Posted by: Jody Glynn Patrick | 04/11/2016

I’ts been years. Why don’t I feel better yet?

From a reader: “I’ve experienced two mothers in the last couple of weeks that had to bury their child. It’s been 18 years for me and it brought back the intense pain. I just wanted to lay down and not wake up. Some days I just get sick of carrying around the emptiness. This blog only speaks of initial grief, it doesn’t speak of years later and how it can feel like the day it happened. Family and friends don’t understand so you feel so alone in your grief.”

Last week I visited family in Arlington, Texas, which is far from where I live, and the first thing my cousin Buddy mentioned was his sorrow for the loss of my son, which now has been years and years ago. We haven’t seen each other for 40 years and he hugged me tight. In turn, my first thought upon seeing him was that he had also lost his adult son, Matthew, and I asked him how he was doing with his own burden. “Some days, it still feels like yesterday,” Buddy said. “I still wrestle every day with how I parented him, why I couldn’t stop him from overdosing. I wonder if how I tried to handle him — to bully him into rehab and to stay on him afterwards — if that didn’t backfire. I just keep reviewing the days before his death and then reliving the actual pain of finding him, of giving him CPR and of watching him die twice…. I thought I’d be over it by now. The rest of the world sure seems to be over it, but I live with it every day.”

Reviewing and reliving. When you are put into a traumatic environment, it is normal to review your own similar experience and to relive the emotions as you felt them then. The truth, as we longer-term veterans know all too well, is that we never get past the death of our child. We just get better at camouflaging our grief. We get better at pushing it down most days. We get better at answering the question of how many children we have without always mentioning the one who is no longer with us, after years of seeing how off-putting it is to the casual inquirer when you say, “I had four children, but one is no longer with us, so now I have two daughters and a son.” This leaves the person wondering if they should inquire what happened (they don’t want to know, really), but would it be callous or impolite of them to just move on? Neither response works and then we ourselves feel bad for creating their discomfort and so we learn to omit a mention of our other child altogether, holding each little betrayal close to the vest as another small failure. How could we possibly deny our own  child’s existence and memory? But we do.

The truth is not black and white, either, as to whether or not you are alone in your grief. No one else can ever feel what you feel, not even your spouse who has also felt shock, sorrow, denial, anger. Every relationship is unique to the two people involved, and every person brings different strengths and experiences to the table, so the way you feel the loss is uniquely yours. However, while your sorrow is your own, you don’t have to walk the aftermath alone. There are support groups of other grieving parents and the option of a grief therapist. Perhaps you’d benefit from the counsel of a religious personage or help from special friends or family  — not help to carry your load, because they can’t carry what they don’t understand — but help to carry you through the darker days.

And als0, there is the ability to express yourself here. To say what you can’t say anywhere else. We’re listening.


  1. I am feeling this very thing – i

    On Mon, Apr 11, 2016 at 4:58 PM, Bereaved Parents Watering Hole wrote:

    > Jody Glynn Patrick posted: “From a reader: “I’ve experienced two mothers > in the last couple of weeks that had to bury their child. It’s been 18 > years for me and it brought back the intense pain. I just wanted to lay > down and not wake up. Some days I just get sick of carrying around ” >

    • I would like to put “It’s Been Years. Why Don’t I Feel Better Yet? In The Compassionate Friends Newsletter. I am the editor for the Ann Arbor Chapter of The Compassionate Friends newsletter. We are non-profit

      • That would be fine. I’ve been a speaker for Compassion Friends in the past, so am well aware of the good the organization does.

  2. I feel exactly what the reader wrote at the top of the article in bold print. And it’s been over 5 1/2 years. It feels like yesterday always. I have many days I don’t want to wake up and get up. I, too, am tired of feeling the intense grief, pain, guilt, and the big empty hole in my life where my younger son use to be. Even those who care about me and those who feel my younger son’s loss, do not understand what I am feeling and dealing with. It’s literally un-bearable and I know I will never be who I use to be, before finding my son and almost immediately realizing that there would be nothing I could do to him- because he was already way too gone from this life on earth.

    • Oh MY God I feel exactly like you. It has been 2 1/2 years since my son died. I hate being home, I hate being at work, I hate being around people but sometimes I don’t want to be alone either. I am a lost mother who misses her 22 year old son, who was my son, best friend and I do have other kids. Brandon was extra special. I guess I loved him to much.

  3. So true. My son died in 2005 and it still overwhelmes me when I least expect it. Big hugh for everyone who needs it right now.

