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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.

Aug 27, 2020

Shame. Guilt. Fear of Judgment. Anger.

These are just some of the additional emotions that today's guest, Lisa, felt after the accidental overdose death of her son, Jordan, eleven years ago. As my listeners all know, the death of one's child is likely the most difficult thing any of us will ever experience. No two deaths or experiences are the same, certainly, but when the death is a direct result of a bad choice that was made, the death and healing process is even more complicated. 

A listener reached out recently asking me to have Gwen talk about the additional complications of the grief process for parents whose children made bad choices. Gwen wrote back, telling me that she did not think that we could do this topic justice without including a mom who had lived this nightmare herself and experienced all of these emotions firsthand.

Lisa agreed to join us, although even after eleven years, this is still a challenge for her. She spent so much time feeling shame and fear of judgment over the years. She talks about the difficulties of going back to church and wondering what others were really thinking about her and her family. It took years of faith and prayer to get past these feelings and get to the point where she could truly entrust her children to God again. 

As a parent, it is so difficult to watch our children make bad choices. Even when they are young, we struggle to decide when to rush in and try to 'save' our children and when to let them suffer consequences for their actions. As they grow, we have less and less control over their choices and that, in many ways, makes things even more difficult. A part of us still feels responsible to help guide their actions, even though we just can't do that anymore.

When these actions result in death, so many emotions complicate the grief. Ultimately, the most important goal in this grief is to try to get to a place of full forgiveness and love. We need to forgive our child, their friends or others who may have contributed to the death, and ultimately, ourselves as well. As parents, we do the best that we can raising our children with the knowledge that we have at the time. We need to learn that our best was, is and always will be enough even when it doesn't feel like it.