This blog covers my perspective after four years to the day of losing my only biological child, Maddie, when she was 22 years old. The common knowledge is that losing a child is the worst experience a parent can go through and they can expect to never get over the loss. Though I miss Maddie every day, and cry some days, does it mean I’m not recovered? There is a difference between not forgetting and not getting over.
If you or someone you know has lost a child or someone you love very much, or are going through a divorce, please register below for my free, upcoming class. SUPPORT IS ESSENTIAL TO HEALING.
My Maddie JoJo
Four years ago on this very day, I agreed to remove life support from my daughter, Maddie, who was 22 years old. She died on a Friday, October 26th, 2018 around 7pm. I still shake my head in disbelief that this happened. At four days old, we learned that she had cystic fibrosis, a chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestion.
Today I am writing to honor my grief, which can be viewed as an emotion of honoring the love of someone or something that is no longer here. Grief doesn’t have to be a “negative” emotion that brings us down, but one that uplifts us. I hope you can feel my love for my daughter, Maddie, as you read my words.
She Came Into This World With Ease
Maddie was born Thursday, April 18th, 1996 at 3:18pm at 6 pounds, 9 ounces. She came into this world quite easily. Three pushes and she was out. My first thought, “She is rather small considering her dad and I are not small-boned. LOL.” It turns out the cystic fibrosis didn’t allow her to grow more because she wasn’t able to absorb the full nutrition of food.
Maddie grew into a beautiful little baby with plump, pink chinks, beautiful blue eyes, and fair complexion. As she got older, it was evident she’d inherited my curly brown hair. We thought she looked like Shirley Temple. Maddie came with a fun, playful personality.
She Loved All Things Spooky And Sweet
She liked to tease others, like her dad role modeled to her. She liked scary movies very early on. Chucky and Candy Man were two of her favorites. Her favorite time of year was Halloween. She loved all the spooky decorations, the movies, dressing up, and the candy. The candy…OMG…she actually created a Candy Membership a few months before she died, where she’d get a monthly shipment of her favorite taffies, gummies, etc.
What We’re Told When We Lose A Child
When one loses a child, we are told many things, such as:
- “I don’t know how you’re still standing,”
- “There is nothing like the loss of a child. It’s not the natural order of things.”
- “Your heart will be permanently broken.”
- “There is no word to describe someone who has lost a child, such as widow.”
- “Losing a spouse isn’t the same. You can always replace them, but you can’t replace your child.”
- “You will never be the same.”
Though some of these things are true, my bias is that they don’t serve us to heal. They feed our inner victim and our tendency to feel sorry for ourselves. This inclination is already quite strong when we lose a child that it isn’t too difficult to keep bending our perspective in such a way to permanently ingrain the belief: “I’m a victim to a particularly cruel circumstance in life. It’s not fair. What did I do to deserve this plight?”
Looking At The Loss of A Child Through A New Lens
In fact, these notions of how awful it is to lose a child were so deeply ingrained in me, and reinforced from what others have shared with me over the last 4 years, that I didn’t seriously question whether the belief was serving me. It was just true. Then I read The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman.
In The Grief Recovery Handbook, they raise a very good point, “One of the most damaging pieces of information is the idea that you can ‘never get over’ the death of a child. This absolutely incorrect claim is made to parents whose child has died, but it’s also made in connection with other losses. Grieving parents and others then seek out information and emotions to match the untruth.
Not Forgetting Gets Entangled With Not Getting Over
It is more accurate to ask, ‘Is it possible to forget your child or, for that matter, your spouse or parent?’ Clearly the answer is no! ‘Not forgetting’ becomes incorrectly entangled with the idea of ‘not getting over.’ This crippling idea keeps the griever’s heart eternally broken, does not allow for recovery of any kind, and, more often than not, severely limits any fond memories associated with the relationship….this tragic setup is guaranteed to restrict and deflate the life the griever.”
Woman Loses Her Daughter To Suicide
They shared the story of a woman who had lost her daughter to suicide. As the anniversary of her daughter’s death approached, she welled up with tears and said, “My heart is permanently broken.” The author of The Grief Recovery Handbook said to her, “When you are having fond and pleasant memories of her, does your heart feel broken?” She said it didn’t.
He then suggested that she not use the phrase “permanently heart broken” to describe herself and instead say, “Sometimes when I am reminded of my daughter’s struggles and her death, my heart feels broken. Other times, remembering her wonderful qualities, I feel happy and pleased to share memories about her.”
