Stumbling Forward

When you face the unexpected loss of your child, the grief can be more than you can bear. I found Tommy in his bed at home … dead. He was only 20 years old. You stumble forward in complete shock, not knowing what to do next. How to live life with such unbearable pain.

The following is a list of some of the ways I coped when all I really wanted to do was shrivel up and die.

Tommy and Cindy standing in front of a waterfall. Tommy is wearing a navy hat red around the front brim and a script W on it. He's wearing a red t-shirt and a backpack with black straps. Cindy is wearing a tan hat, glasses and a purple shirt

  • I got the word out that Tommy had died on Facebook because his close friends used social media. I made phone calls to friends, coaches, relatives. I reached out to all those I thought would care. It felt really important to me to let everyone know and by doing that, we received tremendous support that we really needed.
  • Accept help! You are in such shock and misery you have no idea what is going on and how you are going to survive each minute, let alone each day. We have wonderful friends who took charge and provided emotional, physical and monetary support. Let them — it helps everyone get through the tragedy together.

Katie wearing a sleeveless dress and carrying a maroon bag. She has her arms around Tommy. Tommy has his right arm around Katie. He's wearing a black graduation gown and a black mortarboard. They are standing under a white trellis archway

  • Each of us (my daughter, husband and myself) focused on one aspect. I was the message person. Katie, our 22 year old daughter, worked on photos and photo boards. My husband Steve worked on a video tribute. It gave each of us an outlet and a focus to get through the first days.
  • Don’t hide your feelings. Now is not the time to be strong. Such tremendous pain needs a way out.
  • Respond to messages. It was important to me to acknowledge all those who contacted me to share stories about Tommy and to let us know they cared. I felt and accepted the love and prayers. It kept me busy and helped me survive the shock.
  • Get away from it all. It is so hard to be surrounded by so much pain and mental agony. Nature helps. We were always outdoors people, and when offered a chance to go camping, we took it, and we felt Tommy was with us.

Katie wearing a black hat with a white penguin on it, Steve behind her wearing a white cap, Cindy wearing glasses and a blue jacket, Tommy on the right with his arm around Cindy wearing a green jacket and a navy baseball cap with a red C on it

  • Immediately after Tommy died, I had such pain inside me. It needed an outlet. I was usually the first one to wake up. I would take a cup of coffee and sit outside in the garden and cry, from silent tears streaming down my cheeks to heartrending sobs. Then I was ready to face whatever we had to do that day.
  • Talk about your loved one. Talking to friends and family about Tommy kept him present. We would always start out crying but end up laughing because Tommy was such a character and had so many humorous moments!

Tommy sitting in front of a long table with a white table cloth on it and what looks like silent auction prizes. He's wearing khaki pants and a short sleeve navy colored shirt

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