Losing a child is easily considered the greatest loss one can experience. The pain of losing a child coupled with the feelings of injustice at all that they and you will never experience can create a very real, personal struggle. When I lost my son and only child, I felt as if I had been robbed of my parenting role as I had always imagined it would be. For the previous seventeen years, I had been “Tyler’s Mom” – Who would I be now? What would my life look like without him in it? These were all questions that I faced every moment, of every day until I was able to redefine my role in life as well as my purpose. For me, the hardest things to accept were all of the life events that we would never experience together and all of the things that I would never witness as his Mom. I would never watch as he held a girls hand for the first time, never hear him excitedly recount his first kiss to me, never witness him fall in love, never watch him walk across a stage to accept his college diploma, never watch him be sworn in as a Sheriff’s Deputy, never watch proudly as he said “I do” to the woman of his dreams and the biggest tragedy of all is that I would never see the pride in his eyes as he became a father for the first time. I would never experience the magic of becoming a grandmother – this was and has always been a place that holds deep sorrow for me. Not only was my handsome, vivacious son not going to be able to realize all of his life’s dreams – all of the things that we take for granted every day – but I too was going to be stripped of some of life’s greatest joys. To say I felt cheated is a gross understatement.
When your child’s heart stops beating and yours continues to beat, you are faced with a choice to make. You can either choose to accept the unspeakable pain that threatens to take over your once happy life, and allow it to control you, or you can rise up and choose to be resilient and allow joy into your life again. It felt wrong for me to give up on life and I knew that Tyler would not want that for me, so I chose to work towards being truly happy again, in spite of my loss. That’s not to say it is an easy choice – quite the contrary. It takes hard work and a determination to be better and do better. Once I accepted that I would never stop missing Tyler, and that the deep sorrow I felt would always be there in the background, I was able to make the decision to allow myself to feel happiness again. The guilt that continually threatened to creep in was difficult to keep at bay but by staying focused, I was able to hold it down and eventually completely conquer it! In the beginning, when I found myself laughing or feeling joy, I often felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. How could I be happy or laugh when Tyler was no longer able to do those things? It took work to give myself permission to once again experience all of the beauty that life has to offer. Eventually, I was able to tuck all of the memories we shared away in my heart and continue to grow and experience life’s splendor in spite of my wounded heart. I made the conscious choice to live my life to honor that of my son since he could no longer be here to live it himself.
As individuals, we must find our own path – our own way to process our grief – in a way that works best for us. It is my opinion that the death of a child involves some of the toughest work one will ever do. Learning to live again, rather than just exist is not an easy task. For me, losing my son has proven to be the greatest loss of my life and the biggest challenge in the sense that I had to educate myself about things I knew nothing of and learn to channel my grief into something positive. I consider myself to be a resilient griever and I hope that you will be able to as well.