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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 16, 2023

'What if?'

This question haunts many bereaved parents long after their child dies. My 'what if' questions tend to be: What if I hadn't let him change before we left for the game? What if I had picked up the ticket so we didn't need or stop at the office? Or even what if we picked him up from soccer practice instead of carpooling home? For others, the 'what if' questions might be: What if I had taken him to the doctor sooner? What if I had listened more? Or what if I had done this one thing differently? All of these questions and more linger on.

For today's guest, Donna, and her husband, Kent, the 'what if' questions continue as well. In fact, Donna shares 4 very specific 'what if' questions that she relives when thinking about her son, Devin's final bout with ITP. As parents, we do anything and everything possible to protect our children. Knowing what Donna knows now, she would have acted differently that day, but with the information they had at the time, each decision seemed to be the right one.

The problem, of course, is that there is absolutely no way to predict what will happen in the future. There was no way that I could have known that leaving a few minutes earlier or later might mean that we wouldn't be the car that was hit that night. We traveled that patch of highway hundreds of times and had taken the kids to many baseball games. How could I have known that on this trip Andy would be killed? Given Devin's ALPS diagnosis, he had been through several bouts of ITP. Each episode had been treated with the same protocol resulting in recovery each time. How could Donna, Kent or any member of Kent's medical team have known that this time, instead of recovering, Devin would have a devastating brain bleed?

The reason that we focus on these 'what if' questions is because we desperately want there to be a different outcome. We replay things in our minds wondering if our child might still be here if we had made even one slight change. Unfortunately, that is impossible. We don't have the ability to turn back time. The challenge is to attempt to let go of the guilt and to let 'what if' questions begin to fade away.