I was just downstairs watching a little tv and browsing the internet looking for a good, cheapo, and reliable heated bird bath, when I got a little chilly and decided to come up and grab my bathrobe and slippers. On my way up, I stopped by the stand with the dental stick doggy chews, yelled “WHO WANTS A TREAT,” and then grabbed three and threw one to Thurston, one to Lily, and then stood there for a second before I remembered there was no Rosie. I was sad for a moment and put the treat away and came upstairs.
I’ve been watching the Mare of Easttown the last few days, and am taking a break before the final episode, and my little treat incident made me think of the titular character, played by Kate Winslet, whose son committed suicide. And I guess I just don’t know how a parent who loses a child in any way ever gets over it. I just don’t.
The Pale Scot
Stout Heart Cole, U haz dem
My aunt lost a son to cancer when he was 13. I believe parents never get over losing a child; the grief, anger, and sense of aching loss never goes away. They just learn to live with it.
My Google Pixel constantly puts together side shows with old photos of our dogs. We’ve lost 4 in the past 6 years, so I empathize about Rosie. The last two were especially tough, and the photo shows are tough to watch certain days. I often still look for them when I get home from work without thinking about it.
My brother lost his son to a car accident 3 months from his high school graduation. It was awful.
We also have new and old pet ghosts in our house.
White & Gold Purgatorian
They don’t. My mother lost her first baby 73 years ago, and never even got to hold him. We all know she needs extra TLC when his birthday rolls around because the pain is still so intense. She loves the rest of us, but she never got over losing that child.
Our household lost 3 pets in 2 months this year. Mom & Dad still get teary-eyed when thinking about them. I don’t, but I miss them all still very much.
One of my stepsons had opiod addiction issues. Only one of his close high scchool friends is still alive, and that kid did no drugs. I am amazed (and very grateful) we still have our kid. He has been clean for years, but there wasn’t much help when he was trying to get clean. All the tough love talk is murderous.
James E Powell
In my experience, they never do.
I don’t think they do, I think they just eventually find a way to live without getting over it. In January, it’ll be three years since my niece died. She was 18, my brother’s youngest. I know that most of the time now, he’s good, he’s happy. He does work he loves, has a good relationship, all that. But I also know there are still moments out of nowhere when he completely breaks down. The pain is always there, you just learn how to live around it.
@James E Powell: My experience also.
Back in October I had the honor of playing a Life Celebration for my dear friend/blog-colleague Martin Longman’s stepson. You know him from Progress Pond. Martin and his wife are two of my best friends in the whole world. You don’t get over it, you learn to manage it.
It’s snowing hard out, and I was already in a mood, so this post has me contemplative, which I prefer not to be.
One of my wife’s younger brothers (she’s oldest of 11) and his wife have lost two children, one when the child was very young and one late last year, a grown man who had cancer, responded amazingly to experimental treatment, and then relapsed two years later. They’re still wonderful people, but the scars are obvious.
I can’t even imagine. My daughter just turned 5 this week and I can’t even bear to watch a movie or read a story in which a parent loses their child because the mere idea brings me to literal tears.
Mare of Easttown is one of the best shows I have seen in years.
I just saw the finale of GBBS, and my fave won, so yay!
My uncle and aunt lost a child to drug addiction. My aunt was a trained social worker. She followed the book, and everything they taught her was wrong.
ETA: They equate support with enabling. So they train parents to withhold support. Makes me so angry.
ETA : If they had encouraged her to follow her own good instincts her daughter might well be alive.
@Alison Rose: my god has it been three years already?
I agree. I think of the misery of losing beloved pets, and the thought of losing a child is just that to the infinite power. I’ve known people it happened to, and they seem to have simply lost the thread, which I completely understand. Sorry about Rosie again.
A titan has fallen
John, your calendar pic of Rosie is so sweet, I will never believe you again when you say she didn’t like you. That was a look of pure love with her face in your hand. Omnes will be jealous.
Unless that was your Dad’s hand holding Rosie’s face, in which case I will believe you.
