How to Navigate all the Changes after Child Loss

Updated: 12 hours ago

teddy bear on the sidewalk
Everything changes after a child dies

There is no doubt about it, a bereaved parent is forever changed. In fact, you probably think of your life as having two distinct time periods: before and after your child died. It's impossible to be the same no matter how much time has gone by.

Before my daughter's car accident I was a content wife, mom, and health care professional. As a family we had our squabbles of course, but we had everything going for us. We had two healthy teenagers with very bright futures. They both participated in extra-curricular activities and excelled at school. My husband and I had secure jobs and we were living comfortably in a great neighbourhood. The biggest concern in our lives was where to go on vacation and how we would work all of our busy schedules around it.

My, how things change.

After my daughter Katie died, my memory was terrible and I'm not sure it ever got back to the way it functioned before. I used to be a master multitasker; balancing my hospital job, side-hustle, and my family's busy schedule. As a grieving mother, I could hardly make a meal that had more than two ingredients, I couldn't remember things like names or appointments, and I needed a serious refresher when I returned to my job at the hospital ten months later.

Navigating all the changes that come after the loss of a child is not easy. There are no stages of grief, but rather a deep, dark hole that is called your new reality.

Physically, I was and still am exhausted. Sleep has become an impossible endeavour and I have more headaches than I ever did before. I seemed to age about 14 years in just a matter of months.

Emotionally, my anger was out-of-control some days then I'd find myself eerily calm the next day. I'd go from yelling at my teenaged son to laughing hysterically at something dumb. I actually scared myself sometimes, until another grieving mother told me was experiencing the same thing.

I changed spiritually, too. My pain made me turn inward and helped me grow in many ways. I missed Katie so much that I began to learn how to connect with her spirit. I learned that there is so much more than our human existence and that we can all be more intuitive with a little work. You can read about my first spiritual encounter with her here:

After my child died, my perspective changed in every way possible. In time, I began to look at things differently.

I began to focus on Katie's life not her death.

Katie was much more than 'the girl who died in a car accident'. She had 17 and a half amazing years on this planet. She lived large and laughed loud. She had a serious make-up addiction, loved to pull pranks on people, and she could rant for hours! I began to focus on Katie's life and the love we shared, instead of focusing on the pain and my loss. That changed everything for me. I altered my outlook and began feel more gratitude for the time I had with Katie and for the things I still have in my life.

Sliding into the black hole of grief is easy to do. I saw the bottom of that hole as I counted sleeping pills and bottles of wine one day, calculating how long it would take to end my life. That day, my angel spoke to me and I knew that this was not the answer. I began living for Katie and for my son, who deserved a plugged-in mom just as much as Katie did. Now, I live to make them both proud and live a life that I am proud of too. I want for her to look down, smile with pride, and say "See that lady there? That's my mom!"

I choose to live my life from a place of love instead of pain as much as possible. I often ask myself "What would Katie want me to do in this situation?".

The answer is always to be kind, work hard, bring joy to others, and live a meaningful life. I believe that this is the single best way to honour my daughter.

I now know how short life is and how precious it is. While it is true that losing your child will change you, in the end it is you who gets to choose how you would like to change. Once the deep pain subsides a little bit, you get to decide if you want to live better or bitter. You get to decide if you are going to rise up from the tragedy and loss or if you are going to let it destroy you, your relationships, and your family.

The question I always fall back to when I'm struggling is this: If it was me that had died, what would I want for Katie or my family? The answer is always the same; to live their best life, chase their dreams, live with joy in their hearts, and help others. That is the way I choose to live.

I am changed, but I live from a deeper place than I ever thought possible.

Getting to this place after your child dies takes work. It means falling down, and getting back up. It means finding strength from other grieving mothers who get it, and it means reminding myself over and over again that our human life is just temporary and that I will see Katie again.

About the author:

Lisa lost her daughter Katie in a car accident in 2015. After serious consideration of ending her own life, she began crawling out of the depths of grief through writing and connecting with other grieving moms. In 2019, she published her book Journey to HEALING, and in 2021 created The Angel Moms VIP Community where she helps other bereaved mothers find their way out of the darkness.

If you are struggling after the loss of your child, you might be interested in a free video series that I created just for grieving moms. Topics include: managing guilt, parenting after loss, dealing with the heartache, and how to go on. You can request the download here .

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