The Mighty Logo

The Fears of a Loss Parent

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

It’s 11:40 a.m.

My daughter Gracen has not yet made her daily morning call signaling her desire for help from her bed. She’s been routinely waking up around 9:30 this summer. I try not to worry, not to be paranoid; but it’s been like this since my son Cole died. I refuse to be ruled by fear — fear that I will find her “sleeping” in the biblical sense.

A prayer, a plea, escapes my mental captivity. I quickly turn my mind to something else — anything else that will hold off the anxious thoughts, the mental images of what I might find should I open her door. I’ll give her till noon to call. She might have stayed up late reading. Twenty minutes of distraction to avoid feeding my fears, acting on my paranoia.

I can just imagine the response of the choose joy contingent. I must have hope, I must think positively… It’s been two and a half years, why can’t you get over this? (Or maybe that’s my own conscious condemning me). I’ve been infected with the cultural message that if I just do this or that I can get beyond this. But my analytical mind also realizes that I need the Holy Spirit’s intervention in order to heal. Maybe I can overcome without His help, but honestly refusing to work through my pain won’t lead to healing. And in the long run it’s more hurtful than helpful.

So why would I share my personal neurosis with all of you? What is my motivation? I ask myself. Am I just seeking pity?

Oh, heck no!

There’s a hurting population of loss parents out there who grapple daily with fears for their surviving children, for their spouse. Individuals for whom an unanswered text or phone call or a late arrival without explanation incites anxiety far greater than the average person might experience.

For those men and women, a post like this might validate their own fears. I can’t begin to tell you the enormous relief I’ve experienced as a loss parent when someone says, “I feel that way too” because it doesn’t happen very often. More often than not, their very real fears are dismissed. No one wants to believe it could happen again, the loss of another child. But loss parents know it could happen, and David and I are living proof.

So yes, I want to try to validate the feelings of every loss parent I encounter.

Validation can lead to healing.

And for those of you who haven’t experienced such a devastating loss, maybe this post will give you a glimpse into the mentality of a loss parent.

Grief is all about feelings.

Processing feelings.

Grief is not an intellectual pursuit.

C.S. Lewis said in his book, “A Grief Observed,” “Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.” “Do I hope that if feeling disguises itself as thought I shall feel less?” He went on to say, “Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?” And then, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”

What are you most afraid of? How do you feel when someone implies your fears are unmerited or little more than paranoia?

There is no escape, but there are moments of relief. Moments, when the burden is lifted as a friend or even a stranger, yokes up with the wounded and hurting by sharing and validating their feelings — strengthening the bereaved for the moment when the burden once again settles onto their shoulders alone.

11:49 a.m.

My cell phone rings.

The display reads, Sugar Shaker Boxx, and sweet relief surges through me.

I put on a smile and adapt a sedately cheerful persona (Gracen is not a morning person) and I open her bedroom door.

Another day has begun.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock image by UraIra

Originally published: March 13, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home