how losing a child changes you

(20 Posts)
givingmeaheadache Wed 09-Feb-11 06:21:09

I met an old friend the other day, we weren't that close before, but she has kept in touch on the phone with me and as we live far apart this was the first time we had met in ages.
I was struck by how confident and poised she seemed and realised that the loss has beaten that out of me.
I am in survival mode - getting by through sheer willpower - vigilant at every turn for the next banana skin that life might throw my way.
Whereas I used to be like her, I can't really explain how she was more than the word poise. Groomed, confident, taking life's traumas in her stride - life always will throw up difficulties - but dealing with it and emerging as strong.

Whereas I am like someone who life ran over who is managing to carry on walking with half a leg, waving a tennis racket in the air to bat off the random falling of balls. Outwardly I look calm but that is how I feel inside.

Does that make sense? How do I get back to that poised person or has that gone? It is affecting work as I don't think I am going to get a promotion - and probably the image I am projecting is not the right one. Getting that promotion was all part of plan A - the plan that included her - and letting go of that plan A is incredibily hard as it means letting go of her a little bit more. Otherwise I don't really care about the promotion.

Maybe it is time for a new start - caring about my appearance would be a beginning - getting a bit of time in the mornings back in order to do this.

Sorry for going on, just needed to get it off my chest.

OP’s posts: |
IngridBergmann Wed 09-Feb-11 07:22:02

I am so sorry.

It's clear that you are grieving, and I don't know if that is a process we have any control over.

Perhaps it will just take some more time before you feel confident again. I'm sorry, I have not lost a child and I don't know what is right to say, but I wanted to say something.

xx

MavisEnderby Wed 09-Feb-11 10:26:24

Hi GMAH

i can only begin to imagine what it must be like to lose a child.The worst possible thing life could throw at you I think.

My dp of 15 years died last summer,and I can totally relate to your "half a limb" analogy.You don't say when your child died?All I can say is I think that every step forward you take is in some ways bittersweet,the gradual "letting go".I remember the day I decided to clear out some of dps stuff out the wardrobe.I waited until the kids were in bed,and armed with a bottle of red took all his stuff out,folded it carefully and put it in bags.When I had finished I realised I had tears coursing down my cheeks and was clutching a fav jacket of his.It just looked so sad,all those bags..and I thought,this is it,this is all I have left...of course it wasn't,but at the time doing this and moving forward felt like a betrayal.I kept the jacket.The next morning I felt a little better.I think there is no "proper" timeline to do all this stuff,but you will know litttle by little when the time is right to take a new step forward.Some days I am OK and some days it all hits me like a slap in the face.Early days I would watch people walking around doing normal stuff and feel like screaming at them "How can you be so happy?don't you know what has happened?".I also felt that my confidence had diminished,and at work my boss recently asked me to take on some extra work,and I refused.I have been emtionally and physically drained since his death,but in the future when the time is right,who knows?I have recently started going out with some lovely mums i know,small steps again,but getting dressed up,going out made me feel a little like the old me.I know that old me will never come back,because I am still missing half a limb,but the new me is very gradually trying to re adapt and reinvent herself.It is a slow and piecemeal process but it is happenning.

Small steps,none of this is easy,love Mavis xx

KTB1234 Wed 09-Feb-11 12:44:04

Givingmeaheadache - I feel for you. I could have written your post myself. I lost my DS 4 years ago in January and I am only just starting to get a slightly better outlook on life. I have a wonderful family and have managed to have a subsequent little girl but it was only about 6 months ago that I felt I was starting to be ready to 'pull myself together'. Don't worry about how you feel. You will smile, laugh, groom and move forward. My confidence was shot away for about 2 years but I am finally happy with where I am. i am much less patient now but have a different perspective on life - not better, not worse, just different.
I hope you do not push yourself too hard. Be easy on yourself as grief is horrendous and so very personal.
love & hugs xxx

travellingwilbury Wed 09-Feb-11 12:47:05

gmah I understand everything you have written , my son died when he was 14 months old and from that moment on my life and me changed completely . I think one of the hardest thing I have found is that loss of optimism and hope for the future .
I was always a glass is half full person and would be the first to say "everything will be ok" well we now know that is not always the case and it is difficult to think things will get better . It does by the way but it is a long old road .

Can I ask about your daughter ? I am so sorry you are walking this crappy path but I would be happy to hear about her if you want to talk .

Heliantha Wed 09-Feb-11 12:59:02

I too mourn the person I was, or could have been. She pops up every now and then, but much of my life is tinged with grey and I accept that this will always be. Some silver, though, often unexpectedly. What has helped, a little, is a deliberate shift towards something different in my life. My son stays with me, but in a different place, iyswim.

Love to you & your DD x

ILikeToMoveItMoveIt Wed 09-Feb-11 13:14:17

Where to start ..........

Firstly, I'm so sorry about your dd.

