Mothers Who Have Lost A Child Or Suffered Similar Tragedy

Who can tell or judge if an attitude is bad or jaded? I think my attitude might be bad or jaded and I am sure I could get legions of people to support this. I am specifically talking about my attitude around motherhood which I think is a total crap shoot based on my experience.

No one tells you it is a total crap shoot but I know that it is because my experience being a mother has been horrific. I’d have rather had my heart pulled from chest or been steamed alive than have gone through what I have and there is no cutesy spin for this.

I think, or at least I wonder if I am on the outer edge with this but I am not at all confident this is the case. Another mother raises their kid and let’s say they’re killed at 19, perhaps they went to war. What does that mother think? How does she feel as she outlives her child by 5, then 10, the 20 or 30 or more years? Does she think in poetry? I wonder.

Your kid runs off with Jim Jones and winds up drinking the kool-aid. Is this cute? Is it transcendent? Was it worth it, raising that kid to be left in pain everlasting?

I asked someone why they thought I wound up a mother in the shadows. How does this happen to such a bright and shiny Venus in Leo? My answer was silence. Shadow? What shadow?

I suppose this sounds angry but I don’t feel this way, I write this way. I may express myself forcefully but what I FEEL is that it is a crap shoot and I lost the bet. It’s a little bit like losing in Vegas. No one talks about it, it’s just not done so here comes, Elsa P, with her taboo.

As far as I am concerned, if something horrible doesn’t happen to your kid, you’re lucky and this is true whether you realize it or not.

Now am I jaded?ย  Or am I right?


Mothers Who Have Lost A Child Or Suffered Similar Tragedy — 63 Comments

  1. There is so much of luck involved, even when you do everything right, so I truly feel you Elsa. Seeing what I’ve seen, I’m so glad I never had kids – I have no reason to think I’d have done any better than a few of my friends. And the parent child relationship is seldom easy, esp in these days of fractured families, with all the blame that gets thrown around.

    I think of my friend on the island, who lost two of her four sons nearly 30 years ago now. The two living (now around 50) are on another continent, both married to native S Americans with whom she has no rapport at all. How do people survive such loss? I know for all she keeps busy and strong and USEFUL her situation is a torment to her Cancer soul.

  2. I was born healthy, and have survived up until now.

    My brother was not so lucky. It is a crapshoot in that the circumstances surrounding his death was not something that could have been controlled, or predicted by my mother.

    However, becoming a member of the medical profession allows me the opportunity to change the odds for someone else so that they might be more fortunate.

    I suppose your attitude could only be criticized if you do nothing to prevent a similar pain from happening to someone else, electing cynicism as your representative in your dealings with others.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crackup” is a great essay, I feel it is relevant to this topic.


  3. My daughter tried to commit suicide when Pluto first went into Cap back in Jan ’08, so you might think I would have some words of wisdom. I don’t think I do.

    The only thing I will say is that I think it’s possible to be both right AND jaded. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, especially in issues such as this one.

  4. i think you’re right, Elsa. i mean, mothers do all kinds of things to TRY to keep their children safe and happy, but there’s no guarantee.

    my saturn in cancer 4H wants to say “it’s ok, i’ve got everything under control” when it comes to motherhood.

    but i know that is simply not true.

  5. I re-read my comment, and hopefully it didn’t register as self-righteous as I felt it did. :S

    Of course I will never understand how a mother copes with a loss.

    I suppose it’s different than how any human would cope with a loss.

    I’m sorry that you have to deal with this. (And thank you about my brother!)

    I referred to the essay as it was about a cynical take on life, a way to cope with loss.


  6. Well, 28,000 people have been killed in Mexico over the last 4 years… over drugs. 72 were killed and mutilated last week on the border.

    Each of them had mothers and while we have not faced this kind of thing in the US for a number of years, it’s not been the case around the world.

    I guess my thrust is this:

    About 5-6 years ago (I will never forget the day this dawned on me), I wrote that if you were a parent who made statements like, “I don’t know what I would do if something happened to my kid – I could stand anything but that…” and the like – well you had no idea how fortunate you were. I used to say that, see?

    It’s something you say and something you CAN say when you live in a country with good health care, abundant food and so forth. It’s reasonable to believe you will not have to face this level of tragedy but then it happened to me and it happened and it happened and it happened and it happened until I really came to understand, up close and personal what can happen. Because when they handed me my baby – my first baby – she was the world. How can you lose your world, hmm?

    Well I know this that was super naive, ignorant bliss and so forth. It was Neptune. But it’s hard to judge which is the point of this post.

