I’ll Rise Up, In Spite of the Ache (My Story of Coping with the Death of a Child)
Fourteen years is a long time to miss someone. It can seem like a long time and yet short when you consider a lifetime. The hurt is less after fourteen years, but still there. Next year it will be as many years without Trace as we had with him.
Why Wasn’t I Warned?
Trace was fifteen and full of life. He loved to skateboard, draw funny cartoon pictures, snowboard, and hang out with friends. He had a passion for all those things and he did them well. Oh, and girls. He was one that had always liked girls. Ever since he was in elementary school, there was a particular girl he liked and as a sophomore in high school, it was no different.
On a beautiful fall day in October, Trace set out with his friend, Daniel. They were on two of our four-wheelers to go see Carly, a girl from school who lived in one of the neighboring towns. When he told me he was going, he didn’t say where, and I remember replying to him to not be gone long because he needed to be back for a meeting that night. Why didn’t I sense to tell him not to go? To have him stay home because he would be cutting it close to getting back in time? But there was no premonition to not let him go, so I said yes.
As he and Daniel headed off down our road, I was busy making dinner before the meeting that night and also for Sunday when the rest of the family would be coming for family dinner. Trace never made it back that day from his ride. For some unknown reason, he went off the road not far from our home and crashed into a ditch with the four wheeler landing on top of him.
Trace’s friend came back to our house saying he couldn’t find Trace. It was so strange. How could Trace have disappeared? I took off in the car with our son, Casey, all the way down our road into the next town, but saw no sign of Trace. Kevin, Trace’s father, and his older brother, Chris, went out searching for him after we returned. They found him. He had passed away.
There was a reason Casey and I hadn’t found him. A blessing in disguise.
A Mother’s Grief
How does anyone handle such devastating news? There are no words. There is shock, anger, incredible grief and sorrow, and lots and lots of questions. Why couldn’t I have been warned? What could I have done to stop it from happening? Why didn’t we have a miracle? Miracles happen everyday. But with all the questions, some will never be answered. Some will say it was an act of God–meant to happen. And really, aren’t all things in His hands? I knew that. If it wasn’t Trace’s time to go, the Lord could have stepped in and saved him. Although, it wasn’t meant to be. For the next two years–it was literally two years–I had to live with all the above reactions of hearing such devastating news and unanswered questions. Were they really unanswered?
The Boulder in My Pocket
Here we are fourteen years later. I look at grief in the following way. At first you have this huge boulder you are trying to carry around. It is heavy and very hard. As years pass, the boulder gets smaller and smaller until you have a small stone that you carry in your pocket the rest of your life. It is always there but not so heavy that you can’t carry it.
Honestly, I don’t think I could have survived without something to lean on and I leaned on my faith. Everything I had learned growing up about life after death meant all the more to me. I needed to know if it was true. I had the hope, but I was lacking the faith. Without going into the details, I received an answer to my prayer that it was true. Trace was okay. I would be with him again someday, and I felt this peace come to me. I understood that I could put all my sorrows on my Savior. He had already gone through the suffering for me. I didn’t need to suffer any more. It was like a light bulb moment. I had never clearly understood, but at that moment the Savior’s atonement became very clear to me.
You Can Run the Other Way, or Face Your Fears
One last thing; one day I went out for a run, something that is very therapeutic for me. I would have many self talks on these runs and would usually cry at some point. My favorite run had always been on our road which happens to pass the site where we lost Trace. I could run the other way, a metaphor in a true sense. Then I thought, you can run the other way or face your fears. This was my street. I was going to live here a long time. Was I always going to avoid going this way?
It was kind of like getting back on the horse after getting bucked off. It was very sore and painful. On this one particular day, an impression came to me. I could cry everyday, all day, and basically be a basket case; or I could at least try to make something of my life. Crying all day is exhausting. Don’t get me wrong–mourning is important and you need to grieve. There is no time limit on how long, but there comes a point where you must get a grip.
Get Outside of Yourself, Serve Others, Find Something Good to Do
Can you stand to be sad the rest of your life? I still had a son at home who needed me and who was grieving in his own way. I had other children, a husband, and family who needed me. So I told myself, get a good cry in every day and then pick yourself up and do something. Get outside of yourself, serve others, find something good to do everyday. It helped. I wanted to give up and could have given up living that day easily, but I had a lot of life still to live. I’m grateful for a wonderful support system of family and friends. I feel like I’m truly a survivor.