Finding Hope and Support When Your Child Dies
By Brittianee Neu
If you asked me on July 20, 2008, where I’d be in three years, it would have involved all the things I would be doing with my beautiful baby boy. Like any parent, from the day I found out I was pregnant, all my thoughts, hopes and dreams for the future were filled with images of our family together, happy and loving life. I would have never imagined in 24 hours, those dreams would be shattered and who I once was would cease to exist.
My son, Mason, was three and a half months old when he died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). That mid-summer day was without a doubt the worst day of my life. Everything I had ever thought, known and believed about my life was completely erased. When my child died, a huge part of me died too. The first few days and weeks my pain was masked by the shock I felt. Did this truly happen? Is this a nightmare that I’ll wake up from? People thought I seemed to be dealing well with the circumstances, but little did they know that I hadn’t even begun to deal with what would be my lifelong journey through grief. When the shock started to fade, an incredibly raw and gut wrenching pain followed. I felt sad, depressed, lost, alone, confused, angry and hopeless. Some days the pain, would literally take my breath away. It was hard to function like a normal human being; hard to live knowing my child was not.
After my son died, one of my first instincts was to reach out to other parents that had been through my situation. I had friends and family that supported me, but unless they had lost a child too, they could only help so much. Their lives went on – as they should – but mine had not, and in some ways my life had permanently paused on the day my child died. To understand this, you must walk the same journey.
Talking to parents in various stages of loss helped me know that what I was feeling was normal. They reassured me that I wasn’t alone, they understood, and they were there for me. As hard as it was to see that others knew my pain, it was also comforting. These parents knew they couldn’t change what happened, they knew I wouldn’t ever be better, and there was no talk of “moving on” because they knew it would never truly happen.
The parents I found support in helped me in so many ways, but one of the most precious gifts I was given was the gift of HOPE. That although I will never be the person I used to be, one day I would learn to be happy again. That although the pain and heartache I felt would never be fully erased, I would be able to wake up in the morning with a smile on my face instead of tears in my eyes. That by moving forward, I was not forgetting my child, but rather living my life as a tribute to him.
If you have lost a child, I encourage you to reach out to those who are on the same journey. I am where I am today, in large part because of the wonderful mothers and fathers I was supported by. We live in a world that wasn’t made for bereaved parents. Every day is hard for us. From simple conversations, to going to the store – not to mention, holidays, birthdays and other important milestones we have to live through without our children; life is challenging. No one understands this more than another parent who has lost a child.
This journey is not an easy one; we will always miss our children, wish things were different and wonder what should have been, but we must remember, we are not alone. Others have gone before us, and others will come after us. We travel this road together, supporting, encouraging and understanding each other’s pain. It may never go away, but by leaning on each other, we can find support and hope that there is a light at the end of this dark and lonely tunnel.
Brittianee Neu lives in Blaine, MN with her husband, daughter and a baby on the way. Her first child, Mason, died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in July 2008 when he was three and half months old. Neu is involved with the nonprofit organization, Baby Angels Foundation, a statewide initiative to maximize the supports available to parents and families who have lost an infant. The Baby Angels Foundation’s 2nd Annual 5K Run/Walk to Remember is on June 12, 2011 at Bunker Hills Regional Park in Coon Rapids, MN. For more information visit: www.babyangelsfoundation.org
Bereaved Parents USA
Bereaved Parents of the USA (BP/USA) is a nationwide organization designed to aid and support bereaved parents and their families who are struggling to survive their grief after the death of a child.
Faith’s Lodge – A place for those dealing with a serious illness or death of a child