    From my reality – this can happen – OBVIOUSLY. My experience is pretty rare. It’s very rare when it comes to specifics but if you look in general terms, it is common, relatively speaking and so it is hard for me to know if my attitude is bad or what.

    It’s sort of like being cheated on. This happens to you and you think all men cheat. That’s not happened to me so I know there are men who do not cheat at all but cheating IS common so when a woman who has been cheated on tells you that this could happen to you, is she jaded… or is she right?

  7. She’s right. I spent most of my unsatisfactory marriage with one thought – “Well at least I KNOW he won’t be unfaithful”… I guess by the time that happened our marriage was on the rocks, but I was still living with him, and I was shocked. I mean, I married him BECAUSE I KNEW HE WOULDN’T DO THAT

    We have no way of second-guessing the future. Kids can so easily fall in with the wrong crowd and go off the rails – if they have a risk taking or confrontationl or addictive nature, it’s very hard to keep them safe

  8. “Itโ€™s very rare when it comes to specifics but if you look in general terms, it is common, relatively speaking and so it is hard for me to know if my attitude is bad or what.”

    This makes sense to me (that it is common). I’m not a mother as you already know. But I don’t think you are jaded. I think you are right. The possibility exists. The odds of it (losing your child) occurring are a mystery.

  9. As for who can judge or tell if an attitude is bad or jaded–most people cannot. I think it requires a level of emotional sophistication within an individual that quite frankly is difficult to obtain.

  10. from merriam-webster

    jaded: made dull, apathetic, or cynical by experience or by surfeit

    maybe jaded, but definitely right

    Elsa, you’re an amazing person.

    you may think you’re jaded, but i don’t see it.

    what comes through in all of your posts is that you’re RIGHT, and that your insights are based on reality. i value the knowledge you share on this blog, jaded or not

  11. “How can you lose your world, hmm?

    Well I know this that was super naive, ignorant bliss and so forth. It was Neptune. But itโ€™s hard to judge which is the point of this post.”

    Not a mother, so I don’t know that particular pain, but I did lose my world once and it’s completely unfathomable until it happens. And it colors everything.

    I think, like Stellium said, that it’s possible to be jaded and right. Because just like there’s no guarantee your world won’t be stripped away again, there’s also no guarantee that it will be, either.

    I just know it’s damn hard to stop looking for that falling shoe.

  12. My son is not dead, but he has been a huge source of pain to me and my entire family.

    I hate feeling apprehensive when I see a parent of one of his former friends and worry I will be recognized. I am often grateful as my daughter (his sister) grows up that since she doesn’t share his last name, that teachers won’t think of him when they find out she is in their class.

    I see his friends/peers going back to their senior year, getting excited about Homecoming. They’ll go to prom and have graduation parties. Their parents will be proud and I’ll never get to feel that about him.

    I find myself wondering how much to detatch since the courts have allowed him to live with another family (since his tether will sound an alarm if he comes within a mile of our home), but I still have some sort of legal responsibility (since he is under 18). Of course, my heart remembers the little baby that once meant the world to me.

    He is not the least bit sorry or remorseful.

    It’s been 3 years of hard fought lessons that he refuses to learn – and we have all paid the price. His turning 18 next year won’t magically erase any of it.

    I’m hoping and praying that my daughter will make better choices – giving me another chance to be a happy parent.

  13. I have no experience. I really feel for you, though. Speaking as someone who has not committed, I think it’s better if one doesn’t think of all of the bad things that can happen beforehand, be it marriage, having children, taking a job.

    Oh, there is so much suffering in the world. I don’t even feel qualified to write here, but I hate that you are suffering. I’m glad that you have loving people in your life. When it feels like the pain is in your bones, they sometimes seem to be the only way out. ((elsa))

  14. I don’t think you’re jaded at all.

    After my mother died suddenly, lots of people would say to me “oh I don’t know what I’d do if…” like I was the poster child in my age-group for this horrible thing that they couldn’t imagine, didn’t want to imagine–

    You do such incredible work, Elsa, and you help so many people — you shine a very bright Venus in Leo light.

  15. My best friend growing up died in her 20’s.
    My next best friend in my later teens also died in her 20’s.

    The families feel weird about me… which is easy to understand though I don’t feel weird about them.

