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Living with Losing your child July 9, 2009

Posted by johnbohlinger in Dealing with Grief after Losing your child..
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My wife, Megan, took this photo in Rome.  Mary seems to be saying "Look what they did to my beautiful boy."

My wife, Megan, took this photo in Rome. Mary seems to be saying "Look what they did to my beautiful boy."

Living with Losing

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  JOHN 3:16

I’ve seen that passage thousands of times in my life but after losing my son, August Christopher, when he was 19, the words took on a very different meaning;  now the passage means to me that losing a child is the greatest loss anyone can suffer, whether human or God.

When I held my newborn child for the first time, I laughed, cried,  counted his perfect little ten fingers and ten toes,  and knew that the world would never be the same, it was so much richer, better, more beautiful with this little guy in it. Looking at  his Raphael cherub face, I imagine all the wonderful things he would do, but in this list of infinite possibilities I never imagined he would die of a heroin overdose his freshman year in college.  He has been gone two years now and I still can’t make sense of it.

An endless stream of books, articles and blogs flood self-help web-sights and book sections chronicling the journey toward recovery after losing a child.  I’ve read a lot of them after losing August ; most of what I read from well intentioned authors leaves me angry or depressed.   They seems to suggested that although we may go through horrific events in our lives,  when we make it through the grief, we will  find a deeper peace, understanding and a more meaningful life.   If  we members of this  horrific club of parents who have lost their children were to be perfectly honest,  we would unanimously agree that we don’t care about having lives of peace, understanding, compassion and meaning,  we just want our kids back.  I think most of us would agree that life with out our children at times seems pointless and the grief can be soul crushing at times;  our quest in our new lives is survival more than a journey to a better place.

They say talking helps,  but to whom do you talk?  Health care professionals don’t really know what we are feelings.  They can talk about the process of recovery and medicate us but everything they say sounds a bit hollow and in-genuine.  Friends don’t understand, and after awhile don’t you feel guilty about being a burden to them because we can’t move on when they think we should?  You only understand if you are here.

My hope is that we can anonymously post our inner feelings, uncensored without fear of offending.  Maybe we will collectively improve through the catharsis of unburdening the load of caustic thoughts we carry around with us and perhaps somebody has some advice or encouragement that can help us rebuild our lives.

In the spirit of honesty and full disclosure let me tell you up front that I am a mess much of the time and am not qualified to advise or help anybody.  At times I’ve been suicidal, violent,  nearly catatonic but still managed to seem fairly normal to those that know me.     I’m writing this out of desperation and hope that maybe together we can all improve in honor of life which held so much beauty and meaning.

If you are a parent who has lost a child, and you have something to share,  please do.





1. maria estrella - July 9, 2009

it take courage to talk like you do. It hurts to see your pain.

2. Charlie - July 15, 2009

You are never a burden to those who love you the most.

3. charlotte - September 17, 2009

Our son also died of a heroin overdose, and although he had problems with alcohol for several years, I never suspected heroin use. I found him and tried CPR but it was too late. Seeing a psychic channeler of some sort occurs to me because I feel the need to know more and be able to talk to him again. Pretending he isn’t dead works briefly, off and on.

johnbohlinger - September 17, 2009

I’m so sorry Charlotte. I feel that same need to talk to my son again. It’s like he had just reached a new chapter in his life then somebody ripped out the remaining two hundred pages. I know there was a happy ending in there, like the happy beginning, we just never got to it. I need to tell him how much l love him and that I know he loves me too, even if he didn’t show it as often. At times it really does feel like I’m going crazy thinking about this.
I’m am deeply saddened by your loss, Charlotte.

4. pamom - October 20, 2009

I’m sorry for your pain, I lost my daughter-in-law 2 weeks ago to a senseless accident, The grief I feel is so deep and at the same time I feel like it is a dream, she couldn’t possibly be gone, she was to alive for that to be possible. I find my self crying over the simplest things, my son was injured in the accident as well, and it is like his heart is ripped out, They were only married a year, no children of there own yet, so to her mom and me, it is like we have lost so much more than her…we lost our future, the new babies we all were looking forward to, all of it is hard…does it ever get better?

