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My Parenting Was Questioned The Day My Son Died

February 24, 2018

“Please do not think I am judging you.” Those were her words.

But she was.

She went on to tell me she, “Could NEVER imagine leaving my dying child in the hospital and opening Christmas gifts with another, when my child was literally DYING on Christmas Day.”

Related: Holiday Tips for Friends/Family of Stillbirth Parents

My heart started beating more rapidly. I was choking back angry tears as I continued reading her comment.

Because she was the mother of a 4-year old (the same age my daughter was), that made her an expert on what children that age would understand about death. She claimed to know exactly what she would do in that same situation. Yet, as she says, “I feel your pain,” she has never lost a child.

You really don’t know what you will do when you lose a child… until it happens. What I imagined it would be like and what it actually is, they are two very different things.

Yes, my son died on Christmas Day. However, what she didn’t know was the fact that he was already gone when we made our decision. Machines were the only thing keeping him going. Doctors told us it was on our timetable.

As our entire family jumped on planes to be there, we made an impossible decision. Beyond impossible! We chose to leave the hospital for two hours to be with our daughter. There was no “celebration” of Christmas. We simply didn’t want her to hear the news from someone else. It needed to come from us before everyone arrived. We had only hours. While we were there, we let her open her gifts. She deserved that much on Christmas.

Death has this annoying way of busting in and breaking up the party. Taking a perfectly normal day and turning it upside down. Any ounce of control you had instantly becomes null and void. You are at its mercy.

In those moments, you are often faced with impossible situations… decisions… emotions. At least that is how it happened when my 7-year old son died.

The day you lose your child is unforgettable. Obviously. Every thought, certain words, decisions made, all of the emotions, sights and smells of everything around you… it gets seared into your brain. These things become triggers for the memory later. It’s a trauma.

Related: Why you will never fully understand my grief experience as a bereaved mother

As a loss parent, you feel constant guilt. Even for things that were out of your control. Judgement from others has no place here. Ours is heavy enough on its own.

“I just don’t understand how…” is how she ended it.

She’s right. She doesn’t understand. As I fight back my rage and grit my teeth, I take a deep breath. I hope she never does.

Photo Credit: Kat Smith | Pexels

Author Details
Emily is a wife and mother to 3 children – 2 girls here 1 son in heaven. Late Christmas Eve (2015) life was sent on a new, unexpected trajectory. Her oldest child, Cameron (forever 7), unexpectedly got sick. Within 24-hours they were making the hardest decision of their lives to withdraw life support. As he died in her arms, she promised to find a way to live on in his honor. She began sharing her grief journey on her blog (JustPlayingHouse.com), and the response from other bereaved parents was overwhelming. Feedback resonated that the support out there seemed to focus on infant/baby loss and miscarriage versus older children. She felt this was an opportunity and calling to help fill in that gap. Her passion is supporting other bereaved parents walking this path and educating others in an attempt to shatter the stigma surrounding grief and life after child loss. Writing has been the foundation of Emily’s healing, and she is currently working on her first book. Facebook Page: fb.com/emilyjph


  • 9 Comments

    • Joann

      February 24, 2018 at 3:27 pm

      My son passed away in his sleep at 19. On a Friday afternoon. I had plans to go out dancing that night with friends and family. As I waited for the Coroner and answered questions for the detective I informed family and close friends. I could not bear the thought of watching them carry my son out covered in a black bag and put into a truck. So.. I went out. As planned. I am certain reality had not sunk in… but I will say this.. I did many things shortly after he passed I wouldn’t choose to do under normal circumstances. I will also never apologize to a soul for it. Nor do I care what people think. It has been 2 years. I am finding my way.. not back… there is no going back.. but perhaps..out. out of self destructive behavior created by grief only “club members” can comprehend. When people try to say something to me about my choices I look them in the face and tell them… I don’t owe you an explanation you have no right to ask for one. I will apologize for nothing. The consequences are mine alone.

      1. Emily Graham

        February 24, 2018 at 4:18 pm

        I wish I could really not care what people thought…though that is a skill I’ve improved dramatically since my son died. I admire people that can do it. You are so right, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. We have survived the unimaginable. We have ever right to do whatever we need/want to do in order to keep surviving it. So many hugs!

    • Sherry Ann

      February 24, 2018 at 4:22 pm

      Unreal what ppl will say, ignorance on that one…we all do what is “best” at the time.
      So sorry your son died

    • Rebekah Schmitt

      February 24, 2018 at 4:49 pm

      My 14 year old daughter died almost 10 months ago. And you’re right… people think that they know, but they just can’t, and you would never wish that on anyone. I’m so sorry that your son died. You just do what you have to to get through each moment.

    • skullygirl1

      February 24, 2018 at 5:02 pm

      Our 2 1/2 year old daughter died on the same day our other daughter graduated from high school. My husband and I were apart when he was told she had no brain activity. I had gone to our daughter’s graduation. He had stayed at the hospital. What you said about being faced with impossible decisions is exactly how it was for us and for so many others. What you said about hoping that those people who can’t possibly understand never actually do…. exactly how I feel too. My heart is with you, and I hope your son and our daughter have met in heaven and are having the time of their lives. Carli would have been seven in November.

      1. Emily Graham

        February 25, 2018 at 8:51 am

        I always like to think my son has met the children of other bereaved parents I meet. Hugs to you!

    • Sharon Lavars

      February 25, 2018 at 2:51 am

      My 30 year old son died suddenly 5 months ago. He always hated formalities and we (his brother and I) thought he would hate his funeral to be full of so many people he didn’t know, so we decided to have a private cremation. At a time that nothing made sense, I thought of some people who had a part of Josh’s current life and asked them to come to the private cremation. Everyone else was invited to come to a big wake after his cremation service. Well because we didn’t specifically ask some people to the cremation, they are no longer speaking to us. They didn’t come to the wake and we haven’t heard from them since. I might have make some odd judgement calls about who I wanted to be there, but had to draw the line somewhere. Who would have thought that people thought it was about them, and not about me having to cremate my baby?

      1. Emily Graham

        February 25, 2018 at 8:55 am

        It is heartbreaking how relationships can change so much after a death. I always tell myself the people that matter will understand and stay. The other thing I have learned is that I have to do what I need and not worry about what anyone else feels or thinks. He was your son. Your grief is only about you and him and what you need to get through. Hugs!

    • Sarah Cevetto (@MamaC326)

      February 27, 2018 at 3:41 pm

      Some people just have to have something to blame for their own closure. Please please please try to not take it personally as it is that person’s method of understanding. When we experienced miscarriage, it was why didn’t you stay on bed rest, why didn’t you eat meat, etc. You are one of the strongest women I know. Mom is part of that woman. Sending a big hug from Ohio.

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