Death of a Child and Parental Heart Failure from Stressful Grief

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The intense grief for a mother who has had to endure the passing of her child or children is one of the hardest roads to walk in human existence. I have been told over and over again; the extent to which we grieve correlates to the extent we have loved. If this is true, my love has been deep, wide, and right to the soul. As mothers, we work on protecting our children every day of our lives, and when they leave our world it feels like the biggest betrayal of life ever. I was told once by an army lieutenant whose mother lost her older child that there is nothing more sad and daunting than the cry of a grieving mother. I have to agree. I feel sad for those who have had to hear me grieve the loss of my two children. It is not for the weak, that’s for sure.

Unfortunately, the grieving process we read about in books does not often talk about physical issues the grief of a child can bring, such as heart failure. It makes sense to me because it is the greatest heartache I think I have ever felt in my life. According to the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD, a grieving parent has at least a 35% higher risk of developing heart failure than non-grieving parents due to the stress of the event. This statistic in and of itself shows the care that must be given to a grieving mother, especially during the first year or so after the passing of her child. The grief will never fully go away but will settle into a part of everyday existence.

Good medical care, a lot of loving support, and caring counselors are what truly help during grief cycles. Also, meditative methods, time alone to process the loss and those who understand are also helpful. One of the hardest parts of grief is feeling so misunderstood only second to the loss itself. Life goes on without us as mothers while our hearts truly break. I have always believed our emotional and spiritual state will eventually be spoken to us through our physical bodies as they reflect our state of being. It only goes to show the breaking of our emotional hearts, the feeling of life betrayal, and the hardship of not having our loved one can eventually break our physical hearts to the point of heart failure. Our hearts speak out, “Life has failed me so now I am failing.”

It’s a difficult cross to bear as life seems to dish out events that feel very unfair. Can we, as grieving mothers, ever overcome the trauma? Of course, we can. Hopefully, we can overcome trauma before irreversible heart failure happens from the intensity of loss and grief of the loved one we have carried all of our lives. We will never stop carrying them, that is for sure.

Loving you from here,

Dr. Rev. Jenine Marie Howry

JenineMarie.com

**Wei D, Li J, Janszky I, Chen H, Fang F, Ljung R, László KD. Death of a child and the risk of heart failure: a population-based cohort study from Denmark and Sweden. Eur J Heart Fail. 2022 Jan;24(1):181-189. doi: 10.1002/ejhf.2372. Epub 2021 Nov 16. PMID: 34693593.

All Along God So Loved…

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Something I read for school last night set me on the edge of the world, dangling my feet. One chapter of one book spoke so loud I cried. It’s too scary to say what it was about because it gave me such a feeling of failure. I thought of all of the choices I should have made but didn’t. I thought of the ones I did make that altered my life forever. It’s funny, out of all of the things I have done in life, it never seemed to be the right choice; not for me, and certainly not for anyone else. My approval rating went out the window last night. I felt lost in a world of unfeeling people whom I felt suddenly never cared.

I thought of all that I gave out and how it never was good enough, or just not enough. I ultimately believe we reap what we sow. I know for sure I have sown good things, and I know I have also sown not such good things. Either way, for that one moment in time, I felt like I have been reaping all of the hard parts and none of what I genuinely have desired in life.

As I sat there last night with my “I’m not good enough” mentality, I could not wrap my head around how I have been strong enough to get through the garbage I have had to wade through in life. Believe me, garbage stinks. I was never allowed to say it was wrong, that it stank, or that I felt unhappy about it. It was just my garbage, and I had to deal with it with no consolation. As I watched people go in and out of my life, I wondered if any one of them ever truly cared. Last night one by one, each of them came to my mind. Each time someone appeared I shook my head. I thought of how hard I tried, but it was never ever enough. I was always WRONG. My feelings were wrong, my heart was wrong, my life was just all wrong.

Of course, I cried. I cried until I slept. I wondered if anyone else ever felt like this, that their life was just wrong. At this very moment, it still feels the same. My heart aches, but one thing has changed. As I struggled to journal this morning, I could not get past just one line. I read all of my affirmations, said my prayers, and did my usual morning rituals. I could not write one thing to encourage myself or anyone else.

As I closed my eyes, I heard that deep voice within tell me, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” I wonder who that was? Of course, I recognize the voice and the statement. There is still a well that is deep inside of me, inside of us all, that inhabits the Creator of all things. God, the one who has loved with an everlasting love, lives there, resides there, has taken up residence there. I could feel the sun come out and the Son come out. This morning, I realized the whole world could pass away, but one thing remains, God is always the strength of my heart. God is always the One who has loved with an everlasting love, and God so loved that He gave…

“From out of these ashes, this phoenix will still rise…” – Octavia Blake (paraphrased)

Loving you from here,

Dr. Rev. Jenine Marie Howry, PhD

JenineMarie.com

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