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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.

Sep 16, 2021

We have spoken many times over the past two years about the fact that there is no 'right way' to grieve and that different people grieve in very different ways, even if they are grieving the same person in the same family. Archie and Elina are great examples of this very point. From the first days after Garret died in a tragic car accident just over a year ago now, their grief journeys looked very, very different. 

Elina, Garret's sister felt motivated to do everything even bigger than she did before his death. Birthdays and holidays needed to be bigger and better. She went back to work at her summer job almost immediately, and today is determined to study hard and live a life that would make Garret proud. She even started an Instagram account discussing sibling grief under the name, @garretssister.

Garret's mother, Archie, on the other hand, felt completely paralyzed after Garret's death. She felt as if she couldn't even live her life, let alone go back to work. These overwhelming feelings lasted for months and only recently has she felt ready to even enter the workplace. For her, the goal is to just get through each day, not to live bigger. She needed time to mourn quietly before being able to return to more 'normal' activities.

You might think that these two different ways of grieving in the same household might cause conflict, and I'm sure in some households, it does. For this family, however, it does not. It is beautiful to me how the two of them are so accepting of what the other needs. Elina does not get frustrated with her mother and her need for time by herself to process. Archie did not feel hurt when Elina jumped back into her life.

According to Archie, the key to this acceptance is unconditional patience. Grieving family members need to have patience with each other, and perhaps even more importantly, have patience with themselves. We need to know that no matter how much or how little time we need in certain areas of our grief, our loved ones will accept us. Our friends and family will be there waiting with open arms whenever we need them. That is an amazing lesson for all of us to remember that grief should always be free of judgment.