What is it Like to Lose a Child?

In this heart-wrenching post, Rebecca answers this unthinkable question, What is it like to lose a child? After having him for 23 years, Rebecca lost Kenny on July 6, 2012. She has been working through her grief ever since. One day last summer, she found the website, Quora, and saw, of all questions in front of her… this one. There it was… Rebecca’s invitation to share her most private and deepest thoughts and feelings with all the world. 

Quora asks: What is it like to lose a child?

Rebecca’s reply:
“This is a tough question to answer as it brings all the pain I try to push back (he’s just on a long vacation; he’s busy with work, etc., AKA denial) with as much force as I can muster, until I’m lying in bed alone with my thoughts, trying to hold on to every detail I can about him. The fear of forgetting his voice one day drives me insane.” 

 

 “I had my firstborn son, Kenneth Wayne III, when I was 19 years old. I loved him before I laid eyes on him. I couldn’t wait to meet him and when I heard his first breath, I instantly realized the meaning of unconditional love. I knew right then and there that nothing would ever change this deep love I felt. I was a child myself at the time, so I refer to his upbringing as he and I growing up together, in a sense. I learned the meaning of maturity, responsibility, selflessness, compassion, empathy, protection and many more traits. In turn, I taught him the same.”

Me and Ken“It was Kenny and I together during the day, until his dad joined in after work. We explored nature, played hide-n-seek, went to the beach, made sand castles, watched Sesame Street, Disney movies, danced, read books, sang songs and listened to lots of rock-n-roll music. Two and a half years later, his brother was born. Ken’s first words when he laid eyes on him were, “Can you put him back in there now”?! Of course that changed immediately. Not only did they form a bond as brothers, they were the very best of friends!”

“It was awesome watching them grow up together. I never imagined loving someone as much as I loved Kenny. Of course, my love for my younger child was also instantaneous (as such when my daughter was born). It was the boys and I together during the weekday and dad taking over when he got home, joining in the fun. Those years were really some of the best of my life. Being a mommy was what I wanted, and here I was, at 23, with two incredible boys. I’m sure we had our ups and downs back then, but looking back now, the stresses of those days seem rather silly.”

“Kenny was born with a drive to succeed. He had an extraordinary gift of gab, having long detailed conversations with adults starting at the age of 4. People were fascinated by his vast vocabulary and his drive to learn all he could. His questions were numerous. For example, at the beach, “How many grains of sand do you think are here?” He was a sponge, soaking up each reply we gave. It was obvious he would listen intently to your answer. He was incredibly loving, very respectful, silly and funny, spontaneous, athletic and extremely ambitious in his academic pursuits.”

ken usc grad“Beginning in elementary school, he was a 2x Spelling Bee Champion, won 1st place in the Greater San Diego Science Fair in physics, SCHS (High school) Science Olympiad Grand Champion and made the Principle’s Honor Roll for 16 consecutive quarters. He achieved various other awards in academics, along with awards for baseball, wrestling, and competitive pingpong. He graduated from high school as Salutatorian in 2007. In his senior year, he and his dad worked endless hours on his college applications. Their hard work paid off when Ken was accepted to each college he applied (5 UC schools). He chose USC for their world class business school, the Marshall School of Business, and entered the prestigious Lloyd Grief Center of Entrepreneurial Studies. He joined Delta Chi his first year and held positions on their Board.”

“Kenny befriended all walks of life and ended college with numerous close friendships. Ken was looked to for advice in many different areas and respected everyone he came in contact with. He appreciated the beauty of life and was positive in his surroundings. Everyone Ken met considered him their best friend. He lived more in his short 23 years than most do in a lifetime. He traveled to Hong Kong and Greece, fished in Mexico, attended countless music festivals/concerts and academic debates, never missing out on anything he wanted to do. He came home often to spend time with his brother and the rest of his family, always stopping to visit his old friends from San Diego.”

“Obviously, to try and answer this question, I needed to give a bit of background first. I thought about how to answer a question of this nature and found that from my own personal experience, I don’t believe words could truly describe this pain, horror, loss, and anxiousness I feel without my boy. I can identify with the pain and sorrow in each answer written here (Other Quora site participants). I believe one can only know the pain of losing a child if you’ve lost a child yourself. How could I possibly put into words the difficulty of life without him, the breathlessness felt each morning I wake up knowing he’s gone, the guilt I feel for not being able to save my firstborn child, my Lil buddy, one of my 3 favorite people in this world?”

“How does one go about life without their child? For me, to try and explain the emotions of a mom and/or dad when they lose their child seems complicated. Words like sadness, despondency, and misery don’t begin to scratch the surface of emotions. I’m left wondering how to console my other two children when I can’t understand nor accept this grief myself.”

“The instant the coroner came to my door, life as I knew it to be, was over. When the words came out of his mouth, everything I was ceased to exist. The stresses of the day before no longer mattered. The guilt is overpowering. No matter how many people try and persuade you that it’s not your fault, somehow it still is. I’m supposed to protect him dammit. The love I have for my children and life itself is now buried under a heavy load called GRIEF.”

