how to survive losing a child.

October is here, the leaves are beautiful, and there’s a big aching pit in my stomach. On October 28th, it’ll be 3 years since Jared died. 3 years? It feels impossible, yet here we are, and I know we are far from alone. In August I went to a retreat with 8 other moms from my mom’s grief group. It was healing to be in the presence of so much wisdom and courage, each story so hard, so tender, all unique, but so many feelings the same.

So how do you survive losing a kid?

It’s different for all of us, but here are a few things that come to mind for me today—

You keep breathing.

You get used to intermittent crying in stores, restaurants, meetings, parking lots, bathrooms, airplanes.

You learn how to crawl instead of walk.

You tell their stories.

You integrate WTF into your vocabulary.

You hug your living kids and loved ones longer.

You allow yourself moments where it is all still a dream and couldn’t possibly be real.

You randomly (and in the oddest moments) travel to a time where you remember what it was like to hold them in your arms, to feed them cheerios, to read them bedtime stories, to sit in the snow at their games, to throw their birthday parties, ground them, and buy them slurpees.

You stand in front of their pictures on the wall.

You sometimes look away when you walk by the same pictures because it hurts too much.

You make a lot of therapy appointments.

You quickly learn there’s no such thing as “getting through grief”,  only embracing its rhythms as part of forever.

You find others who know the feeling.

You brace yourself for death anniversaries & birthdays & holidays.

You find comfort in nature because it speaks without words.

You discover how many other people are surviving, too.

You let yourself feel feelings you thought would kill you but actually don’t.

You hear their voice cheering you on.

You re-remember every single day “oh, yeah, grief has no rules.”

You learn the art of practicing paradox.

You don’t wait to do things you really want to do. 

You pray with your feet.

You begin to own this is part of your story–but not the only story.

You remember what a gift it is, was, and will always be to get to be their mom.

You keep breathing.

One.day.at.a.time.

#griefhasnorules

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

12 Comments

  • This is heartbreaking and beautiful, Kathy. Passing it along to my son and daughter-in-law who lost their son and our grandson, Moe, on 2-1-21. He was 16 months old. Today is his birthday. He would have been 3. God’s timing with your post takes my breath away. Peace and love to you.

    Reply
    • oh, paula, i am so sorry that i missed responding to this earlier. i had no idea and sending you all so much love. and you all obviously know this strange reality of paradoxing–the deepest losses right alongside beautiful celebrations. love to all!

      Reply
  • I am breathing gently in and out, holding you and all who have lost children. Even though I have not suffered that agony, so many of your guiding steps resonate with me. Thanks you.

    Reply
  • Most of this pertains to my very existence. A great reminder that I am far from alone in all these scenarios ❤️

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    • thank you, kris, for taking time to share. so much hard for so many and knowing we all exist helps.

      Reply
  • Kathy Losing my 38 year old in 2014 I was just starting to walk have hope. In 2020 I lost my second son. I didn’t think the nitemare could get so dark. I’m past crawling now walking but tripping up some days. If I hear the quote “Pain is inevitable , suffering is optional” one more time …
    My life is truly humbled, I look for beauty everyday. That is where I find Ben and Sam’s soul

    Reply
    • jilli, i am so sorry i’m just now responding to this. i somehow missed these comments and i apologize. my heart aches for the double of the deepest loss for you. oh, this life is sometimes just too much. beauty in the brutal is one of the holiest things. thank you for your honesty. love from colorado.

      Reply
  • Yes – all of this.

    It will be five years come December since we lost our 22 year old son.
    How can it be five years?
    Currently reading ‘A Weary World’ and appreciate your bravery in this grief season to put pen to paper to offer some thoughts and insights for those of us trying to walk through our own season.

    Reply
    • thank you for sharing! any resources that people can find are always totally worth it.

      Reply

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