Fighting for Joy After Losing a Child

August 29, 2017

Losing a child is like no other loss.  The pain doesn’t get better with time, the void never goes away- but there will be a day where your heart will start to feel joy again.  At first, you will feel guilty, and that’s okay.

It’s been two years and eight months since we lost our youngest son, Wesley Mac at the age of two-and-a-half.  The evening Wesley passed away I knew my life would be changed forever, but through the shock I couldn’t even begin to comprehend how great the magnitude of which it would truly change me would be.  The faith that I grew up having was rocked to the core, the feeling of security from living in a close-knit community vanished in the blink of an eye and the voice inside of me that was once so strong was silenced.

The weight of my grief not only crushed me emotionally, it crippled me physically.  I felt like I had been in a battle…little did I know the biggest battle of my life was just beginning.

I was fortunate to be surrounded by a group of supportive family, friends and community members- yet I never felt more alone.  People cried with me, prayed with me and allowed me to share my fears.  I have two amazing boys still with me- ready to be loved, molded into wonderful men and looking to me for comfort.

Their Dad and I were once their rocks and we were crumbling right before their eyes.  But, we were a tight-knit family and we were committed to surviving.  I was lucky, right? I had what most people crave during a time like this, but I needed more.  I needed answers, I needed hope and I needed to find who this shell of a mother, wife and friend was going to become now that I am living this unwanted life without Wesley.

After Wesley’s accident, it didn’t take me long to learn to put on “the mask.”

You now the one where people genuinely ask you if you are okay and you reply, “Yes”, but you really want to say, “how would you be if your child died?” Those moments when people ask if you’re okay, but you know they really don’t want to hear the truth- because they can’t imagine walking in your shoes.  I learned how to fake my way through my days so well, that I quickly lost who I was on the inside.  I was good at it, until it all began to unravel.  I started having panic attacks, my marriage was falling apart right before my eyes and I was disconnected as a mother.  I was unable to emotionally connect to anything.  That’s when I realized something had to change.

There had to be a better way to live in grief.

I started going to small bible studies with close friends who I knew I could be vulnerable with. I got honest with myself and my family on how I felt, and what I needed to find a way to get back to living a life with joy.  I will be the first to say, it has not been easy.

There are many days I still can’t find joy thru my grief, but every now and then I feel a glimmer of it sneaking in. I find it in the sound of my boys laughing, I feel it in the warmth of my husband’s hug (you know the kind where you can just melt into and it feels as if all your worries just slip away), and I embrace it in the moments where the memories I shared with Wesley feel so real again that I forget they are now just memories.

Losing a child is like no other loss.  The pain doesn’t get better with time, the void never goes away- but there will be a day where your heart will start to feel joy again.

At first, you will feel guilty, and that’s okay. In your heart, you know it’s what your child would want for you.  I know that’s what Wesley would want for me.  He’d want me to laugh with his brothers, hug them tightly and cheer them on in whatever they chose for their life.  He’d want me to love on his Daddy, see us go on dates and set an example for his brothers on what a strong marriage looks like.  The battle is not over and there are days when I want to give up- but the joy is there, waiting…you just have to reach out and grab it.

Guest story by Jill Burnham

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