Understanding Loss

I remember so clearly, I was 12 years old when a dear family friend’s 9 month old baby was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  As a child, I did not understand the devastation of the news.  I assumed she could get help from the doctor, maybe have a surgery and all would be well.  When this sweet girl passed away 9 short months later, I was so sad for the family.  They had 4 other children and I remember thinking, “Well at least they have other kids at home to make them happy.”  Throughout the years, this family slowly closed themselves away from the world.  We no longer saw them as often and the friendship fizzled because the family moved away.  

I remember being confused by the way they handled the death of their child.  “Why are they so devastated if they have 4 other children to fill the void?  I know what it is like to lose someone I love, I lost my Grandma.  It is sad, but I am fine now.  Plus, their little girl really must have been special and had an important mission to fulfill, because God needed her close to Him.”

As the years went by, I can say that my viewpoint and understanding of their reaction really didn’t change much.  I always knew it must be devestating, but I couldn’t comprehend what it must feel like to lose a child.

Heartbreakingly, I now understand that very pain and I wish with everything I am that I didn’t know this devastation.  I remember when I came to the realization that I was losing my Hayes, I finally understood that family.  Everyone handles grief differently, and in all honesty, I completely understand every single emotion they had felt.  Their way of grieving was anger and depression and I have felt both of those and still do often.  It comes in waves.  Some days I feel grateful for my life and other days, I can’t lift my head off of my pillow and cry the day away.  It changes day to day and moment to moment.  I respect every emotion because that is my love for Hayes making its way to the surface.

I recently had someone ask me what they should say to a friend that had lost their daughter in a tragic accident.  I told her to just let them know you are so sorry for their loss.  If you don’t completely understand their pain, do not try to make them feel like you understand by telling them about losing a grandparent or an uncle.  It isn’t the same.  It is sad, but it isn’t the same.  When people reach out to me and tell me they understand because they lost a grandparent, I immediately feel hurt.  I have lost grandparents also….it does not even come close to touching the gaping hole that I now feel in my heart.  Losing a child is a pain that is unequivocal to any kind of possible pain because this being that grew inside of my body, was connected with my soul on a deeper level than anyone ever and now, that person is no longer there for me to hold, to smell, to touch and to see.  This huge part of me is ripped open.  My baby didn’t get to do all of those things that my grandparents and your grandparents got to do.  Hayes’ life was mercilessly cut far too short.  It is not the same!

I also told my friend to please not tell these sweet parents that their child is in a better place.  When you lose a child, it is impossible to imagine that there can possibly be a better place than a mother and fathers loving embrace.   I believe in God, I know He has my sweet boy in His arms, but I have a belief in my heart that my Father in Heaven is devestated for me because He knows the pain of losing a child.  He knows the pain in my soul.  He knows my Hayes should be in my arms.

The last thing I told her not to tell this family was that they were stronger than her.  That she could never handle the loss of a child.  What other choice does a parent have?  When you say they are stronger than you, in that moment, they feel like people don’t realize how much they actually love their child.  When someone tells me I am stronger than they would be, I feel guilt.  I question my strength.  Just because I smile doesn’t mean I don’t cry.  Just because I laugh doesn’t mean I don’t wail in heart break.  And just because I get out of bed each day does not mean I am moving on. Grief is different for every single person.  There is no right or wrong way to react.  “Grief is the last act of love we have to give those we loved.  Where there is deep grief, there was deep love.”

I guess what I am getting at is that it is easy to judge when you don’t completely understand.  I have been there.  All a family wants to know is that their child is still loved because that child still exists.  Their child will not be forgotten and Hayes will not be forgotten!  Thank you for understanding and allowing me to express every emotion I feel.  I am grateful for you.  This journey is easier because you all have lifted me and carried me through the pain.  

40 thoughts on “Understanding Loss

  1. Julia

    Hello, Savanna! One day your family appeared on my Instagram explore feed and I started to follow your posts about five months ago, and though I couldn’t possibly understand the pain that your family and you are feeling every day I am truly impressed by the strength and pureness how you tell your story. Somehow I can relate to the way you tell your story. Especially with such a sensitive topic, I am scared to say something inappropriate to a person who I donΒ΄t even know.I also know that my words couldn`t possibly ease your grief. But I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart that you are telling your story exactly how you experienced it. I want to thank you that you are showing bright memories and painful ones. That you share all those personal thoughts and are slowly taking my fear from death away…. slowly! A warm thank you from Brazil tho the whole family of eight!

  2. Tanya

    You are amazing for sharing your journey! I am completely lost in the journey of being my husbands full time care taker and trying to find my way through this. Thank you for giving me light! πŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’š

  3. Erin Kennedy

    Savannah, I have been following Hayes Story for a year now. I appreciate you sharing your stories as im sure they are not easy to share. Hayes is a very special boy. I wrote an article last year about my daughters journey with caner and said something like….”family, friends and community can be strengthened by 1 tiny person.” Hayes has touched so many people in so many ways and I am grateful that I have to chance to follow his journey. Thank you

  4. Hayes is absolutely adorable Momma. I completely agree that nobody should say “I know how you feel”. Some people like to say that loss is loss and that is so not true. Someone may lose someone the same way as another but each loss is so specific to each person. I’m sorry that anyone would say they knew what you were going through because they lost their grandparent. More people need to read your words to better understand loss xx

  5. Samantha

    My heart hurts for you. Sending you so much love. I think of u and your beautiful beautiful boy offen. πŸ’š

  6. rachelnorcal

    So much love to you… always… Your openness & honesty & big, huge heart is a gift to all of us. Hayes continues to be such a bright, shining light.. Your sweet, sweet boy!! I find myself both crying & smiling with almost every post… (but not the Friday Faves.. those don’t make me cry πŸ˜‰
    Keep riding those waves, Mama.. or floating on them or letting them crash over you… Your heart knows best what you need to make it through each new day… πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’ž

  7. Cherie

    Beautifully written from your heart. Thank you for helping me to better understand my parent’s grief. When you speak of how you feel when someone tells you you’re stronger than they could be, I’m reminded of a quote from John Wayne concerning heroes. “All battles are fought by scared men who’d rather be someplace else.” You do what you must do no matter how you feel that day. I am so sorry for your loss of Hayes.

