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Losing a Child: Always Andy's Mom

As a pediatrician, married mom of three biological children and one foster son, my life was busy, rushing off to my office four days a week, seeing patients for three and working as a medical director of a local physician organization for one. I balanced this with rushing off to shuttle my kids to after sports and other after school activities. All of this changed one day in August of 2018 when my 14 year old son, Andy, was killed in a car accident. I felt like my life was over, and in some ways it was over, and a new life was forced to begin in its place. 

Grief is seldom discussed openly in our culture, and the death of a child makes people feel even more uncomfortable. On this blog and podcast, ‘Losing a Child: Always Andy’s Mom’, the topic is approached openly and honestly, speaking to people who have lost loved ones and experts who help care for them. Whether you are a parent experiencing loss or someone who wants to support another going through this tragedy, this blog and podcast strives to offer hope and help.

Nov 11, 2021

Eight months ago, today's guest, Erin, got an unthinkable call while she and her husband had gone away for a weekend getaway - their previously healthy 14 month old daughter hadn't woken up that morning. She remembers the day vividly, the thoughts, the feelings. 'I remember being in such disbelief. What happened? She's healthy. She's never been sick.' Erin was right. Stevie was completely healthy. Her autopsy results showed nothing. Her cause of death was officially termed, 'unexplained,' a condition also known as Sudden Unexplained Death of Childhood.

Erin's life is now divided into the before and the after, before Stevie died and after Stevie died. Her mind is at war with itself, alternating between thinking that this cannot possibly be real and knowing that somehow, this actually is her life now. She now has one living child, not two. As the shock starts to wear off, there are times when the pain actually seems more acute instead of less. Erin says there are days when it feels like her very soul is on fire.

The biggest source of comfort for this little family during all of this pain has been through Charlie, their 4 year old daughter. Erin has been simply blown away by her innocent heart and caring empathy. Charlie talks about her baby sister and will even carry her picture outside with her to play. She will blow kisses up to heaven. A few months ago, Erin and husband were crying together having a particularly difficult day. Charlie went to the kitchen, filled up bags of ice and handed it to them, saying, 'Here. This is for your heart. It is hurting.'

What a lesson Charlie shows to all of us with her caring spirit. Unfortunately, our hurting hearts can't be made better by bags of ice, but little gestures do matter. Kind words matter. Helping each other one day at a time promotes gradual, but steady healing.