Monday, April 28, 2014

Surviving Losing a Child

You don't really survive losing a child. You simply learn to live through it. Survival to me indicates some kind of thriving after a sacrifice or tragedy. And after losing our oldest son, Joseph, to cancer I hardly feel like a survivor.

Seven years ago today, our beautiful son Joseph Brett passed away after a battle with colon cancer. Diagnosed with the cancer in early December, he lived only four months past his diagnosis. Those four months were the most excruciating, painful, dark days I've ever experienced.

You can read Joey's story HERE.



Seven years later we are in a good place. A good place means that we miss him daily, but we don't break down sobbing as we did in those early days. A good place means that we carefully watch our children to see how they are managing, but we don't worry as much as we once did. A good place means we know that he has returned home with a loving Heavenly Father, even though we wish he could have stayed here longer with us.

In those early days, "surviving" meant trying to breathe, trying to get up, trying to function. You often wonder if your body can take any more pain and if it's possible for a body to function under the stress and strain and ache of losing a child. It is dark. Frightening. Confusing. You are lost. You are disconnected.

Some days I was surviving by moving from one minute to the next. Sometimes it was hour by hour. And with the years it has become more day-to-day or month-to-month.

Surviving the loss of a child means you are forever altered. It means you don't find joy in things you once did because they seem less important or no longer fit your new, altered personality. It means you worry about being around people that remind you of your son. It means you ache over other children's milestones that remind you that he isn't here to enjoy them as well. It means being more sad, more somber, and yet more compassionate. It does not give you words to comfort those who are also sad. Because there are no words to truly comfort someone going through loss.

Surviving the loss of a child means you have to explain to people when they ask you how many children you have why your oldest child "would have been 20." It means explaining things that make other people feel uncomfortable, even though you're grateful that they asked.

Surviving the loss of a child means questioning how to celebrate their birthday, how to honor their life, and how to continue to parent a child who is no longer with you. You wish there was a handbook on "surviving" as a parent of a child who is gone.

Surviving the loss of a child means pretending sometimes that they are simply at school, or on a Scout camp because you can't wrap your brain around the fact that they are never coming home again.

Surviving the loss of a child means you aren't who you used to be. It means people wish you were that previous person. It means you withdraw. It means you lose some of the fun inside yourself. It means that you don't stop living but that you live in a new way.

Surviving the loss of a child means that you both do and don't want to share your child with others. You do want others to remember him, but you don't want to hear that they are connecting with him on some level when you don't feel that you are. You want people to feel his love, but you want to selfishly feel it more than anyone else. It means talking about him when you don't want to, and wishing sometimes that you could but don't because you're sparing someone else's feelings.

Surviving the loss of a child means you become the "walking wounded" with a hole in your soul so large there is no bandaid big enough to cover it. It is happiness and joy and pain and hurt and suffering and love all mingled together in a mess of emotions you can't always control.

Surviving is simply living. It is trying to let the pain go but not the memories. It is moving towards him instead of leaving him in the past. It is not really surviving, but is living as best you can.

Today I remember a boy that was more magical and more wonderful than I have words within me to describe. He deserved a good life--a great life. He deserves a place of peace without pain. He deserves to have earned the right to return to Heaven. I KNOW he is with Heavenly Father spending his days with my brother Mark who also returned home early. I miss him every moment of every day, but today I honor his suffering, his triumph over death, and his faithfulness.

I love you, Joseph!

35 comments:

  1. This is beautifully written. I am sorry for your loss. Sending hugs your way.

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  2. hugs to you my sweet friend!! I think of your Joey often. I find it hard to believe it has been 7 years because even to me it seems like just yesterday. xoxo

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  4. There are no words, but please know I am thinking of you and holding you in my heart today. :)

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  5. Such honest, raw words, Jennifer! It is also a tribute to your beautiful son. I can relate to some degree through my 9 miscarriages and I'm so thankful for the hope we have of Heaven. Hugs...

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  6. This is so beautiful and so right on. I am so sorry for your loss. This past weekend it was two years since we lost our sweet Mikaela. She was two years, 1 month, and 15 days, old when she was hit by a car. She died that same day. She is my granddaughter. I have two daughters, ages 25, and 4. My four year old was Mikaela's best friend. She was seven months old when Mikaela was born. She was 2 years, eight months, and 6 days old when she lost her best friend. We ache. My oldest daughter aches. Watching her little sister grow, and knowing that her daughter isn't doing the same has to be absolutely unbearable at times. It is for me. These words that you written here are so comforting to me. I am sending hugs your way….