@dp: Losing a loved pet is vey sad, but with their lifespans is normal and should be expected. Losing a child is in a whole different order of pain.
@John Cole: Yeah. Hard to believe, huh?
@sab: dp: Which is what you said already.
@Alison Rose: You described it beautifully, so much better than I could. My oldest son died a few years ago in his sleep from a congenital heart problem. I still think of him and miss him every day. I still love and care for my other two sons and my granddaughters, but there is always that empty spot that can’t be filled.
Old Dan and Little Ann
Post turkey day trip to Primanti Bros. and Duquesne Incline this afternoon. The wife always remarks on the yinzer accent.
I’m fighting the onions here thinking about the kitties we’ve lost. Cats are so aloof. Yeah, right. I just let in our big orange bruiser who hates using the fancy cat door. He was so happy and had to have skritches. He knows I love to give skritches. If you’re good to them they return it in spades.
@White & Gold Purgatorian:
Wow, that’s an echo for me. My mother lost her first baby in early 1949; he lived only five hours. I was born 13 months later, followed by three more siblings. My mother was brought up not to show emotion, and she never let any of her pain over that loss show in later years. Not once ever. She told me late in her life that her mother and my dad had taken all the baby stuff out of the apartment before she got home from the hospital, so she wouldn’t feel sad. (Words fail.) I never came close to understanding what it must have been like until I was pregnant myself.
As an adult I realized that my brother’s death had had a profound effect on our family, and I think it was worse because my parents never got to work through their grief, or even acknowledge it except perfuntorily.
@CaseyL: I had a brother who died from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at age 17 (I was 12 at the time). That was followed by my dad dying a little mire than 2 1/2 years later. My mother then got another kick when her mother died less than a year after my dad. How she survived all of that I’ll never know.
Where I live have been a spate of children killed by gunfire. Some are innocent bystanders when crazed young men have shootouts. But the worst are victims of careless parents who leave loaded guns in easy reach.
@Dan B: We put my dad’s cat down this week. Amazing loving calm cat. Every human, feline or canine who met him loved him. Killed squirrels in the yard and then wandered in peaceful as can be. Didn’t like laps, but spent 10 years sitting beside my dad, and another 5 years sitting beside my husband. He went completely blind for years and handled it well until the last two months. We suspect he was finally getting dementia. He spent two weeks yowling in the night in distress, when he got stuck behind a chair,or claws stuck somewhere, or just lost in a room he had been in for years
ETA Dementia really sucks.
Republicans are all worried their kids would kill them for their money if there weren’t laws. That would never occur to me. I love my dad. But meanwhile they are passing laws that prevent me from protecting my dad from a horrible long painful death, and also later me, just to protect these slimy creatures from their own misbegotten monsters from killing them.
“And I guess I just don’t know how a parent who loses a child in any way ever gets over it. I just don’t.”
I think suicide might be the worst. How could you stop yourself from thinking you might have done something different?
TV Programming tip: Watch Wakefield
My mom was 90 when her 66 yr old daughter (my sister) died of cancer after she had fought for 6yrs and 2 operations. Mom lived another 4+ yrs and I don’t think she ever got over it. I don’t think you ever get over losing the people you know and love but those you have common genes with are the worst. You carry on because that’s what life is, but it just is never the same.
@sab: Her good instincts and advice saved our kid. Too late for hers. It makes me so angry. And her kid’s brother blames his sister for her own demise, and not the bad advice her mother followed.
But he also dumped his dad’s lovely cocker on us. Love and support is for other people, not him.
Don’t believe it’s possible to reconcile outliving your child. And when a child dies of tragedy–accident, overdose, suicide–it sharpens the blade of cruelty.
We see too many such things and suffer with the parents, empathize, then dread experiencing the same. I have no answers, only shared scars.
I don’t know anyone who’s ever gotten over losing a child; they just learn to pretend they have to get up in the morning and live another day.
