One brave reader wrote to MumCentral to share her thoughts and her grief as she attempts to make it through the anniversary of her child’s death. This is her story, in her words, published with her permission:
What happens on the anniversary of your child’s death?
The brain is amazing and when this happens it just goes crazy with thoughts and memories/flashbacks (the majority of this activity is all swirling around in our head).
I have contemplated writing this so many times and stopped, but given yet another of my dear friends is going through this I have decided now is the time to share.
This is what no one tells you will happen and no one talks about it either. Mental health and trauma are such taboo topics. Everyone wants to be there for you but there’s honestly no words or gestures to ease the mind in this situation. Having experienced it myself even I don’t know how to comfort the people I know. But I do know how you feel and we are not going crazy I promise.
For months leading up to the date of passing the anxiety starts to build. Especially if it is the first one.
As weeks get closer the countdown changes from months to weeks and that’s when the flashbacks begin to play over and over in my head. They come slowly to start and catch me off guard. Quite often taking my breath away in fear.
Many people close to us will start to ask what we are going to do on that day… the truth is I just want to shut down. I panic about how much of a mess you are going to be, how much physical pain will I feel, will I be able to breathe? Will I want to even function that day? How am I going to survive that day? All of this is swirling through my mind on constant rotation. I feel numbness in my fingers, chest and face….
The weeks turn to just days … the flashbacks are happening every few minutes and then I realise I have forgotten part of my child’s final day or days. A moment in time. Can I find the memory? I actively start replaying over and over the sequence of events leading to the moment, I can’t remember hoping and panicking until you can finally replay it and know I haven’t forgotten.
Because that’s our biggest fear. We may forget even the tiniest of moments.
Sleep becomes limited as the overwhelming sense of anxiety grows inside of me. I am distracted. Alone.
I just want to constantly go back over your photos, videos anything to remind me that my child was beautiful, strong and alive.
PTSD has beyond set in and my brain is so consumed by this time that shutting down existence feels like the only option.
There are no words anyone can say to me to help, they don’t know how this feels.
The day of our child’s anniversary becomes a day of survival. What do I have to do today that I can’t get out of? I just want to be close to her.
For me, I go to where she is buried. I picture myself digging frantically into the ground to be closer to her. But then what. If I do that, what do I do next? All I can do is lay down with my cheek touching the ground to try and feel a fraction closer to her. The flashbacks start again, holding her, when I held her, how long I held her for and then I quickly find my phone and look back at the videos and photos. There’s not enough photos. Why can’t I see that angle of her face? My brain is full and the tears are flowing so hard and fast I can’t breathe. I miss her. I want to dig down to her again but I know I can’t.
Eventually, I have to pull myself together and leave. I don’t want to. I never want to. Will she be sad when I leave? I love you I say to her over and over and over. I miss you.
I have to leave. I have to go back to my life. My life without my child. Reality. This is my reality? How fucked up is this world? How did this become my life?
And then I leave. I say goodbye so many times as I drove out. My brain starts to play the memory of the funeral director picking her up from the hospital. That final goodbye. It feels like it all over again.
All of this is going on while trying to function as a normal parent with children a husband and everything else life throws at us daily.
Suddenly it’s like I blinked and the day is over. I am mentally drained and just want to go to bed. I start thinking of her and hope she is warm and cosy. And then all the flashbacks start again slowly and hauntingly leading me into sleep. I survived it. I did it. I made it through ok? Didn’t I?
How to get help
Do you need help coping with grief and loss? If this story has triggered something for you please get in contact with anyone of the organisations below and talk to your family and friends.
- Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. You can also contact them on 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
- Beyond Blue also has a list of support organisations on this link where you can find help at any time.
- Grief.com.au has a list of support groups here. Support groups are a way of bringing people together in a safe space to share common life experiences. They provide a forum for participants to communicate in a mutual understanding of shared challenges and problems. You can also contact them on 1800 642 066
- Relationships Australia can help with counselling for anyone experiencing loss, grief, stress, anxiety or relationship problems. You can contact them on the link or on 1300 364 277
- If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000
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