‘The other day I read I was a victim. Because my son died, I am considered a victim. I threw the book away.’

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“I read. I read a lot. The other day I read I was a victim. Because my son died, I am considered a victim. I have NEVER thought of myself in that way. I am living my life burdened by the trauma of losing a child. I am enduring pain worse than birth itself. I’m surviving a death.

I threw the book away.

You can CHOOSE to be a victim. You can live with reasons to feel sorry for yourself.

I choose not to.

Baby sitting in blue and white onesie in photoshoot
Courtesy of Terry Killoran

We have it in ourselves to change the outcome of a disaster; whatever it may be, that has brought us to a place of deep sorrow.

I remember a long time ago hearing a woman say she had nothing in her life to live for after her only child had died. She had no husband and was contemplating suicide; she believed she could not live without her. Then someone very wise said the words that brought her back to life. ‘Instead of dwelling on what you no longer have and what you cannot look forward to because she died, let’s turn this around. How about we be grateful for the years you HAD with her and dwell on them? Enjoy the memories she gave you, the lives she touched. The friends she made and the people who have not forgotten her, like yourself. Without you, she would have never existed at all.’

I will not lie. I (we) have endured the worst shock and pain of losing our Alex to an overdose. Our lives have forever been changed. How could they not? What he brought to our lives is no longer there. We loved for 26 years and the memories of those days forever will be my gift, my reason to believe I can go on. I am living in the moment. But I will never get over it. My every waking moment no longer belongs to just him anymore.

Mother sits at kitchen table blowing out candles in her cake with son by her side
Courtesy of Terry Killoran

You get to a point of living again. I never thought I would laugh again; enjoy the company of friends and family. Go on a vacation and have fun. I thought I didn’t deserve it. I lost a child. I had no right to be happy. Yet life doesn’t stand still. And grief can bring you to your knees as it did so many times for me. But slowly I stood up. Straighter and more focused every day on what was right in front of me. I MADE that choice. I survived. WE survived. The family survived.

I also many days turn it around. If it was ME that had died, would I want my son sitting around mourning me, crying for my loss and not continuing his life? NO. There is a time I know you grieve. But you push through it and move on as life does. Day by day, one step at a time. And it takes time. It’s how long it takes that worries some people. But you must know, thre isn’t a set time to grieve and then just stop. The feeling of grief and loss slowly don’t occupy every minute of your day. The minute you wake up it isn’t the first thing on your mind. And all this happens for some faster than others; that’s not to say their love was any less strong than your own. We are all different in the way we handle things. It’s a fact of life. No two people are alike.

Young boy without a shirt on smiles as he opens present
Courtesy of Terry Killoran

We are surviving, yes. Personally, I prefer to say we are living. Every day brings changes to our lives. Weddings of friends and family. Babies, so many babies. And love. So much love from everyone, every day. New friends, new adventures, new careers. Day by day, something new.

We never forget Alex. He was here for 26 years. Had it been only ONE day, one month; you don’t forget. You just carry them in your heart and remember, with love; and feel blessed.

When asked how many children I have, I say three. One lives in heaven. To some, it takes them by surprise, and to others, the moment passes and we are on another conversation. I will always be the mother of three children. His death has not changed that. It’s a fact of life. A life of 26 years.”

Mother smiles as she baby son with Santa hat on sits in her lap
Courtesy of Terry Killoran

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Terry Killoran of Sterling Heights, Michigan. She has been writing about her grief after losing her son on her blog. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read Terry’s larger story about her son’s tragic death:

‘Hi Mom, I’m home, wake me up for school at 9, ok? I love you.’ I looked right at him. ‘I love you too, Alex. Get some sleep, it’s late.’ Off to bed we both went.

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