I lost my ds1 just over 3 years ago and felt very lost for sometime. My saving grace was having ds2 very soon afterwards - he was a reason to carry on and get up in the morning.

It took me a long time to get over the feeling that the worst possible thing ever had happened to me, yet the world was still turning and everyone was carrying on regardless. I learned to realise that there were two parts to my thinking.

One was the emotional side that couldn't understand or want to accept that our ds had gone, the otherside was the reality side that did know that he had gone and that it was just bad luck he got ill.

At the beginning my emotional side ruled my head, then the reality side started to creep in. Then slowly but surely the reality side became the dominant thought process.

I still have days where I am feeling like I am walking through a bucket of treacle, but the gaps between having days like that have got bigger.

I am living my life and I enjoy my life, but I do know that I will never be the same person I was before ds died. On the outside I am the same, but I know that I have changed irrevocably. The way I view the world has totally changed, and tbh I think it has made me a better person - I just wish that ds didn't have to die for that to happen.

You have to find your own way through this long and difficult path as grief is such a personal thing. There is a bereaved mothers thread here on Mumsnet, why don't you come and join us. We would love to hear about your dd.

Bereaved mothers thread here

givingmeaheadache Wed 09-Feb-11 21:13:46

Thanks everyone - it is grief that has done this to me isn't it, as you say.
I read somewhere that it is like every part of you becomes rearranged on a molecular level when you experience a bereavement and I guess I, having emerged from the cocoon of sadness, and having ventured into the world outside, am now looking inwards at who I have become.
It was some years ago (5) and when I look inside I feel a lot of - anger - mistrust at the world. I haven't had much opportunity to scream out load how unfair it is and how let down I felt by the world.
It's not fair to find myself at point B - when I would have been at point A in the lifeplan.
There I just needed to say that out loud. Somewhere I don't have to be pollyanna.

OP’s posts: |
givingmeaheadache Sun 13-Feb-11 13:28:04

Hi again,
I just wanted to post back as have done a lot of thinking and worked out what I meant.
It is a loss of trust that life will always work out well, and a realisation that terrible terrible things can and do happen.
It has left me with a fear that something terrible could happen again (and an underlying anxiety), and an anger deep down that not only did something so unfair strike us, but also that our nearest friends were so unsupportive.

It is something that has altered me permanently. I don't know how it is going to change how I live my life.
Is it a case of "seize the day" because you don't know what is around the corner; or a case of plan for every possible thing that could go wrong so that you have a softer landing when it does go wrong.

Or maybe it is possible to do some combination of both.
I don't know.
But I do know I feel a bit better having worked out where the issue is.
P'raps it is just a case of remembering that I have what is important now near me and to make the most of that.

OP’s posts: |
zeno Sun 13-Feb-11 17:03:38

You capture something I really feel there - that life is no longer to be trusted to be a benign and overwhelmingly happy experience.

Like you, myself and my husband have been fundamentally altered within. But, a life in which terrible things happen is not the same thing as a terrible life. The capacity for happiness and love remains, though we are changed.

I don't find that "seize the day" has a big influence on the way we do things now - it would seem like living life on the defensive, braced for disaster. When things do go wrong though, we face them differently, with a store of experience and strength, and knowing that we will come through this next event or trauma still living, still able to find joy, even when it takes a long time to come through the worst of it.

I'm sorry you had poor support from your nearest friends. That must be a horrible additional pain. It's a great shame that some people are so very crap in a crisis.

givingmeaheadache Sun 13-Feb-11 21:31:58

I like that phrase "a life in which terrible things happen is not the same as a terrible life". Tis very true.

Maybe then, it's just about taking comfort from the strength that has emerged, the strength I never knew I had, but enabled me to survive this, and somehow build a new life to live. A sort of inner invincibility.

But them, the point of life must surely change. Another point to mull over.
And I must remember to take joy in my new role - shaping DS to be a good man.

Yes, it was a deep hurt, and additional pain the lack of support, but at least I know they weren't real friends, just passing acquaintances as it turned out. I learned that you can count your true friends on one hand - it's family - and that friends become strangers and strangers become friends.

OP’s posts: |
gingegirl Thu 12-May-11 23:48:18

sorry for your loss!!!
my ds sadly past away one week ago! im just on the first part of the grief journey! not quite sure how im going to cope without him!!!!!! he was only 2 years old! life is sooooooo unfair!!!!

travellingwilbury Fri 13-May-11 06:57:45

gingegirl I am so sorry you are going through this . Please come over to the bereaved mums if you want to talk here

There are unfortunately a few of us who know only to well what you are going through .

working9while5 Fri 13-May-11 10:36:33

I haven't lost a child but I understand some of what you are saying about fear and anxiety. I don't ever feel like life is going to "work out" and I have a deep, deep distrust that "everything will be okay". In my case, it's not because of bereavement, but for other reasons which I won't go into here because I don't want to imply it's the same. I suppose I just wanted to say that when anything tragic or terrible happens in life, it reminds you that it's all an illusion that we have control or that we are the major film star in the movie of our lives, the one that is guaranteed closure and resolution. There's no going back and no matter how much you talk about the pain, it will always be there to resurface. The Plan A/Plan B thing makes so much sense. For me, even though it is different, the points I feel the most pain are always those where you get a glimpse of Plan A and for a fleeting second you really see that dream life where it is undone. Where there doesn't have to be a Plan B.