@Dan B: I’m crying about the death of an elderly miniature horse who lived with a wonderful rescue in upstate New York. I only knew him from Twitter, but he was a great soul. He took charge of new arrivals, mostly race horses, but other animals too. He’d “race” a big horse in the next paddock and it was a hoot when they would try to let him win only to have instinct and training kick in at the last moment.
This is my favorite video of him just going around by himself, caught by the ring doorbell cam:
@sab: You are a good and generous soul, sab. You take on so many other people’s responsibilities, maybe a bit grouchy in the beginning, then you love them ferociously, give them a great life, and mourn them when they go.
I saw the sad news and cried about Pon as well. Online is still feelings.
@Mary G: Thank you. I often feel angry and just pissed off. But then I see my stepkids and their kids. The kids are alright.
I don’t understand how parents make it through. I am in awe of them. ???
I never saw my mother cry over my sister’s death, but I know it affected her profoundly. She was in residential treatment for depression the fall of my sophomore year in college; I think she believed if she broke down she’d never be able to stop crying and would end up committed. It’s also true that I was the only one in my family who wasn’t stoic in nature – I think they never understood me. She wasn’t the same after my sister died, and neither am I. It’s a new reality you have to learn to live with because you don’t have a choice. I have no more family on my mother’s side, and my father’s family is scattered and I rarely see them anymore. It’s a sobering reality for me.
@rikyrah: I agree. I have seen parents make it through and still function and I am in awe.
The closest family member to experience it was a cousin and his wife. Their son got brain cancer. Diagnosed at 4. Dead at 6 years old.?? Died 15 years ago.
They beat the odds. They are still married, and their daughter is thriving in college.
When I was a teenager, my best friend from grammar school – her brother died from viral cardiomyopathy. He was tall, lanky, thin and dead at 16. I had known him , at that time, since he was 5. I never really thought about children dying until him.
I still don’t understand it…even as I have gotten older.
Humans have a capacity to be pretty dang resilient. It isn’t a matter of getting over it so much as getting past it.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
– Winston Churchill (attributed)
My father, my mother, my sister are all gone. I was sitting in my father’s hospital bed with him with my arm around him when he died. He’d suffered from Alzheimers for almost 20 yrs. My mom lived longer than any of her family, her father died when she was 18 and playing tennis with him, her mom died when she was 36. Her 3 sisters and brother were all gone before her. As I said above my sister died 4 yrs before mom. I was the last person to talk to my sister, she said she was tired and needed sleep, I walked out of her hospital room, she died about 15-20 minutes later. You keep putting one foot after the other because that’s really what life is, do your best, be a good person, help where you can, cry for those that go before you, live like every day could be your last, because it can. I’ve been hit head on by a truck and I was not in a car. As I write this I remember the good days, the bad days, the so so days and know that our time here is never long enough, that the end comes too soon, that no matter how it gets here, it does arrive. Live. Love. Be better. Don’t steal. Don’t hurt. Don’t worry. Be nice or at least learn to shut the hell up. Help those you can. Treat others like you want to be treated, more so when they don’t.
The paternal side of my family is one less after Thanksgiving, but three less since October. My cousin’s 25 year old son was killed by a probable drunk driver going the wrong way on the expressway, and it’s been devastating to them. Three weeks later another cousin, different family, died unexpectedly. He was only 66, two months older than me, but with heart trouble and diabetes. On Thanksgiving, his father and my last living uncle died, never even knowing he had lost his son due to Alzheimer’s, or a daughter to cancer last year. He outlived three children; sometimes I wish there was a Good Place so that they could all be together again.
Mare of Easttown wss great. They wrapped up the story very nicely in the last episode. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Comment deleted by author.
The Moar You Know
Cuts both ways. I know a couple whose child killed herself about ten years ago. They’re not OK. I know two kids, unrelated, both women, whose parents killed themselves in front of them. On purpose. They’re not ok either.
Boy, you gotta HATE your kids to eat a shotgun in front of them.
I have been in a similar situation. I feel for you.
