Losing a Child

Over the past ten years I’ve written extensively about my daughter, her death and how my mental health broke down in the aftermath of tragedy. I’ve written about depression, anxiety, OCD and many other issues. I’ve written accounts of the accident that took her life, but I’ve never written about how it felt. I’ve always steered away from writing about what went through my mind and body in the immediate moments (and the subsequent years) following her death. I think it’s time, now.

When Amelia died it opened a void inside of me. A yawning chasm ruptured and sent shockwaves through me. My first thought was relief. I’d spent five intense days staring at her, waiting for her to either die or wake. I no longer needed to feel that pressure and it was a weight lifted. Of course, I felt horribly guilty because this small person who I’d cradled and carried through life for three years was now gone. But she wouldn’t be in pain, she wouldn’t be comatose in a vegetative state and I was thankful that I wouldn’t have to carry on watching her.

Once that feeling passed, the guilt spilled over. What if I’d made the wrong decision? What if she might have been one of those miracle children who overcomes the odds and percentages to make a full recovery… or even a partial one? It was as if someone had reached inside my chest and squeezed my heart to pulp. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. I’ve said before that I felt proud of her in the last moments, because she made the trip into death on her own – without her parents to guide her. I still feel that pride, but it’s a sick joke played on my family because it’s a pride that nobody wants. I was supposed to see her go to school and grow into a woman.

Above everything I feel anger and hatred and frustration. It’s an anger I’ve never previously felt. The sensation of wanting to smash everything into tiny pieces is a constant presence and it’s something that everyone thinks they understand, but they don’t. It’s rage, it’s fire, it’s an incandescent urge to destroy until all that’s left is me and my grief. It’s not like wanting to punch or kick, it’s a want to break things – material, spiritual and mental – down to atoms that can be split open and pulverise all of creation. The animosity that sits in my core is something I fear because it’s slowly destroying everything I love and hold dear.

It’s a shout in the dark, it’s a diatribe of expletives aimed at every God ever conceived by the human brain. It’s unjust, unfair and a pain that cuts so deep that it will never heal. The fury has, over the years, become a resentment towards those around me for being unable to reach inside me and remove the pain. I hate more than I ever have previously and I want nothing more than to forgive, forget and heal. I want to place blame so that I can aim my hatred of life towards them and spit in their face. I want a whirlpool to open beneath me and erase the very notion of my existence along with my body and soul.

I feel like it’s all unfair. She was supposed to grow old; to have children of her own, or become a lesbian, or walk on Mars. She was meant to exist. That one moment in the darkness of night that sparked her creation was meant to allow her to live whether it be in happiness or fear. And that was stolen from me.

I wish I could bottle the sense of fear I experience when I hear another parent call her name. The icy feeling that creeps down my spine when I hear her name uttered by anyone else but me makes me want to scream because that name only belongs in my mouth. I wish I could walk through life carrying a sign that bears my soul to the world and then destroy every person who would comment on it with that pathetic head tilt and register drop in their voice.

The worst of it is that it’s all so ridiculous. It’s ludicrous that I can feel this way or that I can hate the people I love because they can’t save me. I can’t help it. We are, as humans, reckless and unpredictable. I wish more than anything that I could look could look at my daughters and not see her face, which causes my heart to shatter. I wish I could think of my mother or my wife without a burning rage that consumes all other feelings just because they couldn’t take away that pain or that fateful decision.

I want to run away and bury myself in a hole or build a cabin in a glade that nobody could find; but I want to scream and have everyone run to me and hold me and love me. I want her back. I want her beside me again. I want to hear her voice whether she tells me she loves me “big much” or whether she’s crying from a nightmare. It’s a want that can never be sated.

I’ve searched years for something to fill the void inside me, in the desperate hope that as the wound heals I can begin to feel something different to all of this. It’s an emptiness that can never be filled. My life, since that day, has felt like a pencil drawing slowly being erased, only to leave behind a constant trace of what once was.

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