  8. Beccah

    These are good. I wish there had a been a blog I could have forwarded to people who were trying to be helpful when we lost our Izzy. You could also write about things people can do that we’re actually helpful for you and your family. For me it was having people not just ask how I was doing, but having them make it clear that they were actually wanting to hear to about our girl AND our pain. That they could handle it. Having a couple people who I knew I could be completely honest with, whether good or bad, crying or fighting guilt for having a good day…they were there and willing to listen. Another thing that unfortunately became clear to us, was just because we might have the loss of a child in common, that is sometimes where the similarities stop. I do not know what it is like to have a sick child, to have to fight for your child longer than a week, to watch what it does to your other children, or to loose one of a set. Like you said, every loss is different, and everyone grieves differently.
    Thanks again for being so open about your journey. Your family is beautiful.

  9. Cindy Sandoval

    Your Hayes has become our Hayes as well. I can pretty much speak for every other person who has come across your family’s lives and say, “We all love Hayes so, so much.” He will never be forgotten and will always be in my heart. I especially love how your family includes him in every activity/vacation. I love seeing that green balloon, or his brother holding up his picture. I love how he is, and ALWAYS will be with you guys in everything your family does. He isn’t gone. He is far from it. Love that little man so much! I send him hugs and kisses through my little 2 year old boy. #20monthlegend

  10. Emily

    First off, I want to let you know that I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. My heart hurts for you. Secondly, this is such a great post. A family from my church had a similar story from the person who asked you that question. Their child passed away a few days after a tragic accident. I also have wondered if I see them what to say. Someone in our community has said to not ask them how they are doing but to instead tell them that you hope they are doing good. How do you feel about that?

  11. Alicia Phillips

    S and S, I have been following your posts about Hayes for 6 mos now and it makes my heart happy to see your good days with all your children πŸ’š Included. He’s always there…there is no doubt about that and he has been able to show you daily in his tiny ways that his love is as strong as ever for all of you. My 6 year old son just had his fifth surgery yesterday. He had a tumor on his spinal cord. They have only been able to get 70% of the tumor but everyday he shows us how strong he is with his laughs and huge smiles at his brothers. He still doesn’t have control over his bowel or bladder and still has tubes in his bladder but he’s doing well! He apologies to the doctors and nurses who poke and prod him daily because he thinks they shouldn’t have to be working so hard. He’s amazing and if he wasn’t I think I would also stay in bed all day or certainly not be half as strong as he is today. Watching your families strength and love is so incredibly helpful to me in ways you don’t even know. My kids and I always talk about guardian angels and how we know they are always with us to help us. We are 100 percent sure that Hayes is your angel. We hope sometime he will fly over to Pennsylvania and give us a wave. πŸ’šπŸ¦‹ thank you for sharing your pain, heartbreak and joy with the world. You have no idea how much you lift me up on a daily basis. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to you both and your amazing family. Hugs from PA! πŸ’šArmy

    • Wow! What an incredible message! Bless your sweet boy! So sorry you know the monster that is childhood cancer! I truly believe he is looking out for your boy! πŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’š

  12. annie bambrough

    I lost my baby girl. She was stillborn. No one knows what to say. “your lucky to get to raise a child in heaven” “You can try again” “She is with God”….. It doesn’t make you feel better. Some comments make you feel worse. But I just always thought “they don’t know, the ache in my body and soul for her, that I didn’t get to hear her cry or snuggle her, smell the newborn baby smell,take her home, nurse her” I’d just think they mean well. Thanks for sharing. I have such a love for your family and Hayes. God bless you. I do know you pain.

  13. savanna,
    following your journey has made me think a lot about life and family and everything in general. i pray for you and your family and for every single child and family who’s going through this terrible tragedy. i’m not eighteen yet, and my baby girl is still in my belly, and even if i haven’t physically her yet, i feel the connection you’re talking about.
    i’m sorry for your loss, savanna, hayes has made a difference in my way of thinking, and loving, and living and i’m sure i’m not the only one who feels this way.
    have a very good day πŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’š

  14. Trisha

    Thank you for this! The only part I really can relate to is that you’re stronger than I would be.
    I hear that all the time with my sons diagnosis. And I always tell people – you’d be strong too cause there’s no other option

  15. Lenka

    Hello dear Savanna,

    I am scared to read your blog, because I have a baby of my own and I am somehow terrified to read about your loss. But I keep coming back, reading, crying, thinking of your family. Every day. You see, Hayes won’t be forgotten, we think of him and will continue doing so. He was beautiful and we know that, because you describe him with such love it brings tears to my eyes. I don’t know if this makes sense, I just wanted to let you know, that I am sorry for your loss, that your beautiful son is in my mind and that you are a wonderful mom.
    I wish you all the best, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for telling us your story.
    Lenka x

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