“The comments I’ve heard about ‘having two other children to live for, Kenny wouldn’t want me to live like this’, are well intended, yet aren’t able to penetrate into my numb mind. The endless nights of terror imagining the what-ifs: “what if this happens again?” “What if I had just gone up to his house that day?” “Why hadn’t I?” “What if he never met the punk that was with him the evening before?” The thoughts have left me an insomniac.  I’m more  comfortable in my own surroundings with pictures and memories of a different time. I try as best as I can to hide my sorrow from my other children and family. I’d  never want my kids to think they aren’t just as important. When they come to me with news about their accomplishments, I’m proud. The moment of happiness is usually followed by a gut wrenching feeling, “why isn’t Ken here to share and enjoy these moments?” I’m left pulled between the guilt of not showing my grief and taking away from his brother and sister. What would Kenny feel if he could see me smiling? Would he think I didn’t care he was gone?  Do my other kids think I’m a shitty mom after this happened?”

“I don’t know the details of the night my son lost his life. I know what caused his passing but the roommates he lived with told us they were ‘too shaken up’ to speak of any details. While I can only imagine the panic and despair they felt upon finding him, can and do they imagine the anxiety we as parents feel, not knowing? Will they only know when they have their own children? Each night I try and put it all together but I’m only left with a story I created myself. I’ll never know. I created this human in my body, I was there to witness his first breath, yet I’ll never know about his last moments. I’ll never know what he was thinking or the why’s that surrounded this tragedy.”

“It was 3 years on July 6, 2015. Some say time heals but that hasn’t been true for me. The first and second year were shock and denial. When January 1st came this year all I could think was ‘UH OH’ here we go again. I believe that”s when I finally realized he wasn’t going to come home. How I long for that denial to come back and protect my mind. Perhaps with more time it really will change. I don’t see the light at the end of this tunnel. Maybe this year was the year of realization. I don’t want another year of birthdays, holidays, anniversary dates, and celebrations without my firstborn child. Losing your child leaves a hole in your very soul that cannot be filled. It leaves you numb, breathless, anxious, sobbing, apprehensive, angry, bitter, hateful and many other emotions tied up in the word “bereavement.”

“But getting back to an answer to this question, (finally) here it is: I pray that the reader never has to personally know an answer to this question and if you are on this same path, I’m so very sorry that you have to know this pain. All I can say is that I wish you peace in your journey.”  Rebecca

Commentary- First of all, I want to thank Rebecca for sharing this and allowing us to take a peek into her very private world. There is so much here that gives insight into what it’s like to lose someone as precious as a child, giving us the great opportunity to grow in understanding and compassion.

As we see, Rebecca and Kenny shared an extremely close bond together. Not that it’s lost now with his passing, for love like that does not simply die, it’s just that the brain needs to process so much before coming to acceptance of the fact of what happened and why.

This is exceptionally difficult for Rebecca because she is dealing with complicated circumstances surrounding her son’s passing. Complications with moving through the “grief process” describe this very difficult process that Rebecca finds herself in. Most of us know the situations and circumstances surrounding our loved one’s passing, understand and have already begun to accept what happened and why, at some point. This is vital for proper healing. In Rebecca’s case, she does not completely know. She has only bits and pieces, making it difficult to arrive at full closure, in order for her to move on. 

Yes, there are some people involved who are at fault for the loss of Kenny’s life, people Rebecca neither knows nor will let her know exactly what happened. Can you imagine not having all the full and truthful information surrounding your child’s last moments of life? Can you imagine the nameless people involved who know these answers, but out of fear of getting into trouble, will not give them up to a grieving mother? Yes, no doubt at some point as a parent, this will come back to haunt them.

Getting angry and blaming someone is part of the grief process. It often serves as a baseline for one of the lowest points one experiences before these negative emotions can be worked through on the road to finding peace and forgiveness for what happened and why. But, without these people ‘fessing up, she is left with no single person or persons to appropriately blame but herself, leaving Rebecca stuck in a self-blaming loop and this part of the process difficult to solve to completion.

In the case of this grief complication, where important facts are withheld and/or unknown, or other sensitive extenuating circumstances make it difficult to bring into the light, healing must proceed using only what’s illuminated at the time, if any healing is to be had at all. For this to happen, the blame now has to be placed on life’s situations that are… many times imperfect, along with the people in it, who are many times ignorant and unaware. We have to realize that there is no way to have known or to have stopped it. After all… we can’t be everywhere at all times. When bad things happen against our will, we begin to see how little control we actually have as a physical being and how little effect we actually have when life’s situations have a different agenda for us and those in our lives. We must eventually come around to face the fact that life just happens and does not necessarily care about how we feel about it. This can make us feel helpless, insecure, scared and out-right furious. And this is normal. We throw our fits and refuse to believe or accept, thinking we can somehow change things with our denial, or even retaliate against life for what did happen, but to no avail.. We refuse to understand and accept, thinking that if we do, we have somehow betrayed our loved one. But the reality is… they are still with us. We cannot betray them, ever.