  16. (((Stacey)))

    Elsa – I’m not a mother, but I think you’re right. My late Aunt would definitely agree with you. My 17-year old cousin killed himself in their garage on Mother’s Day over 20 years ago and she found him. I will never forget hearing her cries for the final viewing, it pierced my soul. She was changed forever, our entire family was changed. She kept everything in his room, wouldn’t give anything away. Her other son was arrested and jumped bail, was found and sent to prison. She did get to see her daughter become a surgeon and got joy out of working as her receptionist before she passed.

  17. I think you’re right, Elsa. Life is a crap shoot, and I can imagine, you bring another life into the world, there are more dice flying than yours.

    I have seen the shadow in my own family. How does the mother feel when her first baby is deformed, and must have many surgeries to make her as “normal” as the doctors of the time can? This is what my grandmother went through. Then my mother, that baby, grew up and watched me, her eldest, with no visible defects, but subjected to many tests and surgeries for something inside. I can say she did not handle it well, and I am not done with any of that in this lifetime, so it will continue to mark my family and those who choose to take me in.

    My grandmother has also outlived a stepson and her second daughter. Middle-aged adults when they passed, but still not expected. I think if things continue as they are, my grandmother will outlive most of her remaining five step- and natural children, including my mother. I don’t envy her that path.

    My sister, at 16, and I, at 28, lost our closest friend, four months before her 30th birthday. I don’t fear aging, not everyone gets to do it.

    Like SaDiablo describes, I too have lost my world. Though I feel I gave it up. Either lose my world or lose my mind. That’s hardly a choice.

    Life, and all parts of it, hang by a very thin thread. Acknowledging that and facing it on a daily basis is not jaded, it’s realistic.

  18. I never told my mom that I was diagnosed with EDS (which is genetic), though she was alive for a year after my diagnosis.

    She was sick, bedridden, what would have been the point? It would just have made her feel like crap.

    My dad, also sick and bedridden, doesn’t know either. He’s going to be 84 on the 20th. Can’t think of a reason why I should tell him.

  19. Well.

    I had to fight so hard to hold on to my kid that every day felt like a seige. It started when he was real little, and he’s been through…we’ve been through…stuff you just wouldn’t believe.

    A long time ago somebody told me you have to stop believing they belong to you and accept that they belong to God.

    That helped a little.

    But the thing that really bothers me is his chart. Moon in Leo in the 12th house, square sun in Taurus, tenth house. Grand Cross: moon, sun, saturn pluto.

    Pluto conjunct the IC. Mars, eighth house, in Aries. This summer I just barely stopped him from going into the Marines. Try giving a kid with a chart like that the car keys.

    If I could do anything to make that not his chart, I would do it. I can’t tell you how hard I tried to be a good mom, it was central to my identity and the thought of my child suffering for any reason gives me physical pain. I always thought deeply and felt deeply for him, but the chart says he experienced me with a deep hidden negativity and there is just nothing I’ll ever be able to do to change that. His dad was actually a worse choice, though…so…there’s that.

    It seems we’re on our way to our fates regardless.

  20. Elsa – no, none at all and definitely not for my Aunt. I hope her next life is easier.

    So sorry about your best friends.

    (((Hugs to all)))

  21. Something told me to check the blog before going to bed. I have a friend who lost a child 11 years ago due to illness. Interesting that just today she sent me a voice message and two emailed photos, after unexpectedly running into someone we both know. It reminds me that even though it’s still hard for her to talk about it, I could be more compassionate, period. Not that my compassion will necessarily make people feel better. It still sucks; but your lost treasures left us a gift to uncover, that is the opportunity to become more compassionate human beings.

  22. I simply cannot begin to imagine how it must feel to lose ones motherhood. Your blog is remarkable for its lack of cynicism – that shows how courageously you are moving forward, unafraid to express your pain. ‘Jaded’ is surely a safety valve we all use from time to time when life makes us weary. There is ‘a time to be born and a time to die,’ none of us have control of this so yes you are absolutely right as far as I can see.

  23. (((Stacey))) (((Elsa))) (((Eva)))

    I assume most here know that my daughter is in the Autism Spectrum. She has several other medical issues as well. She is still physically with me, but I long, long ago had to let “die” the dream of what my daughter would be.

    I don’t think your jaded – I think you are right. Of course it is a crapshoot.

    Every day I read stories of children – perfectly healthy, beautiful children – abused, even killed by their parents. Parents who clearly are ungrateful, and clueless, to the gift they were given. The parents you get are also a crapshoot.

  24. It is definitely a crap shoot. Illness is scary and out of our control sometimes. We don’t want the little ones we are meant to protect to feel pain and sometimes we can’t protect them from it or save them, as much as we try.