  4. Yes it overwhelmes me too when I least expect it. Big hugh for everyone who needs it right now.

  5. I just had to change my “gravatar” photo because the previous one was of me and my husband. I no longer have a husband since he decided to call our marriage quits after almost 26 years. I have been well aware that many marriages don’t make it after the death of a child, but I tried so hard to make ours keep going. He just gave up. So that’s another grief on top of the ongoing pain of the loss of our oldest son who died six years ago at age 16 of brain cancer. It’s been an uphill, rocky struggle that doesn’t seem to let up. My youngest son is away serving an LDS mission, so I am totally alone and I don’t do that very well. I bought a dog, got a part time job that I really love and I do have fantastic friends. Not having the family that I once had, however, is hard to breathe through.

    • Don’t isolate yourself and try to think of all the positive things you are doing each day for that younger son who needs you. Psalms 55:22 Philippians 4:6,7

    • I was just telling my daughter in law this morning my husband and I are divorced and I was stupid enough to think that when our daughter died he would be the only person who could understand the depth of my pain I should have known better since he verbally abused me for 42 years. A month after Deanna died I was talking to him and he told me to have a drink take a pill and get over it. I screamed at him I was by his side for 42 years and that’s what he has to say to me. He said I repeat have a drink take a pill and get over it. I have no one who understands the extreme pain I’m in every day I feel responsible for not preventing her death. Logic tells me its not my fault but my heart won’t listen. I live in a house with 6 people my son and granddaughter daughter in law and her relatives and feel alone

  6. I am 9 months in, just as long as it took to make him. My son Jake passed away July 13, 2015 the day before his 22 birthday. I can relate to all of you except for the longevity. I agree no one can know your pain, even the people here in the same room as it was our relationship with our babies alone. It scares me to hear of the intense pain after so many years. Only nine months in, it’s hard to comprehend feeling this so many years later. <y son Mitchell is also serving in the navy, away from me, and is young, I worry about him being alone so soon after his brothers death. I appreciate the welcome and the company wishing none of us were here for this reason. I heard of an old friend of mine just lost her son, it crushed me, knowing what she and her husband would face (also not knowing). God Bless you all

  7. I’m a bereaved father; I can identify with your pain and suffering. My heart goes out to all of you.

  8. It was a year on 4/27

    • It’s been just over a year for me and this month was her birthday. I have really been having a rough time lately and one day I realize I have a death sentence for my life. I’m just living now waiting to die so I can join her.

      • I feel the same – it has been 20 months since I lost my Kaydin at age 5. At first I never thought I would be able to smile or laugh again – as time has gone by I have gotten pretty good at masking my pain and putting a smile on my face. But the reality is, is it is just putting on a mask. I am waiting on the day I will no longer feel this pain because I will be with him again.

  9. I keep replaying that night over and over in my head my dead child face down on the floor her brothers screams and when they slowly lowered her body into the ground I have not been able to go to her grave I fear it would break me. I’ve been crying a llot lately because I miss her so much it’s so hard the pain I will feel every day for the rest of my life. Missing her and wondering how I failed her how could I not have known she was drinking so much and that she would try something that ultamately ended in her death. She hung herself from her bedroom door. I’m so mad at myself because I failed her my “best friend” and only daughter. I get depressed because I tried so hard to be a good mother and I still lost my precious daughter. What a waste of space I am in this world I would gladly trade my life for hers.

    • I can totally relate to the PAIN expressed by Roseanna here. It’s been six years since I lost my younger son, Andrew. As I wake every morning,that is the first thought in my head, that Andrew is gone. That Andrew is not here. That I don’t have Andrew in my life any more. That he is no where on this earth any more. I feel immediate fear, terror, nervousness, afraid, scared. That is how I start every morning. I replay the events of the 24 hours before waking up and finding him gone, on the floor, next to the bed I thought he was sleeping in while I slept. I slept while he was dying, two doors down from my bedroom. How does anyone live with that. He was only 22 years old. He wanted to be a father really bad. Now there will be no grandchildren. I have accepted that the PAIN will never go away. I can’t accept that this nightmare, of Andrew not being here, will never go away. I can’t accept that. I’m 58 now. I’ve lived my life. When does Andrew get to live his?