When you lose someone, you will always miss that person. It will never be okay that they were taken and you will always wish it could have been different. So you are living a parallel life, really. When it's your child, who you know on such a deep level as you have even shared your body with them, they are a part of you.. a fundamental part of you.. you knew every little facial expression, every sound, every body gesture.. so much so you could never describe that person to someone and do it any justice. So be gentle with yourself. The time that's passed is sort of irrelevant, isn't it? You're on a path you didn't get to choose for yourself. Sometimes, when you come to a bend in the road, you get a glimpse of the road you started out on but there is pain in knowing it's forever closed to you.

Thinking of you and your dd x

lavandes Fri 13-May-11 13:44:13

Hi GMAH I to understand how you feel.

My son aged 34 died suddenly in April last year. We were told by a policeman who came to our house. At that moment my life changed permanently. The shock was so awful that I fear I will never get over it. I think I do cope on a day to day basis - I go to work and still do my job as welll as I did before. I do all the things I did before. To the outside world I probably seem ok. But I am not. He lives in my head. I think I have got used to that. Sometimes it feels like it happened yesterday.

But I have survived the worst year of my life and I am still here. No other year could be worse, it could be the same but it could never be worse.

I have had so much support from the mums on the bereaved mums thread. Only a mum who has lost a child can understand. It is a long and sometimes lonely road. The only way to cope is one day at a time and hopefully, one day, we will heal. xx

blossoming Fri 13-May-11 13:53:14

Hi. I lost my daugter a year and a half ago. We had a baby girl of 2 months that helped us through the initial part and we have a son who was 5 at the time too.
I don't want anyone to think this is trivial but it really helped me. I went to House of Colour and got my colours done about 3 months after it happened. I was carrying extra baby weight too, so I decided to look after myself - trying to avoid people feeling sorry for me. I took up with Ian Marber's 'How not to get Fat' book, and I started doing Jillian Michael's 30 day Shred workout dvd.
That is how I have got my 'self' back.

ChocolateBrownieGuilt Fri 13-May-11 15:26:21

GMAH-
I am sorry you have lost a child. I have no idea how hard it is....but I'd like to thank you for this thread.

I havent lost a child but my mother has, albeit 30+ years ago. I was 3 and my sibling was older than me-I found the body.

The effects have been enormous and reading your post really gave me another perspective on how it must have been for her.

I've had to fight for my own survival for years of growing up in a broken and grief striken family which had and still has many reprucussions on me.

Your comments and others here really made me undertstand her better. You talk about what sounds like post traumatic stress disorder- fear that something bad will happen again soon- (that isnt offiical definition but part of it I believe) that my mother has and has passed to me.

All the best to you and I hope you are able to find a away to live with your loss and maybe get some help with your ptsd.

all the best

CBG

vickyd0 Sat 21-May-11 11:50:06

i lost my baby boy at 35weeks i dnt feel like changed as a person but i just like to b away from people ant really talk to any 1 as my chest goes tight and i cant get the words out where as b4 u couldnt shut me up now i feel like a really closed person x

zeno Sat 21-May-11 21:45:26

ChocBrownie - I'm so sorry for your family's loss and for the hard road you've had to travel.

One of our big concerns is how on earth we can manage to not be grief stricken and broken for the well-being of dd2. It's hard to balance openness and honesty about how we feel against keeping things stable and optimistic for her.

It terrifies me, how much harm we could do to her if we show her too much, or hide too much, or protect her too carefully.

There seems to be no literature available on the effects on surviving siblings. Do you know of any? I think you're the first person I've come across who has talked about this experience at all.

ChocolateBrownieGuilt Wed 25-May-11 21:16:50

Hi Zeno

Sorry for delayed reply, I’ve only just seen it tonight. Firstly I am sorry that you have lost your DD1 – I am sorry that I don’t know your story so I hope that is right...

I’m not aware of any specific literature on the subject of the effect of the death of a sibling but I’m pretty sure that some exists. I had therapy for years and my therapist often referred to studies and research in the area of children growing up in families where their needs were not met due to parents being too caught up in the effects of losing another child.

For me, the issue was exacerbated by my father not coping with it and “running off” with another woman and recreating a new family there. So not only was my mum grieving for a lost child, she also was dealing in infidelity, loss of marriage and her whole life as she knew it (was a SAHM at the time). Dont want to out myself with too much detail, but I would be happy to chat more either here or via PM if it would help you at all.
x

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