Losing a child, two years on – fear and vulnerability

Two years on from the day we lost Abi (10th February) is approaching and I feel like I’m spinning in an endless cycle of grief. One minute I’m fine, the next I’m not. Over and over and over again. I’ve come to realise that as well as grieving her, the girl, my first-born, I’m grieving for the life I had and am confused about the life I have left.

I thought perhaps two years on I’d feel more acceptance, but I’m nothing but a shadow of my former self.

My drive to achieve has vanished. I was always driven by a need to succeed in every aspect of my life. I had to work hard to get myself out of the poverty trap. I worked hard to get the experience I needed to achieve independence and a level of income that would give me the choices I wanted in life – and I’m not talking fancy holidays, I’m talking a nice home, a reliable car and treats for the children. While we’re far from wealthy, I’m content knowing that I don’t have to watch every penny. I suppose I’m officially ‘grown up’. But I’ve lost that drive to ‘better myself’, to set myself goals like I used to. Working was so important to me, was part of me, but I no longer seem to care.

My self-motivation is gone, which isn’t great if you work for yourself. I’ve considered finding employment again ‘out there’, a new focus, people to mix with in the day, but there’s nothing I care about enough to bother. I was fascinated by communication. I worked in an advertising agency and then in publishing. I loved all that.

I could get another job. But now I’d not care enough about either the work I was doing or the business I was working for. Even the office banter I’d find hard to keep up with, people complaining about the trivial. It’s incredibly unsettling and I wake up each day and pray that it’ll come back to me.

I feel little joy. I can laugh and feel a fleeting moment of happiness, in a silly moment or with my children, but it’s still a surface emotion. I’ve lost the deep joy I once had. People contact me on my blog, asking, pleading, if the joy ever returns… I find it hard to be honest with them, I suppose this is my answer.

My baby has brought joy to our family, and I love nothing better than waking up next to his cheerful face, but the joy isn’t really mine. Sometimes I look at him and feel guilty as I know he wouldn’t be here if Abi still was. I don’t allow myself to feel the joy, replacing it with worries and anxieties instead.

I have many privileges, and the material stuff that would have given me some sense of satisfaction in the past no longer touches me. We’ve just had installed the kitchen of our dreams, something we’ve wanted for a long time. Yes, it’s lovely; yes, it’s better, but I don’t feel any joy or pride in it.

It is what it is.

Wood and metal.

I carry around with me the handle to a cupboard in our old kitchen that Abi touched the most (the treat cupboard of course!). I’m mourning the changes, despite the pleasures I take from them.

A long-term savings policy just ended. I started it just after I found out I was expecting Abi, 15 years ago. The letter came that the money will be sent next month, but I just feel ‘that’s nice’. There’s no room for elation, more a strain at the thought of spending it without Abi here.

I feel vulnerable in this crazy world now, rather than part of it. I feel vulnerable to illness, loss of income, marital strain, the stress of life. Vulnerable to the dependency on me by others.

I’m scared. Scared of living. Scared of dying. Scared of my own shadow. Scared for myself. Scared for my husband and children.

We’re all scared to one degree or another. Living together with our own insecurities, once secure now just fearful. Ready to pounce at any moment.

And I’m angry. Angry that life has dealt us this terrible hand. Angry that I can’t ‘get over it’. Angry that I allow certain people to upset me. Angry that I have lost control of me.

I realise this is all very understandable, but just because something is understandable doesn’t make it any easier to live with. If anything it’s harder, as I also have to live knowing that I should feel like this because of that… There’s no switch to turn it off.

People want to take your pain away. They try to cheer you up or distract you. But it’s momentary. One day I can be quite upbeat, having given myself a good talking to, the next I’m on the floor missing Abi like nothing else, feeling guilty for even trying and needing to hide and lick my wounds.

And oh, these wounds of grief have scarred me far more than any stretchmark or burn. They are slashes on the inside of my skin that cut right through to my heart.

Not knowing how I’ll be, how we’ll be, how life will be is a strain. There are so many reminders, so many memories, and no hiding places. I feel exposed.

Life feels a pretence. We’re pretending it’s all okay. We’re cruising along, just about. Yet we know that in the end, nothing matters, because we’re incomplete.

So, two years on, if you find yourself here, I’d say don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re back to square one. It’s this crazy rollercoaster of grief we’re on. Try not to fixate on the anniversaries; each day is painful enough as it is, you don’t need to put more pressure on your weary emotions. Just ease off on stuff, switch off, pad around the house or go for a slow walk. It too will pass.

Two years on, I don’t feel further from my girl, I feel closer to her because she’s ever in my thoughts.

