Skip to main content

Grieving is full of dichotomies.

Grieving is unchartered territory, though generations have navigated the sea before us.

Grieving is as unique to an individual as his DNA, yet there are universal truths.

Grieving is holding on and letting go.

Grieving is living with pain while yearning for joy.

Grieving is unthinkable loss and immeasurable gratitude.

Grieving is denial…and acceptance. Or is it?

Denial is one of those universal truths of loss. There is not one person who does not speak of surreality of losing a child. There isn’t a person who hasn’t awoken for that brief second to think their child is still in their bed sleeping and it was all a bad dream. There isn’t a person whose brain hasn’t conjured the fantasy that their child is just at a sleep over or on a trip and will come through the door any minute.

Acceptance. Is acceptance of child loss a universal truth? Do we ever truly accept that our children are gone forever, dead, never to return, never to do all the things they should have done? Perhaps some do, but the word implies that it’s okay. Indeed Merriam-Webster defines acceptance as

1: the quality or state of being accepted or acceptable
2: the act of accepting something or someone :the fact of being accepted :approval

Acceptable?! Approval!?


Denial is a trick our brains play to protect us. But it is cruel defiance of what is real. Reality always trumps denial in the end. Invariably, we wake up every day and they aren’t in their beds! As long as we wait and listen, they don’t ever walk through that door! We cook meals for one less. We take pictures with one less. We take trips with one less.  Always and everything. One. Less.

For unpredictable measures of time, bereaved parents linger in limbo. We circumvent acceptance and perhaps find solace in scant moments of denial. But like an addict crashing from a high, the sobering reality inevitably and harshly descends.

So, if and when our brains no longer play that evil trick, does that mean we have finally accepted the loss? I personally don’t think so. The sentence, “I am in a state of acceptance that my son died a cruel death from a disease nobody has bothered to cure, while we watched helplessly” just doesn’t jive. It’s not the right word. There is no word. So I made up a new one.

1. the state of understanding that your permanent reality is full of tormenting contradiction. The state of living an amalgam of deception, denial, and acceptance. The state of it never ever being “okay”.

We miss you Chase. It’s real, but it’s never okay.

–This entry was inspired by two (of the many) amazing women I have met on this journey. Thank you to Stacey and Krissy for not accepting, not being apologetic about it, and helping me navigate the dichotomies of the incomparable grief of losing a child. To Jacob, TJ, and Chase: WE LOVE YOU.


  • Ellise Owen says:

    Wow, just wow. I have never thought about it like that, yet every word is the exact state of my continual emotional rollercoaster ride. My unique shaped ‘Warren’ hole that I have in my life will never be filled, it will never be okay and it will never be right.
    5 years on and I have sort of learned to smile again, but I am a different person now, so my smile is different too.
    Thank you, I will keep this and have a feeling a will read it often.

    • julie says:

      I am so so sorry for your loss. I am honored that anything I write could be of comfort to someone in our shoes. xo

  • Dot Appleman says:

    I agree with the author. I still tear up when I hear Morning Has Broken over the bustle and frantic activity of the grocery store and Amazing Grace. The shock of waking and finding the thing I wanted most in this world didn’t happen. It’s now been nearly 35 years and I still can’t really come to grips with the reality.

    Your essay was really good.

  • Nirosha says:

    1. the state of understanding that your permanent reality is full of tormenting contradiction. The state of living an amalgam of deception, denial, and acceptance. The state of it never ever being “okay”.

    Prefect word and description. I’m just past 10 months of my 6 year old daughter passing away from complications post bone marrow transplant after a 18month battle with leukemia. Thank you for sharing this post. I now have a word to describe how it is.

  • Dara says:

    Julie, you hit it on the nose with every word. Thank you for being so open and raw about your feelings and brining awareness. It’s a constant battle facing the new reality and yes, also pretending that my son will return from a trip or sleepover. Xoxo

  • Penny says:

    So very true. I was asked by an older lady, after her husband had passed away, if I had “come to terms” (accepted?) with my little girl’s passing! I immediately felt angry with that question. It’s not the way life is supposed to go, I am supposed to watch her grow up and become a young woman. I’m supposed to guide her on the right path through life. How could I ever “come to terms” (accept) that I won’t get to do all those things? Thank you for your writing. It puts into words what I sometimes can’t.

    • julie says:

      People say the most stupid things sometimes. No death is the same of a child there is just no comparison.

  • Lynda Ashton says:

    Just gone past the one year mark and I refuse to accept my son is not coming home. I know what happened, he was murdered…knifed in the jugular. I can say it but its not real. My beautiful boy would never leave me we are so very close. My mind is fighting my body…my mind is telling me everything is fine and keeping me sane but my body is saying the pain has to come out somewhere. I have constant headaches, bad pains in different parts of my body, short term memory loss, shakes etc. But I can cope as long as I feel my precious son with me.

    • julie says:

      Heartbroken for you. Please take care of yourself. I know that’s easier said than done but even a little bit helps.

  • Donna says:

    Julie, you are blessed with words to help you grieve and to help others to grieve and to help others understand a fraction of what you’re actually feeling. I still cannot imagine the amount of pain you feel every day, but I am in awe of the way you are still reaching out to others – to help those who grieve and those who try to understand.

  • Michelle says:

    Julie thank you for letting us know how you are doing.
    I’ve never lost a child but had an aunt who lost four children seperate accidents.
    My uncle had a massive heart attack after they lost the second child and died. I remember my aunt talking to me telling me she lived my uncle very much . She said she missed him so.
    She went on to say she hoped it did not sound terrable for her to say but losing him could not compare to the lose of her children. I understood.
    I asked her how could she go on. She said I have other children. I have to go on. She said everyday is a struggle.
    I pray I never have to go through what you , my aunt and other parents have had to go through.
    Please know Julie we are thinking of you and your family.
    Let us know how you all are doing time to time.

  • Marion says:

    Thank you Julie! DECEPTENCE is a perfect word! I lost my adult daughter (34) a little over a year ago. I’m not sure why people think it should be easier to accept as she was an adult. Still she was my best friend! Your words spoke so true. I know the reality yet I still wait for the phone call, the visit, the smiles. Its a constant battle of the soul. Friends and family just don’t understand and I try to remind myself they will never get it, and I would NEVER want them too. But its so painful when they look at you as if to say “Why are you still grieving, hasn’t enough time lapse that your sorrow shouldn’t be so great” I forgive them for not understanding that for me, I feel her last breath everyday!!!

  • Sheila McJilton says:

    There will always be a hole in your heart that is shaped like Chase. I have not been through such a horrible loss, but I know you have walked through a dark valley of death and grief, and this grief process is full of ups and downs. Not long ago, I was looking for some information in the St. Philip’s register of baptisms, and found Chase’s name from the day he was baptized. I thought of you all with love. “Sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism, you are marked as Christ’s own forever.” Indeed. God bless you all in this journey of grief.