The Sudden Death Of A Child – A Mother’s Tool Kit

On Friday my daughter, a 45-year-old single mom, died from injuries sustained in a car crash. On Sunday my father-in-law died and their obituaries were on the same page of the newspaper. Two deaths in one weekend have been overwhelming. I can’t focus my thoughts and keep losing things.

Fortunately, I am a health writer and have written about grief. This helps me to see where I am in the grief process and I have taken steps to cope with my grief. Right now there are six items in my tool kit and I may add others My coping tools may help you cope with the sudden death of a child.

PERMISSION TO CRY. In his book “The Language of Tears” Jeffrey A. Kottler says we need to give ourselves permission to cry. I did this and decided I would cry any time, any where, for as long as needed. Though I still burst into tears my sobbing has stopped. Crying has really helped me.

FIND COMFORT IN FRIENDS. Each phone call, each email, each card is a candle in the darkness. Two friends came to the house and enfolded me in their arms. Another friend called and talked about the loss of her brother at age 20. When I told her my husband and I assured our twin grandchildren of a college education she said, “That’s good. You have planted goals in their minds.”

FIND COMFORT IN TASKS. Ordinary things — laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, cleaning — have been comforting. I don’t know why, but doing these things gives my grief a rest. Daily tasks also give my life the structure it needs.

DOING MY JOB. Well-meaning friends have told me to take a break from writing. I have not followed their advice, for if I do, I have not only lost family members, I have lost my identity. My husband is a retired physician and he has returned to work part-time. I am back on my daily writing routine.

GET HELP. I decided to seek help anywhere I could and to accept this help. Though we have only met via email, I contacted Helen Fitzgerald, Training Director of the American Hospice Foundation. She printed “Remembering You” booklets from the foundation Web site for our grandkids and also sent a copy of her book, “The Grieving Teen.” The church has also offered to provide grief counseling for our grandchildren.

SEE THE SPIRIT. When a child dies many people don’t know what to say. For me, the most comforting words have been “I’m so sorry.” Some people have made comments that reflect spiritual beliefs different from mine. I accepted these comments in the caring spirit with which they were given.

My husband and I don’t believe in “closure.” Though we will learn to live with our daughter’s sudden death, there will always be a hole in our lives. We will honor our daughter’s life by living each day to the fullest and loving the grandchildren she gave us.

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