Parenting, Life And Death: The Struggles Of Caring A Dying Child

By Charlize Walters, Parent Herald April 12, 09:40 am
Losing a child can cause tremendous emotional stress, which can sometimes become unfathomable for parents.
(Photo : Gareth Fuller WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Losing someone is such a traumatic, stressful and emotional event. However, there is no word for the parents who loses a child, especially for mothers.

Some people said that you should never tell a mother who lost a child to move on because they never gets over losing her child. In a recent Washington Post article, children's book author, entrepreneur and mom Jacqueline Dooley detailed her experiences in parenting a dying child and eventually losing her daughter last month.

Dooley wrote how she concentrated on her children's first milestones when she was just a new mom. But despite celebrating the triumphs and rewards of motherhood, she admitted a few "parenting oversight" as she celebrated her children's "firsts" instead of dwelling on their "lasts."

Dooley's parenting style, however, changed when her daughter was diagnosed with a rare malignant tumor on her liver in August 2012. Even though she stopped waiting for milestones, a different kind of waiting began — waiting for her daughter to be well again.

In spite of the fact that the oncologist already told them about the deteriorating health condition of her daughter, Dooley admitted she was still not prepared for the inevitable reality — her daughter's looming death.

"In the end, I had small hopes - one more crane, one more laugh, one more teenage eye roll, Dooley wrote. "I collected the moments because they sustained me. They seemed to forestall the inevitable. But it wasn't enough."

Reflecting on Dooley's experiences make other parents realize to not only focus on their children's first milestones of their children but also to their last. Just like Dooley, Peta Murchison also shared what she learned about life when living with a dying child.

Murchison has a 7-year-old daughter named Mia, who was diagnosed with Batten disease. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Batten disease is a rare genetic neurodegenerative condition that affects one in 100,000 children. It has no cure and can be fatal.

Despite her daughter's condition, Murchison resisted to give into grief and avoided every parent's worst fear — to lose a child. Even though she had her meltdowns and tough days, she remained optimistic saying, "The reality is it's not all doom and gloom. I also have this beautiful, beautiful girl who I want to cherish and make the most of the days that we have together."

Instead of dreading Mia's inevitable death, Murchison is cherishing her time with her daughter. Her approach is not to give up but inspire and find hope amid her suffering and her feeling of hopelessness.

Murchison also admitted that she doesn't know how her life will turn out when Mia does die. She said there will be "a lot of grief" but the hope she has in having Mia in their lives, "the joy, the heartache and the love" will be "much deeper and carry them on" for the rest of their lives.

"Our seven-year-old has taught me more than anyone in my life," Murchison said. "How to be more patient, to not worry about the chaos and having everything perfect before you leap in and do things, and she's taught me that it's OK to be broken sometimes. My expectations have been so blown out of the water by what's happened that I roll with it a little bit more and I enjoy the time because I see it as precious. It's the most horrendous lesson to learn that life is short but I feel lucky to have this perspective where I will let a lot of things go and just be with my children."

Meanwhile, parents who have lost a child are reportedly at higher risk of dying after a child's death, just like what experts theorized in the case of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Based on research, losing a child can be too much for some parents, particularly mothers.

The extensive 2012 research discovered that moms in the United States had 133 percent higher risk of dying in the two years after their child's death, The Globe and Mail reported. Experts noted the pattern was irrespective of the marital status or education of mothers, or the cause of death and gender of a child.

Have you experienced losing a son or a daughter? If yes, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

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