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Having children…and thinking about death

Having children…and thinking about death

Me and my girl

I’ll start with an honesty call.

This has been my most challenging blog ever to write. So far it’s taken me about 3 weeks….mostly 3 weeks of ignoring it. Writing it a bit at a time…then deleting and starting over.  I had the idea that I could shelve it for now and write something else.

I should know better.

When a blog wants to be written the little critter sits at the front of my brain stopping all the others from getting past.  So I either write this guy…or I don’t write anything.

So here goes…

When I was pregnant I wrote a blog about being pregnant and thinking about death.  So it’s only natural that now I follow up that blog with this one….having children and thinking about death.  While what I have to say about it is similar, it was a crapload tougher to write.

This is really something most people try to avoid at all costs: thinking about their kids dying.

I get it.  I have the most beautiful little 3 1/2 month old girl currently sleep-feeding on me while I type one-handed.  Holy crap do I get it.  The thought of her dying squeezes on my heart in a way very new to me.

As a mama now, images of the Syrian baby washed up on the beach affect me in a way they didn’t before.

I read a story about fleeing refugees where a little baby who wouldn’t stop crying is dumped over the side of the boat to stop it drawing attention. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

I see…and feel… these in a whole new way because I see them and I think about my daughter.  I think about what it might be like for those mothers.  Stories Ive heard over the years about deaths of children, abuse and neglect of children…these now come back to me and I imagine them in a whole new…and incredibly uncomfortable…way

Parents, I get why you would avert your eyes and thoughts from those photos and stories.  I get why you wouldn’t go there.  At least not consciously.

It can feel so much easier to just avoid thinking those thoughts.  Hence my delay with this blog.

But I forced myself to go there. I challenged myself to entertain those thoughts….to contemplate my daughter’s death.


Because I’m some morbid, death-obsessed pessimistic masochist who expects the worst to happen and wants to feel really really bad just for the hell of it?


I do it because I know that death is part of nature and of life, that it has it’s place and it’s purpose and it’s beauty always, and that it is only feared and hated by those who do not understand it.  I do it mostly because I know there is so much to be gained by facing death….and nothing at all to be gained from denying it and avoiding the topic.  And I know that the refusal to think about death is a fear of death and that program running in the background affects your life.  There is wisdom in acknowledging your fears, facing them, naming them, looking them in the eye, seeing what they really are.

Here is what I gain.  When I have think about what it would be like if my daughter died it changes things for me….

It makes me focus every day, even just briefly, on how important today is.

It means I ask myself the question every day “what do I want Kaia to feel and experience today?”

It means I make sure every day that she knows her mama loves her.

And it means that I remember that the only real measure of whether I had a good, successful, productive day is whether I made my baby girl smile.

Thinking about her death brings me smack-bang into the present…to be here and now with her and for her. It drowns out the background noise and endless worries and mind-chatter. Not permanently, sometimes just for a few moments.  And that makes it very worth doing.  It brings me here-now.  It reminds me not to take a single day for granted because, lacking a reliable crystal ball, I really have no idea what life has in store for us.

The same goes for honestly contemplating my own death.  It’s taken a little while – but I’ve made my will, chosen awesome guardians for her, and updated my life insurance policy, in case I die while she’s still young.  The reason most people don’t do this is because they don’t want to think about it.  And then, if they do die, nothing has been planned, discussed, prepared.  The thought of leaving my daughter without having made these plans and no-one knowing quite what to do is also a really gut-wrenching thought.

And now I get to say something I’ve never really been able to before. At least not very loud.

If you’ve read me before you know that I believe that all grief can be healed – completely, totally permanently.  But you have to really, really want it and be prepared to commit to the challenging work it takes to get there – the truth is that most people don’t and won’t. And I am very very fortunate to get to meet and work with some of the people who do and will!  Healing isn’t passive, it won’t just happen, and ‘time’ sure as heck won’t deliver it.  Majority of people still don’t believe that this kind of healing is possible…but sometimes people will allow that ‘sure, so maybe you can heal from a parent dying….and maybe just maybe you could heal from a partner dying…but never from the death of a child’.

I’ve never been too vocal around my thoughts around this because, frankly, nobody gives a crap about your opinions about having kids if you don’t have any kids.  Which is kinda fair enough.

But now I have a child.  I know what it is to carry a baby in my body.  I know what it is to birth a baby into this world.  And I know what it is to love a child.

And YES I do believe it is possible to heal from the death of a child.

If my daughter died (I had to fight the really strong superstitious urge to use the useless euphemism ‘if anything happened to her’ instead of the actual d-word. Ah the conditioning is so strong!)  I would do whatever it took to heal when I was ready to take that journey.  I would commit to the steps it takes to heal for as long as it took.

I would do it out of love for myself.

Mostly I would do it out of love for her.  I would ensure that she was remembered for a wonderful little life, rather than just a ‘tragic ending’ and ‘unlived potential’.  (Because no-one should be remembered for things they didn’t do, a life they didn’t live, an imagined-by-others life that ultimately had nothing to do with them.)

I would heal so I could honour her, think about her, feel her, love her…all without pain

So you know I’m going to challenge you to do the same right?

If you’ve found yourself reading it then maybe there is a reason for it. Maybe there is something for you to gain here too.

It isn’t about becoming death-obsessed and afraid to take your family out of the house.  It’s about being honest about all the possibilities life may bring you…and allowing the very real concept of death to make your life juicier, more beautiful, more loving and more now.  It’s about using your knowledge of death to allow you to see what is really important to you today.

Try it gently….but do try it.