Dealing with the Death of a Child
Dear fierce ones,
Fear and anxiety have been a lifelong struggle for me.
Fear can be so awful…I have felt paralyzed, terrified and overwhelmed by the “fear feeling”.
Most of the time…the fear is worse than the reality. But sometimes “the worst” actually happens…
As a kid, I went on many field trips.
One field trip involved climbing a small lookout tower.
I have an intense of heights. (Just thinking about it gets my palms all sweaty.) The ladder went straight up 80 feet
Half-way up the ladder…
I felt dizzy…I kept thinking that I might slip and fall. My focus was on my feelings of fear, instead of trusting in my ability to hold on tight and take it one step at a time.
I was terrified. I was gripping the ladder with all my might. EVERY muscle in my body was tight enough to crack a walnut. My heart was pounding in my ears. My throat was constricted. My palms were DRIPPING WITH SWEAT. The ladder was crowded. People were stacked above and below me. I had no choice but to keep climbing.
Just like real life…
Mastering that “fear feeling” is challenging. It is as though the world exists to scare you out of your mind. Life is not an easy ladder to climb. One slip and you might crash down the ladder you have worked so hard to climb. You might die or become paralyzed from the neck down and never walk again. (My mind always jumps straight to worst-case-scenario mode because I have been blessed with a wonderfully vivid imagination and because my perspective is skewed because I always deal with the worst-case-scenario @ work)
As a young mom, (many years ago)…I was stressed out of my mind 24/7. There were just so many things to worry about. They might die in their beds from SIDS. If I brought them into my bed with me...I might roll over them and crush them in my sleep.
When my daughter was a newborn, a news media headline announced that I should possibly stop breastfeeding because a study had revealed that flame-retardant chemicals had been detected in breast milk. I immediately imagined my breasts as toxic nuclear waste plants dripping flame-retardant down my baby’s throat. It nearly sent me over the edge.
As my kids got a little older, my worries only increased…I wondered if I should I let my kids play outside? Someone might abduct my children if I let them play outside unsupervised, yet I didn’t always have the time available to watch them. If they stayed inside they wanted to watch TV, which I knew wasn’t good for them either.
I worried constantly.
Were they safe? Were they eating enough healthy food? Were they going to die because of some failure on my part to protect them adequately, feed them properly, or raise them decently?
As a Mom, I was continually haunted by “What if?,“What if?”
What about the mercury in dental fillings? Was it safe to feed my kids fish? Should I feed them only organic food? Is it ok for them to have juice? Should I brush their teeth with fluoride-containing toothpaste? What if it is toxic to their system? What about video games? Will they grow up to be killers if I let them play violent video games?
What about sleepovers? Should I allow them to have sleepovers? What if they are molested? What if those parents don’t watch them carefully enough? What if they are exposed to some danger? What if the parents have guns? If they do have guns, should I ask how they are secured?…I was losing my mind with all my worries and fears. There was no end to it.
I was 18 weeks pregnant with my fourth child when I went for a routine ultrasound. As the tech performed the exam, I knew something was odd and soon she left with the explanation that the Dr. would be in to go over the results with me. I was told that my baby’s heart was on the “wrong” side of his chest and would require further testing. 2 weeks later I had a high-level ultrasound showing that my baby had a serious medical condition known as a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. I was told he had a 25% chance of making it. I was offered an abortion or an amniocentesis right then and there.
I chose the amniocentesis.
This was out of my control.
It was so hard to deal with.
I wept and I prayed. I fought and bargained with God. I prayed harder, longer and more fervently than I have ever prayed. I wept more tears. I believed in and hoped for a miracle…
On December 27th, 2001, Josiah was born at the University of Washington Medical Center. An entire team of medical professionals waited patiently while I labored. In addition to having CDH…the umbilical cord was tightly wrapped around his neck. TWICE.
In seconds he was whisked away…I felt numb emotionally and physically. Hours later I was wheeled down to see him in the NICU, about to be transported to Children’s hospital.