      • I’m so tired of:
        Falling asleep crying every night because I miss my daughter.
        Praying every night to get a sign from her only to wake up the next day knowing she is gone.
        Hearing a song that totally throws me into tears.
        Having people tell me she is in a better place and how can I know that if I can’t see, hear or talk to her.
        Feeling guilty for how I failed to know she would commit suicide.
        Begging every day on my way to work with tears falling from my eyes for her forgiveness.
        Feeling guilty for poking fun at her even though she and I did that to each other. Maybe it really bothered her.
        Going places where she used to go and feeling that heart aching void.
        Avoiding going to places I used to go with her because it would hurt too much to go without her.
        Gasping to catch my breath every time I think of her and how much I miss her.
        Missing her smile and being angry at myself for taking her for granted because I thought she would always be there.
        Having to stand strong and dry my tears before I come into my home so my son doesn’t see my pain.
        Hiding my tears from everyone so they don’t hurt too.
        Knowing that I will have to spend the rest of my life every day feeling the pain that takes my breath away because it’s another day without her.
        Living in pain a pain that I know will never go away until I take my last breath.
        These are my daily thoughts and my punishment for failing my precious dsughter.

  10. Today, June 6, would have been my son’s (Matthew) birthday. Sometimes, it seems like a long time since he died, but sometimes it seems like yesterday. Today, I saw a solid white butterfly in my flower garden. It landed right in front of me. I told my husband that I felt as though it was a sign from Matthew. I’m 64 years old, and I have never seen a white butterfly. I felt as though he was saying “hello mother”. He always called me mother when he was trying to be humorous, or when he was upset about something. He would say (sarcastically) “yes mother” or “no mother”. But most of the time he called me “Mama”. I will never be called mama again because he was my only child. I will never have grandchildren. I would have loved to sit down with him today and have one of his favorite meals, cake, and ice cream. Oh well, life goes on for all of us. All of us parents desperately want to hold our children close and give them a big hug!! No one should have to endure such pain! Some things are worse than death. Having to live without my child is one of them!!

  11. It has been 21 months since my Kaydin was taken from us. I sold everything and moved away to the beach about 6 months ago.

    My daughter (his mother) is coming to visit for the first time at the end of this week and we are planning on letting Kaydin’s ashes go in the ocean. As much as I want this, because he was such a little fish, loved the water and anything that involves water; I am getting that panicky feeling, the anxieties are surfacing. I want to make it a special moment in time, but I also want to get it over with so this hurdle is behind us.

    I have been keeping Kaydin’s ashes. My daughter was more comfortable with him staying with me than her keeping him. When we lived in the same town, state – she would come over and get some to put in a planter with a special plant and I bought her a beautiful piece of “urn” jewelry that had a cross and the middle vertical section is where you would keep the ashes and the horizontal part are angel wings. And she had some she spread over their favorite lake in NC – so now is the final step.

    I just wish I could control the emotions. Just thinking about it makes me cry. So I am hoping, if she agrees – that we will set him free on Friday evening – 06.10.16 – say a prayer and a toast – then we can maybe spend more time enjoying each other again (we have never been this far apart for this long).

    Please say a prayer or send good vibes for us on Friday evening as we let our Kaydin go.

  12. I lost two children my son Eric in October which was ten months ago. My daughter Sara in 2011. Eric was 21 Sara 18. My mom died 26 hours before my Sara. My brother what was 17 39 years ago was killed on his bike by a drunk driver. Three days before tying out for the Olympics. Still very proud after all these years. Then next my nephew Josh 20 od on herrion like my daughter. My nephew Dan shot himself in the head three months ago. How am I holding up ? Just like the woman mentioned. I now say I have 5 beautiful children. Where are they people ask. Ohio I don’t tell them two are buried side by side anymore. One daughter lives with me. Anna is 15 and refuses to open up to people. People who have not lost a child can never ever understand the deepest pain. I watched a movie tonight and at the end a child was killed. I never in my wildest dreams thought the movie would end with a candle light visual. Same as they did for Eric. I just can’t stop crying. I just will not or can not let my children go. I knew Eric was an alcoholic why oh why didn’t I just go to Ohio and put him in rehab ? I have thought the same about this with my brother also. If I had just picked him up that night he would still be here. Yes 39 years later and I still question myself. I have segues,ptsd going on disability. My faith is nuts now. The doctors don’t understand unless they have been thru this. My three living children are dealing with it in different ways. My x and I never speak. We divorced in the 90s. Lol one good thing. I might be rambling on its 3.30 am. I will keep in touch with this link. Thanks for my pain a bit better. Not a single day goes by that I am not afraid another child will die.

  13. I am so sorry that you are all going through so much heartache.I feel like I am going off my head some days because I still can’t get over my son’s death. It is 7 years since he died of acute myeloid luakemia at age 22 years.I know I will never get over losing Jamie, he was my best friend as well as my boy. I try to concentrate on all the good times he experienced and it helps a little,but I want him here!
    Love and hugs to you all xxxxx

  14. It’s been 29 days for my only daughter / best friend who passed due to sudden illness. She was 24, beautiful. & we did everything together I’m not sure I will survive.

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