    It’s impossible to detach. Even when I remind myself that my kids are human beings, with just the same gift as me, which is life, and they will have their own paths and journeys, tough or not, and that all I can do is my best. I can prepare myself for emotional hurt if they are harmed, or if they make “bad” decisions. I try to remember that what seems bad to me might be essential to them, to learn to grow to whatever. Or that we’re all here to learn lessons and pain is part of it. But that’s not easy to do. Love makes that way too difficult.

    We all have hopes and dreams and abundant optimism when bringing a child into the world, but the reality is what Elsa wrote: anything can happen. The worst can happen. And in a sense, our kids are an investment, what we give to the world, and we work so hard to do our best raising them. To lose them or see them suffer almost seems like a broken promise. Of course it just is what it is. It’s a crap shoot. It’s another human being, with a life to live.

    My uncle had two kids before I was born. One committed suicide and the other was killed in a car crash. It broke his marriage. He lost everything. And why? I don’t know. And how does he deal with the pain, how does he go on in his life? I don’t know but he does. Acceptance? Making peace? I just don’t know. But I think of him a lot because I know he is still living and creating in spite of it.

  25. I am lucky enough not to have to share one of these tragic stories about losing a child. I never had any (which itself is a “minor” tragedy – but it is what it is). You’re not jaded Elsa, you are speaking truth that is uncomfortable for a lot of folks because they don’t want to imagine that it could happen to them, but we all know that it could and none of us want it to happen to us or anyone we love. Bad shit happens to good people. Good shit happens to bad people. And, who is to judge who is “good” or “bad”? I was married to someone who was very emotionally destructive. Did he think he was “evil”? Absolutely not. I would think that most people imagine they are good, or try to be, even when they do horrific things. And when the tragedy happens to someone you are close to, all you can do is do your best to be real about it. When the tragedy comes, you keep going, or you don’t, but it doesn’t make it any less real. And the longer you’re around, the more of it you’re going to see.

  26. Sometimes I think the point of us being here is to experience pain and loss, joy and gratitude. But we each get to experience those emotions in different ways with different people. Some people get sick themselves and are unable to actively participate in “life”, others have a child or a partner become ill. Other people get to experience 50 years of love and happiness with one person while many don’t.

    For example, an old roommate of mine was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was in her early 50’s (I know an odd time to be diagnosed). She has been completely debilitated for almost 15 years and mourns the life she can’t live.

    Elsa – also, you don’t know yet what will happen in the future – just like you didn’t know 20 years ago that you’d end up with the Soldier in the future, you don’t know what may come of your relationship with your daughter.

  27. Elsa, other than my mother you are the only person I know who has used the term crapshoot when discussing motherhood/children. Once again, you tackle a difficult topic with such dignity and wisdom you have my utmost respect.

    For the record, my parents lost my brother over 7 years ago and my mother and stepdad also lost one of my stepsisters. Would I call my mother jaded if I am honest yes. On the other hand, maybe wise should be substituted for the word jaded. My mother knows life isn’t fair and yet you will never hear her bitch and moan about the cards she has been dealt. That said she will not sugar coat either she is a native New Yorker so you don’t mess with the little Italian from the Bronx. I am very blessed to have her in my life and I hope I continue to learn from her wisdom. Final comment my brother does visit us in our dreams and we are always laughing which is how we lived our life…death doesn’t seem so scary now.

  28. Elsa,

    Virgo alert–I want to help and I only have my experience to offer:

    If I have learned nothing else by being here, it’s that life is more like poker, not craps.

    But that’s how I see through my glasses. You write it your way, and see it how you need to. Once you get it out, you can look at it deeper, later. When it’s not shadowy anymore.

    Hugs. Platitudes aside, sometimes a loss is a bigger win in the long run. I see your post here, and the blog, as:

    Crappy individual experience directed into cosmic-levels assloads of dharma.

    Over-all, there’s some rough stuff, sure but amazing goodness as the sum of all parts.

    So there’s some rose-glassed poetry about you. You’ve been one of the many Moms that I’ve needed while dealing with my own Mom issues. Thank god you say what you think, and the way that you do. It makes me think about what think, say and do…in a good way.

    You point me in the right direction, even if it doesn’t look that way from your angle.

    Please don’t be too quick to judge your effect on the world at large, or your immediate world. I think you underestimate your powers, including your Mom powers. I don’t think I’m alone on that vote, but I have learned that my vote should be cast, not hidden.

    My Aries Mom would agree. We worked it out in time. I’m still working it out for myself, but that story isn’t written yet.

    Thanks for all you do, and especially for the good it does me.

