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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.

Apr 8, 2021

Siblings are often referred to as 'the forgotten mourners.' People worry about the parents of a young person who dies. They worry about the spouse and children of an adult who dies. The siblings, however, never get the focus. 'How are your parents?' people say, 'How is his wife? How are his kids?' They are not often asked the question, 'How are you?'

Siblings grieve, too. They have a special bond that others, even their parents, don't quite understand. Siblings may fight and not always get along, but they are always there. They often don't remember living without them. They expect that they will always be there in the future. 

Surviving siblings often feel compared to the one who has died. It is a delicate balance of talking about the child who has died, while not idealizing that person and acting as if they were perfect. Constant communication is so important. Each member of the family has different needs, and we all need to work hard to understand those needs. We really must focus on having an open communication system in the family as opposed to a closed system.

We want to protect our children from pain. We feel like it is our job to make our children happy. When a child is grieving, however, we can't take away that pain - it is impossible. It hurts us to watch them hurt, and we so desperately want them to be OK. We have to accept the fact that, just as we are changed, our surviving children are forever changed as well. At first glance, this may seem completely negative, but it is not. I am reminded of the saying, 'Calm seas do not make a skillful mariner.' Going through these hard struggles in life, can give these children that compassion for others that they might not have otherwise ever known.