10 Things Surviving the Loss of a Child Teaches You about Life

10 Things Surviving the Loss of a Child Teaches You... 

...about Life

One thing is certain, I still stumble over the question, “How many children do you have?” With it comes the dread of my brain conflicting with my heart and the devastating truth. Then, it becomes a decision as to how much I want to reveal, how long will I know this person, and if I hold back, will I once again feel as though I’ve betrayed the memory of my beautiful son that tragically died at the age of 16 years, 3 months, and 10 days.

It’s been many years since the loss of my child, and with each year I accrue more wisdom from the experience and from listening to other parents like me. We’re connected on a level that most people could never understand, and the very thought of it brings up the fear that it could actually happen to them. That’s why people say, “It’s the worst that could happen.” Because it is.

Through the years, we, as parents who have experienced the worst and in time, have regained our quality of life, have also learned some things that many people don’t know. It’s that intimate knowledge from such a tragic loss that can give you the awakening for an even greater life, if you let it.

Here’s what we know:

  1. We can’t control the lives or destiny of our children, or anyone for that matter.
  2. Love harder now. You might not get the chance tomorrow.
  3. All we can count on is now. Never take a single day for granted. Pay attention to every breath you take, it keeps you present.
  4. Always tell your children how much you love them and look in their eyes when you do. Sometimes we just assume they know.
  5. No child dies without leaving a legacy and a purpose for those that are left behind. For me it was writing to help others heal.
  6. Mourning is not a plan for healing. Healing takes hard work and a commitment to wanting joy in your life again.
  7. In order to heal you have to live in harmony with others. You can’t push people away, you have to let them love you through this. In time, you can do the same for them.
  8. People often say the wrong thing but their intention is borne from love. Forgive them.
  9. Cry your tears deeply now because some day you will miss them.
  10. Love is a connection and a force of energy that doesn't diminish as you heal from the loss of your child. Your love will not even fade...In fact, it will continue to grow. How amazing is that!

And that last point is the one I’m encouraging you to think about. If you’ve just lost your child, know that the love for your child will always be with you. In fact, you’ll miss the depths of the grief you feel now because it connects you to your child in a way that holds you close in the arms of a love so deep, you feel it in every breath. You and your child are one forever.

It’s been years now, and I’ve worked hard through the 5 stages of grief, defined by noted grief expert Elizabeth Kubler-Ross as: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.

I’ve discovered in my own recovery that my loss didn’t end with “acceptance.”

While acceptance is a critical step, it simply wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to spring off of acceptance and feel happy again, not resigned. For me, there was a very necessary 6th stage of grief. It’s what I call “resilience.”

Resilience is the ability within you to bounce back. Grief is not a life sentence. It’s the sorrow borne out of loss, but it doesn’t take away the possibility of feeling happiness and joy in your life again. You have an opportunity to honor your child by healing.

Healing for me wasn’t like crossing the finish line of a marathon. It was more like arriving on the other side with a soft gentle agreement that I have indeed found acceptance and opened a space in my heart to feel joy again.

Which brings me back to who I was before the loss of my son. I didn’t know then, I had a force inside of me that was so strong it wouldn’t let my spirit die. It’s the same force that we see in nature when a seed bursts out of it’s husk and starts to grow, or when a baby chick finds the power to rupture it’s shell to see a greater world. It’s the power of renewal, and we all have it, it just needs to be broken open.

l know that now.

Best wishes and love,

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on surviving loss and activating resilience. Her new award winning book entitled, "How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen" is a parent's step by step guide for healing after the loss of a child, based on her own experience of losing her 16 year old son. She also hosts a radio show in Northern CA on KRXA AM Talk Radio. Blog: www.BreakthroughToHappy.com    
book website: www.HowToSurviveTheWorstThatCanHappen.com
contact: sandy@sandypeckinpah.com


  1. My beloved and adored 26 year old son Keagan, died on 29 August 2013 after a 5 year long battle with bone cancer. He was an extraordinary person - deaf from the age of one - following meningitis, but never letting his deafness impair his progress through life, he bounced back and lived a full an abundant, albeit short life. He grew tall and beautiful and strong and excelled at school, then at his exacting trade in the printing industry. He was full of fun, loved people and judged no-one. Loyal to his family and friends and inspirational in the grace and bravery he showed coping with his illness. Next week, 11 June is his birthday, the first in 27 years when he hasn't been here. The sadness sometimes seems overwhelming yet I'm aware of the incredible and unique blessing I received in being his mother and will love him eternally. I wish I could believe that we will one day be together again, in some form or way ..... I really don't know if it's so, but that would be truly wonderful. It hurts to believe all we have now are memories ..... I have two beautiful daughters, two beautiful grandchildren and dear family and friends who I love and who love me so I live on taking happiness where I can and giving us much love as I can. Thank you Sandy for this space !

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Goodness, for Keagan to have survived meningitis, living life to the fullest and then to be taken by bone cancer. It's heartbreaking. Your words are so filled with love and courage. You are a pillar of strength under such difficult circumstances. I'm putting June 11 on my calendar and will be sending you love and prayers on that day next week. I'm so glad you wrote to me.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful and inspiring post. I lost my 18 year old son in 2011 to suicide. I miss him greatly. I will share this article with other grieving parents. Nice to know about your book, also. Looks like a much needed resource.

    1. Gina, thank you so much for posting. I am heartbroken for your tragic loss. I'm so grateful you will be sharing my article and hope in some way it can help other bereaved parents.. Best wishes and hope to you for a peaceful heart.



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