    Roar on.

  29. I am never sure when I should remark on things or just let them be. I prefer not to say anything but when I don’t say something, imaginations run wild and people fill in my life with their projections which then crystallize into a fake (Neptune) reality (Saturn) so let me just clarify this:

    I don’t have a relationship problem with my daughter. My daughter is ill, it is incurable and outside of that, I prefer not to discuss as it causes me immense, and immeasurable pain.

  30. Dixie, I agree. Many people think and expect their life to be a street paved with gold and that all the bad things happen to people like me.

    I’ve seen this for years but now we find ourselves in a time where the things like the things that happen to me have and will happen to many and this is why I said a few years ago, people like me would come into vogue. It’s because we know our way around hell. :-);-)

    I thought it was funny, Roubini said today that 400 US banks would fail. I thought this was funny seeing as I told you guys this four years ago.

    In whatever case, suffering is part of life and if you’ve managed to avoid it, good for you but the past doesn’t always predict the future, especially when the past was a hologram in the first place.

  31. @jinjan – I cried as I lay in bed last night thinking of your aunt. I can only imagine the weight of it on her. The weight of my daughter’s attempt still effects me… had she succeeded I do not know how I would withstand the crushing. I am so sorry.


  32. I agree with Stellium: (((everybody)))
    Yes, sometimes its a crapshoot, sometimes its just poker and you play the cards you’re dealt. In the long run, its just about courage–can you still get up in the morning and face your day, no matter how dark and dreary it may be? And, can you do it with dignity, grace, and kindness?

    Elsa, I know its hard, but thank you for the little bit of explanation that you gave–for those of us who are new to the blog, it at least helps to have a bit of understanding of where “north” lies. I applaud your grace and compassion and caring for us all. Thank you

  33. I haven’t read the other comments, but I just want to say you are so right. i have a happy and healthy baby girl who just turned one and honestly if that’s all I had in my life right now – that should be enough. i have some shadows around my relationship and some challenges with her but they are nothing compared to what you or others have gone through.

    i get caught up in thinking “woe is me” a lot b/c of this or that, but i rarely think of myself as lucky as you say in the last line of this post.

    today i will.

  34. it’s not jaded… it used to be so common… to lose children. i’m not sure whether people talked about it any more then than now. i can only imagine that it’s about the most heartbreaking loss a human can suffer.
    but parents have been surviving it for a long long time.

    as i told a friend awhile ago… life will break your heart. repeatedly.

    i don’t think there’s any way around that, and trying to pretend otherwise seems mighty dangerous.

    which i hope doesn’t come across as minimizing anyone’s suffering. i just don’t think people should try to pretend it’s all fluffy joy stuff. the darkness of it really deserves some weight and acknowledgment, methinks. otherwise i think we deprive ourselves of the necessary perspective to address it….

  35. there are names that no children of mine will ever have. one of them has belonged to two dead babies in subsequent generations and i guess i’m superstitous about it. given that, the one that belonged to a suicide isn’t going to appear either.

    i just can’t figure if it’s a smear on their memory or avoiding a horrible jinx, and what difference it would make in the long run anyway, but watching what the loss of the second baby did to someone i love makes me paranoid. and i know it’s paranoia, as the name shouldn’t tell the story in the first place, but, still… naming a baby after a dead brother, only to have the baby die…?

    i can’t argue with the crap shoot. though sometimes i think maybe the universe plays with weighted dice and has a horrible sense of irony.

    is that nihilistic of me?

  36. I think anyone who lost a child is entitled to feel whatever comes natural to them, whether it be rage, sadness, or depression. Grief feels different to each individual and the loss of a child is pain few of us could imagine. A parent should not have to bury a child but that is not realty. The love a mother or father feels for a child continues whether they are on this earth or not.

  37. I hear ya Elsa, I feel jaded just from having to watch my own mother go through that

    her fellow venus leo heart is forever broken, and it was devastating for all of us.
    after fighting for so long, she lost… and she lost a piece of her heart.
    but, i try so hard to not say forever, because i guess in some way, they stay there forever.
    the loss of my brother instilled a lot of beauty in my life. Because of what his life meant to mine, i now appreciate my life and everyone in my life more because of it.
    but, i will say, my mom was definitely so bitter, and i am sure still is to some degree. it is an unfortunate aspect of grieving, and grieving is everlasting stages.
    you just have to allow people to feel, and grieve, and it’s not always pretty… but after what you’ve been through.. the people that don’t understand that- aint worth a damn anyways ๐Ÿ™‚
    so grieve on!

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