder of how old Maggie would be if she were still alive. Maggie was supposed to be born on Halloween. So Sophie was my gauge on what my little girl would be like, what she would be doing now, how big she would be. It in NO WAY compares to your loss. The longer a child is alive, the more it hurts to let them go because you have gotten to know them so much more and loved them so much more. I just wanted to let you know what Sophie was to me. I remember with Maggie, I wanted to sidestep all the days of grief, the crying, the pain. I wanted to fast forward like you would with a remote. I didn’t want to go through the pain. I wanted to try for another child right away. But you can’t speed it up, you can’t replace them. You have to go through it. But you won’t be alone. As much as you and Kevin may feel you are all alone…you will have the support of family and friends. The prayers may seem so futile…but they will give you actual strength. That is why I will pray for you every day…as an intention on my mirror. And I won’t be alone. You will have many other prayers spoken to heaven for your needs and God will answer. I promise He will. He is constant. He doesn’t change. He is the same God who provided you with the gift of Nicholas and Sophie…He will continue to provide great things for you.

If there is one thing everyone knows about you…it’s how much your lives revolved around your children. Everyone knows you loved your kids and that they were your focus. You did everything together. You didn’t get babysitters so you could enjoy your time together…You brought your kids everywhere with you so you could enjoy your time together. Although we can never fathom your full pain…our hearts ache with you and we cry our own tears for you. You remind us to appreciate what we have because you never know when it can be taken away. But you also remind us that we are loved and our sorrows our shared by others as well as our joys.

I’m so sorry to say that we won’t be going to the visitation or the funeral. Please don’t take this as a sign of not caring. We will be out of town this week and so no good way around it. This is one of the reasons for e-mailing…so you could get this message quicker. We will be donating to the fund for the funeral. We will be praying for you for a long time, but especially this weekend as you make arrangements and decisions you don’t feel like making. Although we won’t be there physically, we’ll be there every other way.

Take care sister,

Missy and Ted"


Ann said...

That is an amazing letter, sister!
You weaved together your compassion, with honest and insightful thoughts. Thanks for posting it. I wept for your friends and will say a prayer for them.

Missy said...

Thank you, Ann. We found out today they are moving and we're helping them move this weekend. They were only in their current home for 2 months (which is why I didn't have this address). They are going to move into an apartment. A friend told me they were trying to sort through their kids' stuff and just stopped and bawled on the floor. I just can't imagine. It will not be an easy moving day. Thank you for your prayers!!

Jennifer Cox said...

To all, I do not know any of you but the world of the internet ties us all together. I DO KNOW the pain that this couple is facing. I lost my son to SIDS 9 years ago. He was 3 months old, no where near the ages of these children, but in some ways the hurt and loss is still the same. They have more memories to try to deal with but the emptiness will ALWAYS be there. Time does heal. I know that is such a clique but it really does. I could not have made it without GOD in my life. I don't know how anyone could. He was and still is the rock that keeps me striving on. I help others who have experienced SIDS and do teachings. It took me four years to get to the point where I am and only GOD can have the glory. I did not do it alone. I did the same things that this couple are doing, ie. going thru his clothes, keeping his stuffed animals and things of emotional ties. I still have one of his lotions I use to rub on him. You find ways to keep your children alive by always going to their graves on birthdays, etc. Please give them my email address, I would love to try to help them as well. (well let GOD guide me) The address is (all lowercase)
Even if you don't or they can't or don't contact me, I will ALWAYS say a prayer daily for them. They will need all the support they can get. By the way Missy, that message was very well written and I could tell, heartfelt. God Bless you and please always support them.

In Christ,
Jennifer Cox

erika said...

This letter is powerful and resonates deeply. I know you wrote this a long time ago, but I randomly found it while searching for resources to help a former teacher, who lost her 18 year old daughter in a car accident recently. Thank you for writing this.

Anonymous said...

I dont even know where to start. You see, I may not have lost a child, but i have lost a father. In 2nd grade. I never really got to know him, but yet, i still felt the emptyness inside me that can only be refilled with his presence, love, and comfort. Iv'e always wondered who would walk me down the aisle of my wedding, Or who my first boyfriend would be scared of, when it came to meeting my parents. Or when i would ever get the chance to say, "Good morning Dad!" or, "See you later dad!" All these thoughts are just a fraction of the emptiness within me. That lurks beneath the surface. I am 12 years old and My father left us when i was only a baby. And all of my life, i always just missed him and wondered and HAD HOPE...but then one day my mother calls me out into the living room and tells me that i might want to sit down for this. She told me that she found my dad, and i practically burst through the floor with happiness and hope was all just so joyfull that it was completly unbearable. But then when I saw the expression on her face, it all vanished. I calmed myself down again, and listened to the inevitable. She had told me that she found out where he was living...and where he had just died in a car accident a few days ago. Hope. Joy. Wonder...Gone. I sat there crying on my mother's shoulder for probably about an hour. Then, for the first time in my life (besides when i was a baby), she handed me the phone and let me speak to my father's father (my grandfather). He was the one who had delivered the painful news, and that was the only reason he decided to contact us after so many years. I have remembered that moment just like it was yesterday, for 4 years. I have carried the agony with me, everywhere I go, always hiding it under my almost perfect facade. But it peeks out every now and then, breaking through to the point where im in shatters. Even when I was too little to understand, I still new something was missing. But now, its just something thats already been realized, that i cant fix. I can only look back at the memories of WANTING to hold him, talk to him, hope and wonder for him. And I can only IMAGINE the memories that we COULD have had together an dthe embarassing moments that we COULD have shared. So when people come up to me and tell me "I have the worst life ever" or, "Im miserable"...i just think to myself, and think that they are more lucky than I can ever imagine in some ways. But I know that thers no turning back. Im very thankful, but, still, at times i just stop and think "Why me???" So dont ever feel alone, because there are so many people who feel your pain and worse. Just thank god for what you have and what time precious time u got to have and spend with the poeple you love. Again, my name is Taylor Simpson, Im 12 years old and my father died in a car accident in San Diego when i was in 2nd grade. So keep your hope, peace, wonder and joy flowing inside yu all of the time. Keep those wonderful memories you earned with you.

With love, peace, and joy,
Taylor Simpson