My brother died 2 weeks after his birthday in 2016. He was 32. The doctors had already told my mom that it was going to happen, that they had arrived too late for his bone marrow transplant and that he would not survive the operation even if they tried. So she was given the perceived amount of time he had left to live and it was within that time, she had to prepare for his passing.
But can a mother/parent ever truly prepare for the loss of a child? Sickle Cell related or not, I believe that this is a virtual impossibility.
My mom at least had time to prepare, she had time to try to come to grips with what was about to take place and for the intense sorrow/sadness that was to follow. But what about the parents who have /had no time to prepare or had prior warning of what was to come? If you have never lost a child, you very likely have no idea what it feels like and yes I lost a brother who was my bestie but I have no clue what my mom felt (and still feels) from losing her son. So coming from experience and seeing how my parents have been coping, here's what I can tell you about how to prepare for the loss of a child with sickle cell:
1. There will be a numbness you experience that shortly follows after losing a child. This is normal but its important not to try to rush this feeling away. For my mom, the numbness lingered for a while and we understood that it was her body's way of protecting her from overwhelming emotions especially considering the fact that her son died in front of her eyes. So let this run its course for how ever long it takes you to start to reconnect to things in life that bring you some level of happiness.
2. Don't avoid talking about your child as soon as it gets more comfortable for you to do so. My mom talks about my brother often, fondly remembering their interactions at different times and imagining how he would react to certain things happening now. The grief will always still be there but never wanting to talk about him/her is like saying he/she never existed.
3. Honor your child's memory in whatever ways you can. I know that for my mom, she has kept several of my brother's pictures, jewelry and other mementos to feel close to him. I even wear a few of his favorite bracelets myself when I want to feel close to him too, honor him on his birthday every year and as I've said before, he was a major reason why I started this blog. This is a necessary part of the healing process.
4. Do not neglect your faith at a time like this. Finding comfort in the beliefs of your faith to aid in your grief recovery is also helpful even if it may be difficult for some. Sometimes, losing your child can affect your faith; it didn't really for my mom maybe because as I said she had time to prepare but for me, it certainly did. I was mad at God for a while but with time, I was able to return to Him and realized that this was a perfectly normal reaction. Faith is what helped my mom through in those moments when she admitted to not wanting to go on living after loosing my brother.
5. Don't give yourself a time limit for how long you are meant to grieve especially if your child has died suddenly and unexpectedly. Grieving is a personal process and so allow yourself explore whatever coping mechanisms will help you process through this loss.
Parents are simply not meant to outlive their children and losing an adult child like my brother was is like also losing a friend because he was that to my mom. They were incredibly close and shared a bond very different from the one she has with her daughters. If you are currently grieving the loss of a child, please accept my condolences, I know how you feel and can tell you that even though the pain will never go away, it gets just a little bit easier every day to live with.
Always Love 💘