Healing After Loss: When a Child Dies

Robin Botie in Ithaca, New York knows that you don't lose a child when a child dies. Years ago, from a distance, in awe I watched the woman who lost her child. I wondered how she was able to leave her house. How was she standing there? How on Earth could she still breathe?

Now I am that woman. I feel mothers gape at me, perturbed, “How does she smile? How can she be laughing?”

First of all, you don’t just lose a child. Sons and daughters are forever. Even if they get wiped out by cancer, car accidents, or unfathomable acts on the part of themselves or others. Death and time can only cloud their existence. They don’t entirely erase the memories, the history, deepest feelings, or the dreams you have of the one you loved and thought you lost. They don’t quiet my daughter’s pleading voice each time I pass a sushi shop.

“This will always be with you,” my mother said. Was she talking about the pain of loss? I decided “This” meant my daughter: she will always be with me. I’d make it a good thing. I’d keep her close forever.

“Since her daughter died, she’s only half the woman she used to be,” I overheard a friend say about me. Did that mean I was losing myself? It was a wake-up call. If I disappeared too, to whom and how would my daughter’s life continue to matter? Her life has to have been for something. Even if only to make me into a stronger and more caring person.

Marika was strong, self-assured and dogged in her pursuits. She had guts. She always partied and played. She lived like the lights could go out at any time. When she died I started wearing her clothes. Maybe I was hoping some of her would rub off on me. After all, I was the one who gave her life. I should be able to take and grow some parts of that life for myself.

For the New Year, in her honor, I will party more. I will get pedicures and sexy underwear, maybe even go on a date. If you see me laughing it’s because she taught me to love my life. She is with me still. And I will work harder to get our story published. I will not let my daughter be lost.

 

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20 thoughts on “Healing After Loss: When a Child Dies

  1. Sandy Vehrencamp

    This was a very moving blog entry, Robin. Our daughter died of an unfathomable thing she did to herself, and like Marika, she was feisty, independent, and loved to party. We are doing our best to remember her and honor her life of 36 years, and move forward with our own lives.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Our crazy, feisty, independent daughters. Their lives were like tsunamis. Tidal waves. Overwhelming, powerful, thunderous. Sometimes destructive. Ending. Leaving wreckage and debris that will take years to clean up. Leaving an eerie peace. We move forward, yes. I miss my Hurricane Marika. Who was your Wicca moon goddess? Sandy, I don’t believe you’ve ever mentioned her name.

      Reply
  2. belinda chapman

    My beautiful daughter, Freya, died three months ago, at the tender age of 24. I’m not gifted enough to write but I can read and that is a gift big enough. Thankyou for your words, they cradle me.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I’m so sorry, Belinda. Three months ago, your pain is so raw. I’m thinking of you and Freya, and sending hugs and best wishes. Marika and Freya must have been born the same year. Freya is such a beautiful name. And something tells me you’re a better writer than you might think – “words, they cradle me” is lovely.

      Reply
  3. MaryDiane Hausman

    Robin, as always, I am so moved by your very will to breath and move in this world- so that your living and willingness to share that living becomes a life-line for others. You have no idea how the fact of your daughter’s transition and the fact of how it impacted you, has impacted so many others. Your courage and bravery to share your and Marika’s story just floors me. And makes me want to meet you! I hope that happens one day. Meanwhile, if for Goddess knows whatever reason!– you decide to go to Texas– please look me up– I have horses and kitties and a lovely land that would welcome your presence. Plus– I want to meet Suki, too!!!
    Bright blessings and garish love,
    MaryDiane

    Reply
    1. robinbot Post author

      Thank you MaryDiane. I’m smiling just thinking of being in Texas with Suki and horses and kitties. I hope I get to meet you too. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement.

      Reply
  4. Elaine Mansfield

    You interpreted what your mom said just the right way, Robin. Marika will always be with you. Not the raw pain, but the love. Five and a half years after Vic’s death, he is closer to me in some ways than in the beginning when I was so overwhelmed by his physical absence that I hardly noticed his quiet inner presence in my heart. Now that inner presence is stronger than the sense of absence–most of the time.

    Also not bad to be half the woman you used to be. All that empty open space just waiting to be filled with new possibilities and your new life, the one Marika insisted you should get. It’s happening, too slowly, I know, but it’s happening.
    Sending love your way and watching the beautiful sky.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie

      Elaine, it just floors me every time how you can find the perfect thing to say. How are you able to take a remark like the half-woman thing and make me smile. Can’t wait to share that with my friend who uttered it in the first place. Cheers!

