A Father In Need Of Prayers

What if you caused your child's death? How would you cope?

by Joe Mudd on July 16, 2012

Father Mike is the pastor at our church. He gives some pretty good homilies. He gave one a few weeks ago that’s had me thinking since.

He was talking about sins of omission and sins of commission. He likes to bring in examples from recent news, and this Sunday one of the examples he used was the story of a father that caused his only child’s death. This man was supposed to deliver his eight month old son to daycare on his way to work. He forgot about the baby in the back seat, went to work, and the little guy got left in the car on a 90 degree day. You can guess the result.

Father Mike admitted his first reaction toward this forgetful dad was not one of charity. This is the second time an accident like this has happened in our area in the last few years. I tried to remember back when our kids were babies. If they were in the back seat I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I constantly checked the mirror or grabbed a quick look in the back seat. I probably was a danger to them because I wasn’t watching the road and could have easily crashed.

How could you forget about your baby?

But then I’d have to admit there have been times I was going to town or to my dad’s, and when the time came to turn at the corner, I would cruise straight on through. Like I do when I’m going to work. In the small space of a few hundred yards to the corner, I’d gone into complete autopilot mode and started driving to work – like I’ve done everyday for nearly 40 years. I’d completely forget where I supposed to be going. It’s happened more than once.

So maybe I shouldn’t judge.

Father Mike went on to explain how our jobs as followers of Christ is to forgive. To fight off that urge to judge. He talked about what this guy will be facing in the future. The incredible pain and difficulty he will have.

I think almost every grieving parent I’ve met has blamed themselves for the child’s death – even when they had nothing to do with it at all.  I know I have.

Why didn’t I insist that Richard take the generic seizure meds to his doctor and make sure it was OK to take? He told me some new allergy medicine he been prescribed made him throw up and he stopped taking it. Why didn’t I connect that to possible seizures? He’d had vomiting in the days leading up to his other seizures. Why didn’t I make that connection?

Parents whose kids died in car crashes blame themselves for letting them go out that night.

As parents one of our jobs is to protect our kids. When they die, we just know we’ve failed, and it’s our fault. The truth is, these events weren’t in our control. None of us really could have prevented this awful thing from happening.

But what if it was your fault? What if your actions directly caused your child’s death?

How could you live with that?

How could you look in the mirror at your face every day? How could you face your wife, knowing you killed her baby? How could you go to work, knowing your coworkers would be looking at you and thinking baby-killer?

How could you forgive yourself?

I don’t know. But it probably has to start with us forgiving him first.

This man didn’t do this on purpose. It’s safe to assume he loved his little son, just as we loved ours. His kid is dead, just like ours is. He has to face going on in life without his child, just like we do. He faces all the pain and emotion we’ve faced. He didn’t want to join this exclusive little group anymore than we did, but he’s one of us.

He was human and made a mistake resulting in tragedy. He now has to face that. He’ll probably have to face it with much less support than we’ve had. He has priests using him as an example in sermons, and we don’t. His road seems much longer and harder than ours. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

I’ve said lot’s of prayers for him. I’ll continue to pray for him. I hope you’ll join me.

 

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

SadMama July 24, 2012 at 8:55 am

I wanted to let you know that I just found your website today. I’ve been searching for blogs by bereaved parents as well as websites about grief – for my own reading. My beautiful 23 year old son died 9 weeks ago and I have been trying to find slivers of “comfort” from other parents. I’ve added your site to mine (now 4 pages long).
http://www.scoop.it/t/grief-and-loss
I hope it will be a resource to you as well as other parents and families.

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Wanda August 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Found your website today and have been shedding tears all morning. Today is the two year anniversary of what would have been a new start for our son, Alex’s new life. He was 19 and had gone through 40 months of chemo for leukemia(ALL type) and today was his last day of chemo!
Alex was first diagnosed when he was 15 and began treatment for what should have been a 65% success rate. Within minutes of his diagnosis, all three of us were swept into a room and presented a voluminous treatment plan which listed all chemo drugs that would likely be used. Two of those drugs had the rare side effect of producing another cancer or leukemia but under these circumstances, you just go on with the program. Our only child did four weeks later get the second leukemia MDS the same as ABC’s Robin Roberts. Alex’s bone marrow transplant failed and he passed with his parents by his side on March 11, 2011. It has been a struggle ever since but today is even more difficult as just two years ago, we all were filled with hope. We both feel like lepers on an island. Friends move on to their concerns and family, they were not there much longer than Alex’s funeral.
Recently, our little pomeranian, Jake, named and chosen by Alex in 2001 has become sick with congestive heart failure and is on five meds. So difficult to accept that we will also lose Jake within the year as well. Life seems hopeless at times but we are fighters just like our wonderful handsome forever nineteen son Alex.

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Wanda August 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Sorry, but miscommunicated in the first comment. Alex found out on September 14, 2010 that he in fact had gotten a far worse condition courtesy of the chemos used to fight the ALL leukemia. During all of this, our son completed his high school diploma on time in 2009, became an Eagle Boy Scout. Alex was in the process of transferring from community college to the University of Texas, an institution he adored. Such a strong young man who never complained or exhibited pity for his plight and would not allow us to emote in his presence.
We miss Alex every minute of each day. It is a lonely and empty world where the only folks you relate to are those that have lost a child. Attended a Compassionate Friends chapter meeting in July and think we may have found a resource.
Thanks for allowing me to vent today of all days.

