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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 19, 2020

I have often thought how nice it would be if I could just wear a sign around my neck that said, "I am grieving. My child is dead. Be nice to me." I think others might go out of their way to be a little more kind. They might ask if they could do an errand for me. They may have nice words to say about me or my child. At a minimum, they might complain about their own lives just a little bit less.

It would certainly help strangers treat us better, but I think it would be a good reminder for family and friends as well. As time goes by, their lives, for the most part, return to normal. Our lives, however, are forever changed, and our wounds will never fully heal.

Today's guest, Farrah, needs a sign like that. Her daughter, Hannah, died 7 months ago now. As grieving parents know, for Farrah, the grief is actually still in its very early stages. The numbness and shock of this sudden, unexpected death is just starting to wear off, leaving this gigantic, devastating hole in its place.

From the outside, Farrah looks like her life is returning to 'normal'. She is working five days a week, caring for patients in a busy orthopedics practice. She has always been a strong, professional woman, being the one to give help, not the one who needs it. Hannah was grown and had been living halfway across the country. It is easy from the outside for people to almost forget about Hannah. This does not mean that Farrah misses her a bit less than she would have if she had been younger and still living at home. Her absence is just less obvious to others around her.

Today's episode is a great reminder to all of us. Remember others who are hurting around us. Don't just tell the grieving person to call if they need something. Just do it. Offer to go to the store. Offer to make dinner. Offer to get the oil changed in the car. Offer to take their pet to the vet. Offer to take their other kids to the park. Most importantly, offer to sit and listen. Sit in the sad place with that person for a while. You don't have to try to 'cheer them up' or make it better, because, let's face it, you can't. What you can do, however, is show up and be there.