@Ruckus: That’s a great way to think of it. What I tell people, if they ask, is that sometimes you have to live one hour at a time, because that’s all you can think about right then, and that it’s normal to feel that way. I think in this culture we hide our grief so much that people don’t know what’s normal. For over a year after my sister died I’d get this “heavy” feeling in my chest at random times. I thought something was wrong with me until I talked to a friend who was a grief counselor; she told me that was completely normal. In that first year my mother got “broken heart syndrome”, I think partly because she made such an effort to hold her grief in. It had to find a way to express itself.
Having my husband and his family helps a lot; I have no idea how I’ll react if/ when I lose him.
@The Moar You Know: O.M.G. Just goes to show there’s always something worse.
I’m holding all of you in the light, however you choose to understand that. I think I’ve said before that my father had three sisters (the last two died in the past year), and, of the four siblings, three buried an adult child (suicide, AIDS, and rabies as the causes). One of my best friends in the world has buried two children. Living with that grief is never-ending, though it does evolve over time. When I saw my parents in December 2019, my mom was sleeping in front of the TV, and somehow my dad started talking about when my sister died; he still has nightmares about it, nearly 40 years later. I don’t have anything profound to add; I just try to be kind. Everyone is carrying pain, and some are carrying more than others. Kindness is the least I can offer.
As a parent who has lost 2 children, one a newborn and one just out of his teens of suicide, I can tell you that you never get over it. Fortunately, our extended family is very close and we support each other. My son and his wife recently lost a sweet pup and their grieving is just as raw.
We all see death.
We all see pain.
Some of us live with pain, minor and not, physical and/or mental.
But we all see it. Because all of it is part of living.
We all are on this rock, we all have, as the animals we are, no matter what we tell ourselves, a relatively short time, some longer – some shorter. I had a cousin who lived 6 months, his mother lived less than half the time her sister, my mother did.
We can make our lives better and we can make them worse. But we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t understand that life is everything around us, the good, the bad, the indifferent.
It feels amazing, if you look it is amazing.
It feels horrible sometimes, because it can be.
It is often beautiful, it can be ugly.
You get such a short time in life, even if you live to or beyond 100 yrs. But some days it feels like forever and some days it’s never long enough.
Greed is one of those things that does not translate well into modern life because we’ve made dying a lot easier, even as we’ve learned how to live longer.
Life repeats itself, that’s one of the greatest joys, and one that not everyone gets to enjoy, some out of just life and some out of their own selfishness.
Our emotions and our ability to communicate ideas, or lack of them, and our talents should be something celebrated, but often are something to not be, because of the need some have to dominate rather than share life.
We have an entire segment of our lives devoted to what comes after death, because we can’t believe/understand that it might just be the end. I wonder, if we devoted our lives to living and making life better for everyone, could we began to believe that life has a beginning, a middle and an end, that the purpose of being alive is to be alive?
Why is it that while we are all the same, we do have differences and we often try to destroy those who are different, is it to justify our existence or is it that greed thing, making us think there is a very limited amount anyone person can hold and to be better we have to hold more? It affects our lives in so many ways, financial, property, racism, hate, love, and it only makes life worse, never better.
Just some thoughts for a Saturday morning.
@Ruckus: Thank you for all of that, but especially this: “We have an entire segment of our lives devoted to what comes after death, because we can’t believe/understand that it might just be the end.”
Thread is probably dead, but this is a lovely essay on death and families.
Thanks for the link to that.
Very dead thread, but it’s got me thinking about my own family. My great-uncle (paternal grandmother’s little brother) died when he was ten years old of scarlet fever. From what I understand, my great-grandmother never got over it, and was terribly depressed most of the rest of her life, to the point of practically being institutionalized. She adored my father, though, and the adoration was mutual – I think that might have been what pulled her through.
I have a photo of my great-uncle as a little boy – we look a lot alike. (I have a little ski-jump nose that looks just like his.)
This is what I don’t get about anti-vaxxers – how *they* just don’t seem to get that children used to die before their parents *all the time*, because of infectious diseases that modern vaccines can control. Our ignorance of our own history never fails to boggle me.