P.S. Yes, I’m ‘talking to someone’ and my posts will record, in part, what comes out of that. I was fascinated by this. I’ve spent so long in a mental muddle, so it’s helpful to see exactly what the feelings are. It’s not pretty, or cheery, or sunsets and rainbows, but it’s a tiny step closer to acceptance and finding a new way to live.

34 thoughts on “Losing a child, two years on – fear and vulnerability

  1. I want to say something, but for once I’m lost for words. What is there to say? Nothing can make you feel better. Your feelings are all completely ‘understandable’, because what else really matters? Not office banter, not a new kitchen, not anything. Thinking of you all. x

  2. I want to say something too, but there are no words, are there? Life is a pretence over here too, just confusion and apathy and loss of everything, of her AND of the me that was. We’re all in this alone, but I feel a bit of companionship from knowing others are in this boat. I hope you do too… I can’t fix your pain, but I hear it, and I send you love. X

    • Thank you. There are no words for this kind of post I agree. What can anyone say to that? But it’s not really for comment just an expression of some pretty hard emotions which I can’t pretend aren’t there. I agree with and thank you for the companionship. You aren’t alone either, sending you a hug x

  3. Oh yes. I can relate to so much of this, sadly. I mourn the loss of me, the life I should have had, as well as Hugo. The loss of genuine joy. The anger, the short-temperedness. The lack of interest in trivial things. ‘Stuff’ doesn’t matter. It will never replace Abi, or Hugo. There’s nothing that can take the pain away, and I wish no one else felt this way, but knowing I am not alone in these feelings is reassuring. Love and hugs as always xxx

    • Thanks Leigh. I think we just need to make sure we give ourselves all the time we need. I don’t have a time limit on my grief, it’s forever after all, but I suppose one minute I feel almost okay so I’m floored when it hits me – like a stab in the back, saying, ‘ha! you thought I’d left!’ It’s all so very draining, but I’m so thankful to friends like you for support x

  4. I’m just reiterating what other posts have said knowing there are others out there that understand. As a single mum I sometimes feel no matter how close other family members were to my daughter they will truly not fully understand my loss. Your words are exactly what I am feeling 7 months on from my daughters passing, they give me great comfort to read, why? I’m not quite sure because they are sad words, lost words but they are deep and meaningful words and ‘we get it’ you are certainly not alone. Sending hugs x

    • It’s been a comfort to me to hear that others feel like this too – as much as I feel sorrow that anyone else has to suffer this! Knowing I’m not a crazy grieving lady is a big help. Thank you so much for commenting. Hopefully together we can be strong x

  5. I don’t think there is much I can say here and I don’t want to come across in a tone I don’t mean. So instead, lots of hugs and a note to say, your writing is beautiful and honest and wonderful x

  6. Watching someone you love go through the unimaginable is beyond comprehension. Where the ground has fallen from beneath your feet, and as a family frantically trying to piece together and make sense of how we live through this life. You make so much sense it’s too true ….

    What can we do but be there 💙 to keep up the pretence with the elephant, we all know what we’re thinking ‘why the f! Is she not here!’

  7. Dear Mummy writes..I cannot contemplate the anguish you must go through constantly..But maybe its your way of coping with your beloved daughter’s loss, Please don’t think your doing something so wrong..You are so certainly not You are so brave and you are such an amazing mother and woman.. You are just grieving, laying your feelings bare .. It has to come out Your feelings are raw and will probably be for many months or years as Abbi was you daughter.. The feelings are honest and true..
    Please take care …God bless! xxxx

  8. Although I’ve become afraid for the future and the continued pain, I thank you for being so honest. You are a special person to share this.

  9. The depth of grief is equal to the depth of love. There were so many things I found unhelpful whilst grieving the death of my son but certain things did help. Being told that the 2nd year was often worse than the first helped when I too was going through the motions of living. It gets easier as sadly the human brain is kind and those bitter sweet memories do fade, however much you desperately don’t want them to.

  10. like the others there is nothing much I can say, but I did not want to read and run. What an honest and open post that other people can relate to, let them know they are not alone, that this is “normal” and that despite what people say time does not seem to be a healer when a parent buries their own child.
    Huge hugs sent from me to you, as inadequate as they are.

  11. Every word you write resonates with me, I am further down the line but the grief & feelings remain and probably always will, even though I too had another child who is a joy, when I’m on my own with my memories I fell many emotions from happy that he was but deep sadness that we’ve lost him. Group hug from my family to yours xx

  12. Oh Kelly, I can only imagine what you’ve been through these past two years but I would be surprised if you were alone in feeling like this. ‘Normal’ life (whatever that is) must look completely different from where you are.