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  7. Thank you for telling your heart-breaking story Jen. The courage it takes to share your story is truly amazing. I'm so sorry for your unbearable pain and loss and glad to know you're able to find comfort in your faith. Hugs- Holly :)

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  8. This is incredibly beautiful. Thank you for sharing this part of you with us.

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  9. I wish there was something I could say to ease your pain, more than you are in my thoughts. Not from experience, but from a friend who lost two kids (plus 4 miscarriages), I seen in her what you are talking about. I saw the pain. You could tell the good days, months, years from the bad ones. The bad months, when my middle child was little, she would just cling onto her and hold her. My heart just breaks for you and for her (and anyone else that has lost a child). Sending you lot of hugs...

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  10. Hugs and love, Jennifer.

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  11. There are absolutely no words that are coming to me, I just wish I could give you a hug!! Thank you for sharing this with everyone.

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  12. hugs, Jen........prayers for you and your family.

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  13. So honest and beautiful. Hugs to you.

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  14. Jen, my heart aches for you. I have no words....
    Sending hugs...

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  15. Beautiful written, sending hugs from Sweden. We nearly lost our second daughter after she was born in week 24, and I nearly died last year and I thank God every day that my girl ans I are still here. Do not now what I would have done without her.

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  16. Jen, I haven't forgotten Joey. Thank you for posting the deepest thoughts of your heart here--I have 2 friends just in my little ward who have both lost children in the past 6 years and sometimes I struggle knowing how I can be of service and support to them because I don't understand how they feel and I would truly hate to do anything to cause them any more pain. I hate that you and my other friends, all of you women that I have loved and admired, would have to feel such sorrow. I wish you didn't have to.

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  17. My 2 year old daughter's passing will mark 22 years next month and you have captured how I feel exactly. Thanks so much for sharing your story. My prayers ang hugs go out to you.

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  18. These words are so touching. I lost a brother when he was nine. Glad we have that hope that someday we'll all reunite!

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  19. Sending you thoughts and prayers today.

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  20. This is beautiful, Jen. hugs...

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  21. Thanks for sharing Jen. You have captured how so many people unfortunately feel.

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  22. I'm sorry for your continued pain. Sending you hugs!

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  23. Thank you for sharing this intelligent and thoughtful post of the great loss in your life. I am so appreciative that you shared this. Sending you and your family a cyber hug for this glimpse into the most difficult time in your lives and a glimpse of your son Joey.

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  24. ginny3:44 PM

    Jen, I have no words but thank you for sharing with us. I wish I could just reach out, give you a hug & hold you hand.

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  25. What lovely sentiments for a little boy that must have been truly loved! My heart is with you.

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  26. Jen, thank you for sharing your beautiful memories and also for sharing your pain so eloquently. There are no words that can bring comfort but, just maybe, there is a tiny drop of help in knowing that someone who connects with you on an artistic level simply cares that you hurt. Thanks also for sharing that you grieve with the hope of Eternity and that you cling to the certain knowledge that death is not the victor. I am praying for you and your family right now.

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  27. So very sorry for your loss. As you wrote, there are no words. You and your family will be in my prayers tonight!

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  28. Jen, thank you for this post, my heart hurts to hear of your loss. My friend just lost her toddler and I can't imagine how hard it is. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

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  29. Hugs and love to you, Jen. Your post is so beautiful and moving.

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  30. Thank you for sharing, for being honest, and for saying it all so well.

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  31. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I want give you a hug, to say something that will help...even after 7 years. Im glad you have been able to cope,even if its on a day-to-day or month-to-month basis. I am sure he is near you at the hardest times .

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  32. God bless you and may God continue to bring you the comfort of His everlasting love for us as He helps you through. I can remember 7 years ago following your updates on Two Peas and I have prayed for you. I hope in some small way that helps.

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  33. Anonymous12:42 PM

    Whenever you write about Joseph I start sobbing. You are so brave!
    Catherine

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  34. Honey, today I read the story of his beloved son, I will never forget this day he went to live in the best place anyone could go together gift GOD ... I apologize again for my terrible English, I will strive to learn more and more.
    Hugs with love

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  35. I have no words Jen...please know you are in my thoughts and prayers. God bless you for sharing this...I know it must by have been very hard for you to do that. Huge hugs for you...
    - April W

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