I remember when I first looked down and saw him.
His tiny mouth was stuffed with a breathing tube. His abdomen sucked in and out with every breath. It was obvious that he was struggling to breathe. As a trained critical care nurse, I could see he wasn’t doing well. As a Momma…I wanted to make it BETTER. There was NOTHING I could do. (except Pray...and believe me I did that)
The HELPLESS feeling had arrived.
My worst fear was now my reality.
It was a cruel twist of genetic fate.
I had to live through the agony I felt.
When I saw my baby again, it was at Children’s hospital.
He required ECHMO. (A heart and lung bypass machine).
He was on multiple intravenous drips to support his heart, lungs, and kidneys.
His lungs depended on a ventilator for every breath.
It went on for 30 days.
On the last day, we were all there together.
I held him.
He died in my arms as I prayed.
Snowflakes silently filled the sky outside the hospital window.
As tears rolled down my cheeks…
This is hard to admit.
It didn’t seem like the “appropriate” emotion.Watching my baby spend his entire life in a fight for survival, while I stood by and watched helplessly. As a fierce momma it felt unbearable to not be able to save my child.
Letting him go…
There was peace in my heart. It was Divine Stillness.
In Psalm 46 (The Bible) it says…Be still and know I am God.
In that moment as I prayed…I knew God.
The stillness of surrender is the greatest relief you will ever know. We find it only after the greatest, deepest, most grievous experiences of our lives…and we emerge completely broken-hearted and longing for rest…Just rest.
It is a very Sweet Surrender.
He gives rest to the weary and broken-hearted. Jesus said Mathew chapter 5 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted".
I WAS comforted.
You might think to yourself that you can’t survive… or even live through your current challenge. but…YOU CAN. When “the worst” happens…Just keep climbing…one ladder rung at a time.
Keep your focus positive and on what you can control (your thoughts and your prayers) and on the next step …no matter if “the worst” happens. You are stronger than you know. And…You are not alone.
We are all connected. When one of us suffers…we all suffer because we all know what it feels like to suffer. We all experience loss, grief, and pain at some point in our lives. It is to be expected, and yet when it happens to us…
We feel ALONE.
When we mourn with others, we know we are not alone. Shared grief connects us. Pain, suffering, and loss are universal to the human experience. In this way we bear each other’s burdens and we are comforted. (Hugs are always a good idea)
Our family received such an outpouring of love and comfort from friends and family and strangers from around the world…I was lavished with love. I felt completely blessed. My heart overflowed with joy in the midst of sorrow.
It was bittersweet as only life and chocolate can be.
Many people reached out to us. Family, friends and even strangers all supported us. The nurses at Children’s hospital were outstanding…(Teresa, Debbie and Prue)
Thank-you all so much…
This experience altered me. All the fears and anxieties that were so dominating in my life began to take a back seat. I realized…
1. This WORKS...
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things".
2. My faith was tested.
I believe in an ALL-POWERFUL All-MIGHTY GOD…One who is certainly able to perform miracles.
I questioned God. I fought with God. I argued with God. I cried and wept. Had I done something wrong? Was I being punished? Was He even REAL? What kind of a God allows an innocent one to die while He stands by and allows it to happen?
It hit me HARD…
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (this is referring to Jesus Christ who died for us that we might be saved. He was crucified and God allowed it because He so loved the world...)
I CAME UNDONE.
In that moment...I experienced the most gut-wrenching heartache rip into my soul and toss me into the sea of grief…
It was the face of any parent who has lost their child. (More so if it is your only one, and when they are innocent, young, vibrant and healthy. Even more so if they die saving another’s life, or in senseless tragedy)...
It just got so REAL.
I wept for days.
I still weep...it breaks my heart.
Be still and know I am God…
This passage in Psalms is written by King David (Solomon’s father)
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Josiah was the cutest baby you ever saw! He was a real fighter.
You are too.
Find your fierce.
Take the journey.