      Reply
  5. Tori de Clare

    Robin – may I say that I don’t believe in death? I don’t want to be controversial and I don’t want to inflict my views on others or preach. I’ve always believed that the soul of human beings consists of a body and a spirit. Are we human beings seeking to have spiritual experiences, or are we spiritual beings having a human experience? I think of myself in the latter category. It is my belief that Marika has passed on and is waiting for you. It is my great hope and faith that you will see her and hold her in your arms again. But first, you have your own life to live, which is both precious and purposeful. She is closer than you think. I believe she is aware of you and I’m sure she is so pleased and proud that you are trying to be positive and that you are spending your life trying to heal and lift others, as you try to lift yourself. She would not want you to be disabled by your loss. Life is difficult for everyone. The key is to ‘drink of the bitter cup’ without becoming bitter – which is a very tall order sometimes. If our experiences are to mean anything at all, then surely, we must pause to give others the benefit of the little things we learn (and let’s face it, the more we learn, the more we realise how much we have to learn). Our pain is not pointless. In it, our real selves emerge, stripped of pride and conceit. Our compassion increases. We know what is important. I lost a baby sister when I was 12 and my dad died 6 years later. I never think of him or my sister as having ceased to exist, but rather that they were needed elsewhere. Love is eternal. It is the great driving force. May it permeate all of our lives. I hope you’ll all forgive me for sharing personal thoughts/beliefs. My only desire is to help. Sent with lots of love. Looking forward to ‘red toes’ day!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie

      Torie, thank you. I love that idea. Spiritual beings having a human experience. It is hard sometimes to convince myself that she isn’t nearby watching me and setting things up for me to find. It’s been almost 3 years since her physical presence disappeared but I keep getting “gifts” from her. Like the CD I found a couple of nights ago, that had never been given to me but had “To Mom From Marika” written on it. Like a tiny book she’d made for me as a kid, that reappeared suddenly and mysteriously just on Christmas Eve two years ago when I was going to bed with no presents. (You’ll have to wait for the book to hear more about that one)
      Love is a driving force for sure. I hope you have and give lots of it.
      Many thanks.
      Robin

      Reply
      1. Tori de Clare

        Oh, Robin – don’t work hard to convince yourself that she isn’t close by having an influence on your life. No need. I hope you will continue to have small but joyful manifestations of her love for you and her concern for your feelings and how you’re coping with this strange human experience of ours. Her perspective of it will be so different now. Your comments reminded me so much of those constantly made by a close friend of mine, who lost her husband to Parkinson’s Disease four years ago. She too was endowed with many ‘gifts’ for a long time after his passing – little things showing up in the house that she knew nothing about, and always coming at very opportune moments just when she needed them. Letters, photographs, small things he’d jotted down and never shown her. It was beyond coincidence that she found them at the times she did. Are we ever really alone? I doubt it. Our lives would have to be a series of coincidences if we are to believe that our little miracles happen randomly. So many things point to the fact that we are helped, and that our lives hold tremendous purpose and that everything we do is significant, and ultimately for our growth. Some people do refuse to grow. They surround themselves by familiar things and never do anything to stretch themselves – never put themselves at risk of having new experiences. Whereas, you’re living, experiencing, learning, hoping, interacting, giving, loving. Growing. Painful? Yes. Evolving into someone new is very painful. Embracing new things is very daunting. Adapting to a life we didn’t want and never would have chosen for ourselves is excruciating. Rewarding? Mostly, yes, though some days, we wonder if we’ve achieved anything at all. We’re only human!! I think about you and your situation often. My kindest thoughts stretch out to you, way across the Atlantic, right into your home. I visualise your pets, needing you and driving you mad and simultaneously keeping you sane!! And where would we be without the technology that affords this kind of communication? I hope this blog will attract many more people who will both receive and offer love and support and strength in times of need. Wishing you a happy weekend.

        Reply
        1. Robin Botie

          Thank you Tori. It’s good to know I have a friend somewhere on the other side of the country who will spend the time to write me such a beautiful note containing such wisdom. I’m sending you my best wishes and sincerest regards in return. I hope you have a really exceptional week.

          Reply
  6. Samar Hatoum

    Robin, thank you for sharing the beauty of Marika with your readers! Keep that determination on living and sharing going… the only way forward, and you have all what it takes!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie

      Thank you for all your encouragement, Samar. Onward we go. One foot in front of the other. Don’t look back except to measure your progress or to make sure you haven’t left someone or something important behind. Cheers!

      Reply
  7. Kimberly

    Robin,
    This was beautiful. Love following you on twitter and am amazed by your courage and honesty. As I travel my own leukemia filled journey, stories of HOPE and life fill in the empty spaces… Be well my friend. And remember – there is ALWAYS a Mirika right beside you.❤️

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie

      Kimberly, keep strong on your journey. If you send me your website or wherever you put your stories, I will follow you. My most boisterous cheers for another chemo warrior.

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie

      Thanks again, Lynne. Sometimes I think I’m just exposing my embarrassing plummets into despair and attempts to creep back up afterwards. Teaching how to honor and love the ones we’ve lost, well that sounds like a mission to aspire to.

      Reply
  8. Nancy

    Who better than you to choose life? You know its value more than most and you know what it costs to lose some of it.

    “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19

    This is old wisdom.

    Reply

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