I Don’t Need To Honor My Child With A Broken Heart
After I read the story about the woman who lost her daughter to suicide, I had this huge paradigm shift. I no longer have to feel sorry for myself! It gave me permission, in my heart, to truly honor Maddie with my love for her which is permanent until the day I die. I don’t need to honor Maddie with a broken heart. She wouldn’t want that, and now neither do I.
Does The Loss Of A Child Bring On Stress, Trauma Or Both?
When we experience a difficult life experience like the loss of someone we love dearly or a divorce, it is usually a very stressful time. Stress in the body gives us energy to take action, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Stress is only bad for us if we repeatedly stay there and don’t give our body any relief.
Whether Stress Turns Into Trauma Depends On Our Support
Dr. Aimie Apigian, MD MS MPH is a leading medical expert on how life experiences get stored in the body and how to restore the body to its best state of health through her signature model and methodology, The Biology of Trauma™.
According to Dr. Aimie, if the body is stressed, what it needs more than anything else is to know we’re not alone, that someone is supporting us and has our back. If we feel alone,we go into trauma. Trauma needs safety, energy and time to open our hearts again. We are protecting ourselves with a shell around us.
We Need A Hug To Heal
To feel safe in the arms of another is the ultimate healing and to be able to open up to someone, to the world, after trauma has caused us to retreat. If the body is chronically living in a trauma response between stress and overwhelm, what it needs is support.
Maddie’s Last 12 Days
Looking back four years ago, it was very stressful to lose Maddie. It was an up and down roller coaster of emotion ever since she admitted into the ICU on October 14th. We took her directly there from her favorite weekend of the year, Spoon River Drive.
She looked forward to going to this craft fair in the small towns around Peoria, IL every fall. The food, the dogs, the crafts, quality time with her family, the weather, and the food (did I say the food), made it a special time for her. 2018 was different.
Even though she’d gotten out of the hospital for a CF “tune-up” of strong IV antiobioticvs a couple of weeks prior, she got sick again. This had never happened. Usually a tune-up would last her several months before she’d go in again.
She Knew It Was Her Last Days
Maddie badly wantly to go to Spoon River Drive even though she knew her body was failing her. She didn’t tell me of the severity of things. She knew it would be her last one, and she was going to do whatever it took to go. She made a list of all the foods she loved and gave it to me to gather the goodies.
She stayed back at the hotel room with my mom, because she wasn’t up to going. We did a healing circle for her on Saturday, which we’d been doing since 8/11/18.
When we got back, she wasn’t up to eating any of the items from her list or even going to dinner at the Italian place next door. She had a rough night, and the next morning we left the craft fair festivities early and took her to Barnes Jewish in St. Louis, MO. That was October 14th.
Maddie Went Into Respiratory Failure
For nine days, Maddie seemed like she was getting a bit better. She had been taken out of the ICU which was good news. But boy she wasn’t recovering fast enough. I was worried about her.
On October 23rd, I was visiting with her and putting essential oils on the bottom of her feet. I pedaled her legs with my hands, to help get movement and oxygen circulating in her legs and she said, “Oh that feels good.” She wasn’t getting her normal oxygen.
I had no idea when I left the hospital that day that I’d never speak to my daughter again. I got a call around 10pm from a nurse, saying that Maddie had gone into respiratory failure and wanted to know if they should bring her back. I literally fell to my knees and started sobbing. Steve, my husband, drove us to the hospital. I just couldn’t believe this was happening.
I Held It Together With Self Care And Support From Others
For the next 3 days, she was on life support. I continued to do self care. It was very stressful. But I was holding it together. I felt supported by friends and family. I felt loved and cared for, like others had my back. I remember saying, “I can get through anything with love from so many.”
When I Felt Betrayed, Grieving Was Much Harder–Stress Turned To Trauma
When I believe I became traumatized was a couple of months later when the support I had been getting from a network group was withdrawn (that’s a whole other story). Things felt SO much harder then. This confirms Dr. Aime’s findings that stress turns to trauma when we don’t feel supported.
We took Maddie off of life support on 10/26/18. Even though I didn’t want to believe it, I knew in my heart that Maddie was ready to leave this world and go onto brighter pastures. We’d been doing this healing circle and the intention was for her to “finally be free, have healthy lungs and digestion, to fully heal.”
My Maddie Angel
She got her desire, but it wasn’t on this Earthly plane. Maddie’s energy is in another another realm now, where she regularly communicates with me and guides my path to my own healing. She is my Maddie Angel, my life coach, along with God and my other teachers, angels and guides.
Have hope, my friend. No matter what happens to you, you are always safe and supported despite appearances. Life is always happening FOR you.
This physical experience isn’t the end game. If you want support to heal through a loss, join my upcoming class and register below.
Energy Healer & Self-Love Coach