Navigating through Grief: a mother’s journey of losing a child

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By: Jil Fiemeyer

So, they say life is written in chapters. I can’t count the chapters in my life, but I most certainly know the chapter that changed my entire story.

Jil & her daughters - Katie, Jane & Anna

Jil & her daughters – Katie, Jane & Anna

In August of 2011, our family was plunged into an existence I never knew was possible. One where bald children seem more normal than those with hair, where my child laid in a hospital bed while others are out playing in the sun, where Jane hurt so much she couldn’t even cry, and yes, a world where children also die.

Jane was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of seven – when she was a second-grader at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School. What appeared to at first be symptoms of ear infections or maybe even Lyme Disease, within weeks was confirmed as that dreaded “C” word, CANCER. On September 6, 2013, Jane earned her angel’s wings just 13 months after her diagnosis, just weeks before her ninth birthday.

Losing a child is the lonliest, most desolate journey a person can take. It’s a club that no one wants to belong to and it’s a club that can feel very lonely at times. From my journey, here are a couple tips that I believe can help give support those grieving on a sacred journey they never wanted to take:

  • Remember our children – no matter how old, or young they were when they died. If you see something that reminds you of my child, tell me. And, when we speak our children’s names or relive memories, relive them with us, don’t shrink away. If you never met Jane, don’t be afraid to ask about her. One of our greatest joys is talking about our children.
  • Accept that you can’t fix us. We appreciate your support and hope you can be patient with us as we find our way. We will learn to pick up the pieces and move forward, but our lives will never be the same.
  • Know that there are at least three days a year we need a time out
    • Birthdays are especially hard, our hearts ache to celebrate our child’s arrival into this world, but we are left becoming intensely aware of the hole in our hearts instead.
    • Then there’s the anniversary of the date our child became an angel.
    • And mother’s day. Even though our children are in heaven, we are still mom.
  • Realize that we struggle every day with happiness. It’s an ongoing battle to balance the pain and guilt of outliving your child with the desire to live in a way that honors them and their time on this earth. As bereaved parents we are constantly balancing holding grief in one hand and a happy life after loss in the other.
  • Accept the fact that our loss might make you uncomfortable. Our loss is unnaturnal, out-of-order; it challenges your sense of safety. You may not know what to say and do. We will never forget our child and I would at least rather lose it because you spoke Jane’s name and remembered my child, then try and shield ourselves from the pain and live in denial.
  • Grief is the pendulum swing of love. The stronger and deeper the love, the more grief will be created on the other side.

We all must find our own way, our own journey through grief. We must travel THROUGH the pain, because walking around it is impossible and sitting in it is dangerous. Having the support of friends and family won’t take the pain away, but it will make the journey not so lonely.

 
Jil speaks of Jane’s last days recently at a women’s event in Bertha…

About the writer: Jil Fiemeyer is a Wadena native and a Communications Specialist on the marketing team at Tri-County Health Care. She is the mother of three beautiful girls and enjoys each and every day of being their mom. Since her daughter’s Leukemia diagnosis and her death, Jil has learned first-hand the effects of grief and how it manifests around the ones you love. As her way to heal, Jil enjoys writing and has recently started talking to groups about grief, grief recovery and living your best life despite all the struggles that life has to offer.

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*Tri-County Health Care has started a “Parents Who Have Lost a Child” support group to help those in the area affected by the loss of a child. They meet the second Monday of the month from 5:30 – 7 p.m. in the Wesley Conference Room at Tri-County Health Care. Click here to learn more…