When Your Only Child Dies
Samuel’s pregnancy was our first experience with parenthood. When he died shortly after birth, we became childless parents. It’s been over two years since he died. We are still childless parents. We are people with no place to fit in. Those who have never lost a child don’t understand our pain. Those who have lost a child, but have gone on to have others, or had living children prior to their loss, will never understand our unending emptiness.
There is a unique pain when your only child dies. I will never in this lifetime know what it means to get pregnant, go through a pregnancy, give birth and raise a child without fear, anxiety, and sadness. My innocence is lost forever, because death is the only outcome I know of pregnancy. Our family is ruined just as it’s begun. We are living joyless lives; we are empty and without purpose. What should have been the happiest time in our lives is now the hardest. Where there should be fun and learning and teaching, there is nothing. Our home is quiet. Too quiet. All the time. We are full of the love, but have no one to bestow that love upon. It’s love with no place to land. We have parenting energy, but no one to use it up. We’re restless. We have returned, against our will, to the lives we had chosen to give up. The lives of a couple without children. This time though, we are not carefree. We live with heavy hearts and broken dreams, and the absence of any hope.
We don’t attend events. We don’t go to family gatherings. We stay home a lot.
Because children are everywhere.
Families are everywhere.
And we are a family that’s broken.
We are parents, but you can’t see the living proof. When I go out in the world, no one thinks I’m a mother. Because my child is gone, but my heart beats like any other mother’s.
You just can’t see it.
I can’t talk with other mothers about mothering, although I am a mother. No one wants advice from a mother who is separated from her child. My motherhood is deniable.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m living a lie when I say I’m a mother, even though I know in my heart I still am.
I can’t say what it’s like to be a loss parent with living children. And they can’t say what it’s like to be a parent with no living children. You’re either one, or the other. So there is no point in saying who has it worse. (We all have it worse; our children died). But I can tell you that living as a childless parent is extremely hard. Every single day feels pointless. Every singe day I feel empty. Every single day, I feel like an outcast, a misfit, an oddity. And every single day, I have to make up something to give my life purpose, even though I’m acutely aware of how shallow it is. I have known the joy and fulfillment of being a parent, but it was stolen away from me. And the hole in our lives is massive.
I know we all hurt the same hurt. We all want our lives to be different. We all would do anything to have our children back. But when I’m desperately hurting, when my heart hurts so deeply is could just as soon explode, I have no one to hold. I have no child to snuggle close and breathe in. I have no one to distract me. I have no one to kiss, no boo-boos to mend, no outfits to buy, no toys to clean up. No one is depending on me. I have no one to tell about his or her big brother in heaven. My arms are empty and completely aware of what is missing.
Samuel’s life, my heart, and soul make me a parent, but my arms are always empty.
That’s what it’s like when your only child dies.