  13. I too lost my daughter, Ruby, nearly two years ago. She was 11, had an unknown heart condition and had a heart attack whilst away on a school trip
    I understand, to a large extent, how you feel.
    It’s OK to feel like this, it’s normal. It takes courage to even express how you feel and it certainly takes courage to write it down for others to read. It took courage to get out of bed and to make breakfast and get on with the day. And you did these things. It is this courage that with see you through.
    That new kitchen matters but just not as much as before. Maybe those things (objects, office banter, etc) now matter as much as they should have always done ie. Not much? They have their place, of course, but there are other things (I now realise) that are more relevant to providing contentment or happiness or joy. Namely, my other child Tom, my wife, my friendships, helping strangers, helping neighbours, those brief laughs and moments of fun, finding meaning in my job, etc. I have found that happiness usually takes care of itself if I put psychological effort into really considering how I now need to live ie. my “new normal”.
    You mention your motivation to achieve things. In the past this has been connected to your job but why does this still need to be the case? Can your strong sense of motivation be useful in different aspects of your life now that everything has changed? What about working for someone else (routine 9-5 jobs have their place!) and using your remaining drive and skills for voluntary/ charity work or similar?
    Your superfluous sense of joy has gone but, again, I think this is normal. Maybe a deeper sense of contentment now holds greater importance in your heart as it does in mine? The trick, of course, is working out how to find contentment.
    I hope that seeing a counsellor or similar will work as well for you as it did for me. I didn’t expect them to understand how I felt (they didn’t) but they did ask me the questions I needed to be asked to start finding my direction again, having been rudderless for months.
    Can I also be so forward as to suggest that, if you are experiencing clinical depression as distinct from grief then your family doctor could advise you whether antidepressant medication may help. I was in grief for a year and a half when depression set in (persistent sadness, daily tears, poor sleep, low energy, couldn’t experience joy, etc) and started medication to good effect. It’s not for everyone but might be worth looking into.
    I hope I am not being too forward in such a long reply but your post really touched me- it read as if I had written it myself. I cannot know how you feel but I can empathise. I know there are good and bad times. You have shown great courage in the face of the worse adversity any of us should experience.
    Your sky is full of clouds at the moment but the sun is still shining behind them. The wind will soon change and blow them away.

    Again I hope I am not being too forward in suggesting a look at my similar blog as you may find it supportive. Certainly yours is supportive and loving and is a great help to many. mourningdadben.blogspot.co.uk

    With respects and regards, Ben

    • Thank you so much Ben for your comment and introducing me to your blog. I’m so sorry about Ruby. I have no words to say that will help you only that I know what sudden loss feels like. Thank you for your advice. The doctor offered antidepressants but I’m still breastfeeding so they werent an option. I want to avoid them anyway (have been on them before and didn’t like it). I’m exercising more and seeing a counsellor. I’ve considered charitable work, when I feel stronger. I need to care. But I know what you mean about all the stuff has a place still, that it’s just not so important. I think that’s a good thing but it’s hard to focus when you feel so much despair.
      I really appreciate your comment so thank you, and I’ll read your posts too x

      • To paraphrase philosopher A.C.Grayling: regarding our grief we should ask ourselves, what if the situation was reversed? If I had died and left my family behind how would I want them to grieve? The answer, of course, is not for too long or too deeply. I can assume my Ruby would wish this too and so I owe it to myself and to her to face my grief and live in consideration of my pain and of my future.
        You are in my thoughts. As are our dragonfly hunters. I wonder where they are off to today?
        Regards and respects, Ben

      • Sorry if that last post was a little cryptic. I thought dragonflies might be a reference to this:

        This haiku is by Chiyojo:

        My little dragonfly hunter
        I wonder where he is
        off to today

        Her son died young and after writing this haiku she wrote no more and left the literary world in which she was celebrated and became a nun. I find it so heartbreaking because of the weight of the answer she was forced to provide herself after posing such a buoyant question she had no doubt asked herself hundreds of times when her son was alive.

        Regards, Ben

      • Thank you Ben. I’d not come across this before. I’ll have to look it up. Also I do see that point about would I want anyone to grieve too long for me. However part of me thinks yes in Abi’s case. She was a lovely girl and very fair in her outlook but also a child wanting their share of attention, making sure she gets what her siblings got. I can’t help feeling the maternal guilt I’d feel whether she was here or not. I know in the main she’s dancing though.
        Thank you for your support x

  14. I just found your post through one of Sian’s and I am crying for you. I can’t even begin to imagine what you are going through but please don’t ever feel the need to excuse your grief for others, you sound like you are doing amazingly well to me. Thinking of you and your family xxx

  15. Thank you for sharing this honest and heartfelt post. I can’t begin to imagine what life is like after losing a child so please don’t ever feel the need to excuse how you feel about everything. Thinking of you x

  16. I too don’t know what to say without sounding totally inept, except that you write so beautifully and I just can’t comprehend the level of pain. I’m so very sorry xxx

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