• Heather McAbee

Surviving Death

Surviving the death of a child feels differently to everyone who experiences it, and may feel like we, or at least a piece of us, has died on the inside. No matter the age of the child, the hole left in our hearts is substantial and there are times when we feel like we just cannot go on.

When I felt like something was wrong in my pregnancy, I remember well-meaning people telling me 'once you've got them, you've got them. Nothing to worry about.'

I remember a well-meaning friend after I miscarried tell me 'oh, you were barely pregnant' as if that somehow would make the pain of my loss less emotional. I remember well-meaning friends look at me with sad eyes, but avoid saying anything to me as if it would make it better to ignore.

And, I remember receiving letters, cards, hugs and flowers, and others sharing their experiences of miscarriage. Family and friends reaching out, sharing and acknowledging my pain. I remember at the time, wanting to slam the cards and flowers into the wall and throw them into the garbage can, burying my sadness through anger. And I remember reading the cards years later and feeling so appreciative of the kind words and thoughts.

As I was contemplating how we survive death, the next song to play on Pandora was Learning to Live Again, by Garth Brooks. In it he thinks "I'm going to smile my best smile and laugh like it's going out of style, Look into her eyes and pray That she don't see That learning to live again is killin' me." At the end of the song he realizes she is on her own path to healing when she says to him "God this learning to live again is killin me."

Losing a child forces us to learn how to live again, how to live in a world without them, a world where we needed them to be been in.

I have learned that no two people share the same experience. I have learned that no two people process and heal in the same manner or at the same rate or pace. I have learned to reach out and console another who has lost a child. I have learned that people not acknowledging hurt me more than people communicating, even when it felt super uncomfortable to talk about it.

I do not know another person's pain; I do not know their journey or path to healing. I am best served to open my heart to loving them and meeting them in the space they are in. Embracing, acknowledging and allowing without judgement; setting myself aside to hold them emotionally and perhaps even physically for as long as they need my support.

I feel truly honored when a client comes to me on the fragile brink of barely surviving death. Their child is gone, and they simply don't know how to go on, how to survive death or face the truth of their loss. Somehow wishing that if they deny long enough, the world will rectify and bring him or her back. I cannot say 'I feel your pain', but I can say 'I can relate. I hear you. I understand.' Truly, from the depths of my soul.

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