5. Lisa - July 12, 2010

I lost my daughter Julie on June 2 she was 23 years old. I feel as if I am going insane. I know she is in a better place. She comes to me alot to reassure me, but that doesnt stop the pain of missing her. I just can not figure out how I am supposed to continue on without ever hearing her laugh, seeing her smile or feeling her arms around me again.

johnbohlinger - July 13, 2010

I’m sorry Lisa. You’ll never stop missing her. If depression gets too bad and you can not sleep, think about seeing a DR.. Medication can help dampen the feelings for awhile until you can slowly begin to process them. It takes a long time. It’s been three years with out my son, and life is now surprisingly good, but I do miss him everyday and at times still find myself battling depression.

God bless you.


6. An Older Woman - January 18, 2011

I’ve read so many of these posts. They are omnipresent in the blogosphere. But can anyone who has not lost a child possibly imagine, just imagine, what we parents have endured, continue to endure, and will always endure?

I am not religious, and as time goes by, I often see that religion doesn’t help any more than the drugs. Counseling was a waste of time. Compassionate Friends did more to depress me than anything else I tried. I took the drugs for a year, then stopped and started exercising. It’s the only thing that’s worked. I can’t cry and run at the same time. Well, yes I can, but for some reason I don’t. Art and humor get me through the day. Creativity is my salvation. I can no longer work, but I can be of use, so I volunteer.

I don’t have any answers for anyone other than myself. But I know that when I reached out for help, it came more from strangers than from friends and family. Strangers who had my same experience. They, and only they could say to me in a way I believed, this will someday be over and someday I will stop wanting to die. They were right. I found my niche. I found joy. I found a renewed love for my husband. It will be five years in October. I am probably going to live. But will I ever be over it. No. No parent ever will. But time does, I promise you, heal all wounds. I wish you all the best this world can bring now. You deserve it. You and I, and many, many others, have paid the highest price for the privilege of just being here. Always remember you are not alone. Believe that your pain will diminish over time, and someday you will cry because you are happy about something.

Renee Lantz - February 6, 2011

I can only say that I only hope that I live long enough to see the drugs that exist today vanish and stop destroying peoples lives. I lost my son December 2007 by what they say was herion intoxication not overdose becasue he didn’t take enough to kill him but he had an enlarged heart from drug use prior to his rehab Rehab what a joke they give these kids 30 days and send that back with a lot of false hopes. Yeah if your rich you could afford a sober living house for awhile but most people aren’t so the unlucky ones get to come home and believe that they can make it and our whole lives change everything was so wonderful I had my son back…my funny,loving,good natured son DJ but in one instance one knock on the dealers door and it was over He was handed a $10.00 hit of herion and he died instantly alone in his truck and wasn’t found for 7 hours. The police in Baltimore don’t do anything to the dealers Hell I watched them deal it while looking for my son and police ride by Where will it all end how many more have to die before something is done. Drs had out pain medicine like candy getting the kids started then when they can’t afford that habit anymore at $20-50.00 a pill they turn to the cheapest herion $10.00. I can only hope they burn in hell for selling these drugs without any concern for the outcome.

7. john - February 21, 2011

I lost my baby son – he would have been six today. For a long time all happiness left and it was extremely difficult to feel positive about anything. Raising money for charity through sponsored running was a great step in the short term. We were then lucky enough to have another son. While there will always be the deepest sadness for my lost son, we have had to move on, through the positives and love for and from our families. We are much stronger now and can accept feeling happy without guilt, but will always miss our boy. Please if you read this and are going through terrible grief from loss, realise that you will some day again feel better and it is what your loved ones would wish for.

8. Kate G. - December 25, 2011

I don’t know if I’m the best candidate for a post or not, but reading this rang within me.

I went to elementary school with August. After Julia Green, I remember seeing him at church with you and his mother. I was so shy when I was in middle school that I never came up to say hello to him. Seems silly now. I was shocked and horrified when I heard that he was gone. You never expect something like that to happen to someone you were a child with.

What I didn’t realize was how much harder death hits when it’s closer to home.

In March of 2010, my father dropped dead of a stress-induced heart attack at the age of 54, and it flipped my universe upside-down. Every moment since that one has been a wreck of trying to make sense of it. Your words about feeling guilty about being a burden to people and then losing that guilt in the great whirlpool of the poetic injustice of it all is overwhelming. I am tired of everyone I know expecting me to be over the death of the person that, for the first 22 years of my life, was the most important figure in my world. Why do people just expect someone to “get over” 20 years in a few months? A year? A couple of years? Everything, every experience, every word, every song, every poem, every face, contains that person in one way or another. I’ve spent the last year traveling, and I can safely say that this “trace” of my father is to be found everywhere. I can only assume that it’s the same for others.

