What I Would’ve Told Myself on the Day of My Son’s Death

Dear Amanda,

Today is a day you won’t ever forget. It’s a day that will be etched in your mind for the rest of your life — a day that will change you forever. You have spent days in the hospital fighting contractions, praying to God, begging doctors to help your son live if he is born prematurely at exactly 23 weeks gestation.

Today is the day you will hold your firstborn child, Robby, a son, in your arms while he slips away from you. You will hold him, talk to him, kiss him and love on him. Then, the moment will come when you have to give him to the nurse so she can have him transferred to the mortuary. That will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

The pain will seem unbearable today, and I wish I could tell you the pain won’t be as intense when you wake up in a couple weeks, but I can’t tell you that. As I write this letter,  four years after his death, the pain is still just as intense as it was that day. However, I can tell you the pain won’t always be as constant. You will have days when you feel exactly like you do right now, empty and sad, but then there will be days you actually feel OK — even happy. As the months, and years go on, you will have more of those happy days. I want to tell you it’s OK to be happy. You will feel guilty at first when you smile, laugh and have fun, but always remember that Robby would want you to be happy.

Robby’s life will be short, and you will be angry at the doctors, at God and at yourself. You will eventually realize the doctors did what they could. They were just doing their jobs. They did the best that they could. You will realize it wasn’t your fault Robby died. You did everything you could. Most importantly, you will lean on God during the days, weeks, months and years after Robby’s death.

I know it’s hard, but try your best not to play the “what if” game. What if I had a different doctor? What if I had gone to a different hospital? What if this, what if that — there are so many scenarios that will run through your head, but at the end of the day, all of the “what ifs” in the world won’t matter because Robby will still be gone.

Be gentle with yourself. Grieve how you need to grieve. You will have friends and family who will stick by you through the good times and the bad, but there will also be those who aren’t strong enough to wade through the waves of hard days when they come. You will lose friends, and unfortunately, you will lose family. Some people will not understand your pain, so they will lash out and say terrible things to you and about you. People will tell you that you aren’t “getting over” Robby’s death quickly enough, but what they don’t realize is that you aren’t going to “get over” it. Robby is your son, and you will always miss him. Although you will lose some people from your life, it will be OK, because you will also make wonderful new friends along the way. You will make friends who will stand by you during your hard days and enjoy the good days with you.

Life will never be the same, and you know what? That is OK. If life were to go back to normal, it would be like saying that Robby’s life didn’t matter, and his life did matter.

Black and white family photo

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