Last night I had one of those horrible mother dreams where my child is in peril and there’s nothing I can do to save him. Whenever I have this kind of dream, it haunts me for the rest of the day. I keep seeing the images and recalling the feelings and it makes me think about what life would be like if I did lose one of my children.
So as I sipped my morning coffee, I was drawn to read this article in Newsweek about how parents cope after losing a child. Every year, about 25,000 kids under age 10 die, most from congenital anomalies, unintentional injury (mainly car accidents), premature birth and cancer, the article says. The issue the article looks at, is the decision parents face over whether or not to have another child.
The loss of a child can put tremendous stress on even the best marriages and the closest families. “Losing a kid makes you lose faith in life,” says child psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld. “To reclaim that faith in living, that it’s worth doing this again, is an act of enormous courage.”
Anecdotally, many experts say parents seem to do better when they try again, the article says. “The most profound attachment in human life is mother and child,” says John Golenski, executive director of the George Mark Children’s House, a residential facility in San Leandro, Calif., for kids with terminal illnesses and their families. “The best adaptation to [the loss of a child] is another attachment.”
But understandably, some fear the pain of loss again. And others who do have another child sometimes feel guilty. “What I do hear a lot is the feeling of, ‘Am I betraying my child who died?’ ” says Barbara Sourkes, director of the pediatric palliative-care program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. ” ‘How can I throw myself wholeheartedly into a new child and leave the child who died behind?’ ”
As I write this post I keep thinking, why am I upsetting all of my dear readers with this topic? And the answer is, I don’t really know. This evening my husband and I are meeting with an estate lawyer to begin writing our will and establish custody for our children if we were to die unexpectedly.
A few weeks ago I dreamed that I had left my older son Sage alone at home while I went on a driving trip. My husband was away too and suddenly I realized that Sage was far too young to be in the house all by himself. I began to panic because I was so far away. When I woke up, I realized that dream was about my husband and I dying and leaving our children to fend for themselves in the world.
I didn’t know that when I had kids life would suddenly seem so fragile and precious. It’s not a feeling I walk around with everyday, thank god. But for today, I really don’t care if Sage decides not to listen to me or if Sascha cries every time I leave the room. They’re alive and safe with me. That’s all I care about. Tomorrow is another story.