My life is divided into two parts – before and after the death of my son. Connor was my first child and he died after 3 months and 24 days of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). I hardly remember the person I was. I know that I was carefree and naive and at the same time arrogant. Arrogant to believe that an unspeakable tragedy can only happen to other people. Connors death makes me sensitive, because I realize that everyone has a story and when we open ourselves to people, we connect through our vulnerability.
The time between his birth and his death is also blurry – after all, it was only four short months. I remember my mother's normal fears of worrying about keeping him to give him his first bath. But I also remember that I quickly got into a wonderful routine. His death was like a bomb exploding – it went so fast, without warning. What began as a very ordinary day changed in no time with the call of the day care, which pronounced one of only two sentences that I remember. "There's a problem with the baby, he's not breathing." After that, it was chaos after the explosion, and all that was left was that I stood in the rubble of my life.
As managing director of First candle I talk to hundreds of survivors – a few days after her baby's death and others many years later. The new questions always ask me the same question: "When do you feel better?" There is no simple answer. Again, it is similar to the bomb analogy. Fortunately, the initial pain and trauma do not last forever, but there are times when it comes back, such as The first birthday after the death of your child and the first anniversary of his death are particularly painful and immediately lead parents back to the day when life has changed forever.
The researchers now agree that the grief a parent experiences after losing a child is a type of PTSD. I was one of the lucky ones – I had the support of my church, my family, my friends and my staff. Others are not so happy. There are parents who, after the death of their child, are dealing with insensitive investigators and state workers and are forced to copy the time of death with a baby doll. Families facing the reality of having their living children removed from their home because they are suspected of abuse. The recovery from these experiences takes years and even decades.
For the first year after Connors death, I would not let anyone take a picture of me. I just could not believe how sad, old and tired I looked. Physical complaints are common in bereaved families. Grief crashes our immune system and induces chemical reactions in the body that can last for a long time.
- Digestive problems such as loss of appetite or overeating
- Drowsiness and insomnia
- Heartache and chest pain
- Forgetfulness and memory loss
- Cognitive changes including general confusion and difficulty concentrating
- Emotional changes, including sadness, crying and continued crying
- Breathing problems including shortness of breath and asthma
- Panic attacks; Sweating, fast heartbeat, numbness and tingling
- Confusion with an associated sense of loss of control or the feeling of losing one's mind
I got pregnant very quickly after Connor died, which was the right decision for our family, but my second son has mental disabilities and until today I wonder if it's because of the stress of the grief I've experienced.
As a society, we can not deal well with grief and ruin relationships. The divorce rate is high for parents who have lost a baby. Men and women often express mourning in different ways, and it is difficult to understand whether a spouse does not seem to care about it or whether it is decommissioned. We often receive calls from men who are afraid of mourning their partner because they feel they need to be "the strong." Month after the death of my son, a friend talked about how exhausting it is to have a toddler. I wanted to scream that I wish I had the chance to be so exhausted, and had difficulty getting over what I found to be insensitive and thoughtless commentary.
October is the month for pregnancy and infant loss. What advice would you give to a new-born family if you have suffered a loss? Share below.
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