My loss is the opposite of yours: that of a child losing their father. But as I read this post, I was struck by the similarities in emotion and expression. The last few years of my father’s life were a struggle of stress and and strain and financial instability as he tried to support my mother and my 4 little sisters, and I feel that he was robbed of the beautiful time he could have had. I look at my little sisters and feel angry that they have to grow up without a father. I enter the world on my own for the first time and feel completely lost when, every day, I want to ask him for advice or guidance in every little things. I have a trillion questions I never got to ask, and I just don’t understand why.

Maybe this doesn’t even apply to all of this. I’m not even sure why I wrote it. Perhaps I’ve just needed to say this since and I have no one to say it to any more. I’ve been pondering death a lot lately, and for some reason, I’ve thought a lot about August. I don’t really know why. So I got on Google and found this. I felt compelled to respond.

Thank you for sharing. You feel less crazy when you see other people feeling the same sorts of things.

9. Yvonne - June 15, 2012

I los my month old son to SIDS in 2011.the questions people asked drove me nuts.the ones i hated most were”how did he die?” and “were you not caring for him”.religion played a fifty fifty role coz one of my pastors refused to bury him coz i wasnt married.ironically two other pastors from very different churches came to my aid.it was quite trying.i was always digging his grave to find him in my dreams until one day i dreamt that i had taken him from his grave and i was telling another pastor that im not sending him back in there.shock on me 2 mnths later the doc says u are pregnant with twins.you may not believe in god.but trust me when you ache,he aches with you.he will restore u.the sting loses power over time.ill pray for you all.

10. Jennifer de Wit - July 18, 2012

“They seem to suggested that although we may go through horrific events in our lives, when we make it through the grief, we will find a deeper peace, understanding and a more meaningful life. If we members of this horrific club of parents who have lost their children were to be perfectly honest, we would unanimously agree that we don’t care about having lives of peace, understanding, compassion and meaning, we just want our kids back. I think most of us would agree that life with out our children at times seems pointless and the grief can be soul crushing at times; our quest in our new lives is survival more than a journey to a better place.”

EXACTLY!! Every second, every breath I take is painful. I miss my son more than my heart can bear. I cannot believe that he is gone and that he will never get the chance to reach for his dreams. He was robbed of his life as we were robbed of our lives with him. The girl he was with decided not to seek medical help despite the fact that he was desperately in trouble. She threw away his life to protect herself from getting caught with drugs. It’s so unfair that the legal system punishes people for minor thefts, but stealing a life is permissible (especially if the death is due to a drug overdose).

johnbohlinger - July 18, 2012

I’m sorry for your loss Jennifer. God bless you.

Lynn - July 20, 2012

I am not sure exactly what your situation is but I have a feeling it is very much like mine. I am sorry for your loss. I wish people would have stepped up before my son died instead of only thinking of themselves. The girl my son was with only cared about one thing and it was not my son for sure.
I am sorry for your loss. For me, I try not to hold onto the anger because that only makes everything worse.

11. http://tinyurl.com/skidlacy43812 - February 6, 2013

Whatever truly stimulated u to compose “Living with Losing your child
August”? I reallycertainly loved it! Many thanks

12. chantelle - September 5, 2013

baby noah died 3 months ago. i have no words. just streaming hot tears.

johnbohlinger - September 5, 2013

I’m sorry for your loss Chantelle. Be good to yourself. God bless you.

13. schalladams - October 8, 2013

Thanks for sharing John. I am another musician who lost a beautiful son to heroin.You have written so much of what I am experiencing. I search for a connection to the world that will give me the passion and desire to stay here. When I think of leaving, my very next thought is that I could never do this to my husband. When I think of living life to the fullest I know there will always be something missing. A smile is painful. It has been just a little over a year. I miss him so much. Again, thanks for writing and telling it like it really is.

johnbohlinger - October 8, 2013

Schall, it gets better. Life is beautiful when you see past the pain. God bless you.


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