We fight it as we go through every horrible emotion, wondering why we didn’t do more. We soon find that we can’t fight reality and expect to win. But, as humans, still we try… and try… and try. It’s in our nature to resist anything we don’t like or agree with.

If complete healing is ever to be had in difficult cases of grief, we have to be willing to tell our brains (no, YOU are not your brain, you just use it to process stuff) to give up the many thoughts that stand in the way of  healing. For example, we need to give up thoughts like; “This shouldn’t have happened.” When the reality is that it did. We need to let go of the thought, “I should have been able to prevent this, when the reality still stands that you couldn’t.” Life happens. Living in this dualistic world of ours as we do, sometimes life is cruel and unfair when something horrible happens, but it has the possibility of being beautiful and just, too. There is good here, thank God. 

I know the bad sucks, but the very end and bottom of it all, what you are left with is this: All you can do NOW is make the best out of what happened. All you can do is be inspired by what good you can make out of a horrible, unfair, distressing and tragic loss. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Where is the inspiration? Are you kidding me? Why does she say that? 

But please have the courage to listen carefully to what I’m saying now. Early on in your process, it’s hard to believe there could be anything BUT excruciating pain from this devastating nightmare. Especially if you have been stuck at the beginning of your grief process for awhile. Inspiration? What the hell is that? I’m suffering and she’s talking about inspiration? Really?

When it comes to the pain of losing a loved one, whether it’s a child, spouse, friend, parent, relative, partner, whomever… the worst pain YOU can feel for a lost loved one is the pain YOU are feeling at the time. It doesn’t matter who is lost; pain is subjective. And in one’s own private hell, where your torment lives inside a fiery furnace of consuming flames and the struggle constantly continues as the battle between life and death rages on to eventually reconcile itself, no other pain is even relevant. Grief is a very personal process.

My dear soul brothers and sisters, I have been to my own private hell, as well. I speak from the depth of my soul when I relay this important message to you. This devastating experience that you have sunk deeply into, does, at some point have a bottom. There is a place where you will eventually arrive when you have been consumed by the flames, (at surrender, then grace), where you will find that the furnace has melted, purified and molded you into something much stronger than before. And… an important calling will come to ask something great and spectacular from your deepest pain. This is what is on the horizon. Maybe sooner, maybe later. BUT, because of your terrific pain… possibility is now born in you. With the unfolding of time, a great calling will rise up from the ashes of your tremendous sorrow and loss and choose YOU to be a vessel for something completely amazing. And, at the very bottom of it all, you will find your life’s deepest purpose.

As it sometimes starts out slowly, the gifts from this tragedy gradually becomes greater than you are or could ever think you could be. You become an agent for awareness and hope. You rise up from the darkness to become part of the light. The culminations of all your unanswered questions will become the inertia that propels you forth. And as you rise from the darkness of your pain, your love for the person you lost, eventually becomes a greater love for everyone, including yourself. And the light will shine once again. That is, if you accept and allow it to go this way. It only takes a “yes!” to the heavens, and a declaration, “I will be a vessel for light”, for your new purpose to begin to mold you into your destiny. There is nothing to do. It will come to you! You don’t even need to know what it is. It will choose you. Just show up every day, ready, willing and able, and sooner or later, it will miraculously show up too. And because you have already been prepared, you will be used as a vessel of light in this world. Not too shabby!

Getting to the point of complete healing does not mean you love the one who has passed any less. It just means, you are ready to get to the point of your life and purpose and the difference you will make because of your loss. It means that your loved one did not pass in vain. And here’s the best part of it. We don’t have to do it alone. Whatever calling that is given to you from beyond, will be aided by your loved one on “the other side.” In this case, Kenny will work closely with Rebecca to carry out her magnificent purpose for humanity, whatever that may be. Having read about Kenny and how amazing he was in physical life, and knowing what an amazing person Rebecca is, can you even imagine what would be possible between them?  Pretty damn amazing, I would say! You got this, Rebecca!

More about Kenny can be found at, Those Yellow Trunks and Together Again!

7 thoughts on “What is it Like to Lose a Child?

  1. Thinking of you Rebecca and sending you sooo much love and peace. Thank you (and Jade) for sharing your story with us all. xoSara

  2. Rebecca, thank you for sharing such a deeply personal experience. I can hear in your words how much love you have for your son and my heart goes out to you as you find your own peace in your journey. Jade, thank you for the commentary. I think in the depth of pain it is very hard to see the possibilities, but how incredible is it knowing that in time those possibilities will emerge.

  3. Thank you Rebecca. I too loss my son and I don’t know why or all the details behind his death. i feel people know more than what they are saying. Your life story really shines light for me. Now I know that everything I am feeling is normal so again Thank You!

  4. Wow what a beautiful story. That is a truly sad place to be at (I wish you the best with your grieving process Rebecca). That is quite inspiring jade, what a stellar example of working through grief. From the bottom to the top, great post.

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