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arielle's dad August 15, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Grief ever so deep. Alone. Arielle, her name, so important. Seems forgotten by her friends and family. No more discussion about her loveliness, her wonderful spirit, her love of friends and acquaintces… No more. Only Mom and Dad remeber Arielle every day, all day, all waking hours. Love you Arielle with all my heart .. And even more. Dad

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Linda January 17, 2014 at 12:19 am

I know how you feel, Arielle’s Dad. I feel the disconnection between my son’s friends and us, his parents, is over. It’s been 2 months now since his death and, although they were so supportive at the time, I have not heard from them since. I know they have their lives to live but I hope that, in the future, they at least send a little glimmer of hope that their friend, my son, is not gone in their thoughts, even though he is no longer here in body.

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Debbie Mudd August 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Oh, Arielle’s dad, my heart aches for you. I can promise you she hasn’t been forgotten. I don’t know you, or her family & friends, but perhaps they are afraid to talk about her for fear of upsetting you and your wife???

No one understands the grief of a parent as well as a parent suffering the grief of a child. I think that might be the hardest journey anyone can travel. I would suggest contacting The Compassionate Friends. You can find a chapter near you from their web site, and they can be a blessing. These groups are made up of people who are grieving the death of a child and are there to listen and support others on the same road of grief. They will listen to your stories, share the tears and the laughter as well as the anger.

Take care, but most of all lean on each other in your grief. Remember, you and Arielle’s mom are both suffering an unbearable loss, so hold on to each other in your grief.

God Bless you both

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Micky September 17, 2013 at 9:58 am

I feel like Todd has been forgotten also..He isn’t..Hes in my mind every day….but sometimes when I get busy, I make myself stop thinking about him. It’s almost like I can’t afford to be grieving right now.I have things to do. And then I feel guilty when I realize later…OMG it worked…I havent thought of him for 4,5,maybe 6 hours. And all that same “greify feeling” comes over me like it never left anyway…and I’m overwhelmed…again. I feel like I am the only person who actively talks about him….and even his Dad surprises me when he mentions something about Todd. Why do I think I’m the only one who misses him?

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Grief Coach September 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I think that it is common no matter how a child passes for a parent to go down the path of blaming themselves and holding onto the guilt of their child’s passing. Forgiving yourself is one of the hardest things to do, no matter what the circumstances were surrounding the death of a child. I will definitely be keeping everyone in my prayers.

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Linda January 14, 2014 at 11:13 pm

My son died almost 2 months ago suddenly from a severe asthma attack. I find it hard to go past his room. It was so hard going through his things, and I almost felt like I was betraying him by giving away his clothes, etc., and what I had already started to buy him for Christmas. I want to change his room, everything about it, but then again, I don’t. I know you can’t hold onto everything left behind by a lost child. I keep thinking what am I going to do with this, or that. But, how can I give it away or throw it away? I don’t want to make his room or things into a shrine. He is with Jesus now and my life, as empty as it feels right now, has to go on here on earth. But, will I feel, or do I feel guilty changing the things that were his? What have others done in this situation?

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Debbie Mudd January 15, 2014 at 11:02 am

Hi Linda,
I am so sorry we are meeting like this, under these circumstances. It isn’t a club any parent should have to join.

Your loss is so very fresh, only two months. There is no timeline you have to follow, everyone of us have approached this when it felt right. I didn’t do anything for a year with his stuff, with the exception of some items his sister, cousins, or Ivy (his girlfriend) wanted. You’ll know when the time is right, don’t force it.

It’s been 4 years and almost 8 months since Richard died and we still have all his things.In fact there is a box of food he had in his apartment that are still setting at the the top of our stairs. It was only this past summer we cleaned out most of his room so we could our grandson could use it. And the top rack of his closed still has his cloths hanging there. His trophies are on the closet shelf and one corner of the room hold some of his favorite things. Joshua, our grandson, understands it was Richard’s room and he honors that. His other things we packed into plastic storage boxes and are stored in the back of the house. I still don’t know what I want to do with his things.

Some people have had quilts made with the clothes, or stuffed animals. This year we used Richard’s favorite athletic shoe he had duct taped together and still wore for the topper on our Christmas tree. The other one we put under the tree, which was where we could always find him when he was little. He would lay under the tree and look up into it and watch the lights. For me every little thing has some meaning and I don’t want to lose the memories. So for now Richard’s things will remain as they are.

So don’t worry or let anyone tell you how to tackle these difficult steps. You will know when. My advice is let it set, just take your time. We are all different in our grief and that journey is very personal, so take the time to just grieve and take care of yourself. You’ll know when and what to do when the time comes.

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Linda January 17, 2014 at 12:26 am

Thanks, Debbie. Your story about Richard’s shoes moved me to tears. You have held onto his stuff for over 4 years. I don’t know if I can do that, but I do want to hold onto HIM forever, in some way. I’m trying to find out about the memory quilts, I need something of him to keep with me until it’s my turn to meet him in heaven. I want to keep him alive in as many ways possible, but, I do have to move on. I don’t know what this new normal is all about and when I will experience it, or will I embrace it. Right now, my emotions get the best of me and at times I think, why couldn’t it have been someone in the family who is still alive at 90 with a heart condition and cancer or another member who is 90 and always in and out of the hospital. I know that sounds mean but it has crossed my mind. I have to remember that God is in control of every little detail and I will never know the answers to these questions until I meet up with Jesus and my son in heaven. I didn’t think so much hurt was possible to experience. My heart goes out to all of us who are experiencing it.

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