Written by Clara Hinton
If a mother is asked to describe what it feels like to lose a child, she will undoubtedly use the word empty. Empty. Void of all feelings. A mother’s arms feel empty. Her heart feels like there is a big space that needs to be filled. Her days that were so full of activities now are quiet and without meaning. Child loss is an empty feeling comparable to nothing else.
A mother experiences two types of emptiness when a child dies. There is the physical emptiness—the void left behind when a mother can no longer cradle her child in her arms. There is an empty feeling when a mother longs to touch her child’s hair, hug her child, and hold the child’s hand while walking through the park. There is that gnawing feeling that one gets when you miss somebody and long to just be in his or her presence.
This is a very physical emptiness being described. A mother has very physical ties with her child almost from the time of conception. She felt a strong physical bond to the child in the sense that she and the child were one for several months. Following the birth of a child, a mother’s physical bond to the child continues. So, it is only natural for a mother to describe herself as empty when her child is no longer with her. When a child dies, in a very real sense, part of a mother dies, too. The feeling a mother has is often described as having a hole right in the very center of the heart.
A mother also experiences an emotional emptiness that is different from anybody else’s type of feeling of loss. Mothers talk to their babies during pregnancy. They dream constantly about things such as hearing their baby’s first sound, seeing the child’s first haircut, going to the first day of school together, and that all-important occasion of losing the very first tooth. Mothers even daydream about the child’s wedding day while the baby is still tucked snugly in the womb. The emotional ties are strong well before the child is born!
It takes a very long time for the empty, hole in the heart feeling to begin to leave. What helps? At first, when the pain is very raw, it feels like life is so empty you will never want to move on. However, little by little, you will begin to gain a new appreciation for the little blessings in life. A sunrise may seem very spectacular to you!
One of the most helpful things a mother can do to aid emotional healing from child loss is to take a daily walk. You will probably have to force yourself to do this for the first several weeks following the death of your child, but soon you will look forward to this time. Walking gets your body moving and produces endorphins, the body’s natural way of helping to ward off depression. Walking aids circulation, increases oxygen intake, and help you to relieve stress, as well as provides a natural sleeping aid. Walking is nature’s built in mood enhancer. It sounds almost too good to be true, but walking truly is an aid in this journey we call grief.
When will the empty feeling go away? Nobody can tell you that because grief is different for every person. However, taking a 30-minute daily walk is a positive first step in getting you on the road to grief recovery. It is now a proven medical fact—walking does help! By walking just 30 minutes every day, you will be assured that before many weeks, you will begin to see the world in a new and different light. Walking will enable you grief time—time to think, cry, sort out your feelings, and to begin thinking about life once again. You will never forget that your child has died, but the pain will become bearable over time, allowing you to enjoy life again.