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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.

Feb 18, 2021

As a working mom, I think I felt some type of guilt almost every day. I never felt like I was doing enough. I would feel guilty about not spending enough time with my kids, missing school parties, or not being able to volunteer as much as some other moms. In addition to the 'I am not a good enough mom' guilt, I also felt, 'I am not a good enough doctor' guilt when I would have to explain to a family that I would not be able to see them for an appointment on a Tuesday, because I worked a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule. 

I know that I am not alone in feeling these types of guilt. However, nothing could have prepared me for the guilt that I experienced after losing my son, Andy. Suddenly, I was unable to do the one thing that parents need to do above all others - protect their children, and raise them to adulthood. My previous guilty feelings seemed trivial. As a mother, I felt like a complete failure and the guilt was overwhelming.

People told me again and again that it was not my fault and that I should not feel guilty. I guess a part of my brain knew that my guilt was not rational, but that did not change my feelings one tiny bit. The guilt was still there and other people's words were not going to magically make that guilt disappear.

Recently, I have had many people reach out, emailing me about their feelings of guilt. So often, it comes in the form of numerous questions. 'Why didn't I see how hopeless he was feeling?' 'Why didn't I notice the signs of illness earlier?' 'Why didn't I push the doctors harder?' 'Why didn't I confront her sooner about the drug use?' All of these questions fall back to one thing - guilt, but is there a way to get past it?

Today, Gwen and I talk about this important topic and how eventually, we can conquer these feelings of guilt that complicate our grief. We need to face our guilt head on and not ignore it. This is not easy and takes a lot of work, but it can be done. As Gwen says, "We need to feel it to heal it!"