Parenting a Child Who is Gone

The point of all this ramble is that I believe you are forever a parent- even if you tragically lose a child. I mean, you saw The Wizard. You were changed. We should talk about this.
A beautiful moment of remembrance.

I always describe parenting to people (only if they ask) like this: Imagine how it would feel to see the Wizard of OZ behind the curtains. You can never un-see the little man who you once thought to be a magical, powerful wizard. You can never go back to that ignorant bliss.

That sounds different to how I mean it. Let me try again.

When I had my daughter it felt like my heart broke open and more love was rammed into it than I ever thought possible. My heart broke open to make room for all that extra and the renovation was painful. At the same time one of the pieces was now in my hands in the form of a newborn baby. A direct line to where I was most vulnerable.

If the big, bad, world went and did anything to that tender little heart/ newborn, how could I ever be the same? I don't think I could.

If I lost my little girl, and the piece of my heart which IS her, I'd be stuck with this oversized, empty one which is much too large for just me. I would drown in that emptiness. I hate thinking about all this. Stay with me.

The point of all this ramble is that I believe you are forever a parent- even if you tragically lose a child. I mean, you saw The Wizard. You were changed. We should talk about this.

I lost my cousin Adam, to suicide earlier this year. He was 27 years old.

With unimaginable grief and strength, my Aunt and Uncle (his parents) have been open with our family, and to their community, about their experience. Every step of the way. It's an example of how dedicated they are to continue parenting their three children, two who are with us, and one who is not. I admire them more than words can express. I won't even try because it would not do them justice. I do just want to share something amazing they are doing to raise awareness about suicide- because silence kills.

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In their small town of Macomb, Illinois, My Aunt's friend has created a prairie labyrinth in honor of Adam and others who have completed suicide. Walking this path is designed to give hope and offer a place to meditate and connect with loved ones who have passed on.

The Labyrinth Society, one of two national labyrinth organizations, defines a labyrinth as "a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation" (2006). Source

Traditionally a labyrinth is a metaphor for life. It's the journey we make to the center of ourselves, and back out into the world, forever changed. They say at the center we can transcend this life and connect with other worlds, other souls. It's often used as a meditation or prayer practice.

In June I was fortunate enough to walk this labyrinth with some of my family members. After encountering literal roadblocks on our way out to the prairie I swear we could feel Adam's cheeky presence encouraging us to break the rules. We literally went off-road to get there.

It was sunset on a still Summer evening. We walked, talked, held hands and when we arrived in the center we said a few words and had a few laughs. This moment was important to my Aunt and to us, to be able to say goodbye to our cousin, nephew and son.


This is How the Love and Parenting Continues...

  • My Aunt Susan wrote about the experience from her perspective on her Blog Myrtle Mae where she has been openly, beautifully and heartbreakingly sharing stories about life without her firstborn. I would encourage you to read and share some of her inspiring and honest stories with anyone you know who has had an unthinkable loss. We need to talk about these things.
  • This article talks about the Macomb labyrinth where you can also listen to a five-minute radio interview with my Aunt speaking about what this project means to her.
  • In October there will be an event called Walk Out Of Darkness to raise money for suicide awareness. You can donate here. They are close to their goal of raising $3,000.
  • If you know someone who lost a sibling this project; Seeds for Siblings is designated to highlight sibling grief and help those who have lost siblings to reconnect with nature.

If you or anyone you know needs help please contact Beyond Blue or your local crisis hotline.


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6 comments on “Parenting a Child Who is Gone”

  1. What a beautiful post. I'm so sorry for your loss.
    Thinking of your family. ❤️

    I was with a friend when she received the call her brother had taken his life. I'll never forget all the whys. Later I met her parents, and I could see they were changed forever by his death. Thank you for explaining the way parents parent a child that has gone.

  2. Thanks for thinking of us. For a person who always felt he was living a charmed life, it has changed dramatically. We are constantly reminded of Adam and it can be bittersweet. He was very opinionated and even watching something on the tube makes me wonder (what would Adam think about this)? Life does go on, but it is all different.

    1. I am always thinking of you. The thing that breaks my heart the most is thinking about how your lives are now always going to be 'before' and 'after.' It's unfair.

    1. It's kind of insane that I didn't realize how much I would miss him until he was gone. We had not seen one another in years but it's like a hole has been ripped through the family. <3

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