Overcoming The Fear of Losing A Child
Time and life are fragile, but it’s so hard not to feel overwhelmed when the thought of losing a loved one enters our mind. For a parent, the fear of losing a child is a common thing and like anything it can get out of control. This article is meant to help anyone who might grapple with this fear, to the point where it causes overwhelming distress.
Where Does The Fear of Losing Your Child Young Come From?
Depending on what you believe, it is possible for the fear of losing a child young to come from some hangup in a past life of your own or your child’s. But with that supernatural possibility aside, the fear most definitely comes from your love for your child, your inherent parental protectiveness instinct, when the probability of harm coming to your child goes up, and when you learn of someone else’s tragic loss. And the hardest source of this particular fear comes from prior experience— I think how prone you are to the fear of losing a child is greatly influenced by a significant loss or losses in one’s own life, especially when that loss or those losses crippled your ability to deal with loss moving forward.
Here’s why the fear of losing a child popped up for me recently:
Who Was Eliza?
Eliza Adalynn Hudson Moore was a truly inspiring 2 year old who had been fighting a rare, very aggressive cancer since she was 10 months old (Diagnoses: RTK, ATRT, MRT, RTPS). Like millions of others, I followed along on Tiktok as her parents chronicled their journey.
Tiktok was very new back in the summer of 2019, and like any digital marketer would—I signed up for an account to check out what the buzz was all about with this new video streaming social app.
My business, Geoffresh (jēf’ FRESH), has been around since 2007; it was founded by my husband Geoffrey in college.
In the beginning of your Tiktok account creation you get shown videos that are really popular at the moment to help you discover channels that would appeal to you. One of the first videos that appeared in my stream of suggested videos was of Eliza. And as happens for some lucky few, videos of Eliza went viral quickly and amassed a great following. Over the course of the past 2 years we all became emotionally invested in she and her family.
I know what you’re thinking: voyeuristic much? Why were we all watching the TikToks her parents were posting? Well, how do you not care about another human being going through something? How do you not turn away? How do you not want to help in some way?
Sometimes the videos were heartbreaking, like those ASPCA fundraising commercials about animal cruelty with Sarah McLachlan for instance. But 90% of the videos that her parents Kate and Chance shared were fun, silly, relatable humorous moments from their day. And of course you fell in love with the little warrior Eliza, but what I especially liked was how her parents made the focus not about Eliza having cancer. Through her fight, Eliza’s sassy, adventurous, and absolutely endearing soul burned bright in every video; even the crushing ones showing the painful times. Seeing the resilience of this little girl inspired you to be better: to push yourself to focus the positive, to fight for yourself, to be more grateful, to be comfortable in your skin, so on and so forth. Eliza was a true America’s Sweetheart, there’s no denying. And kudos to her parents for be naturals in front of and behind the camera.
Some of you might disagree and see the Tiktoks of Eliza as exploititive, but let me ask you this: if your child was diagnosed with cancer, wouldn’t you try to raise a little extra money to help you pay for all the medical expenses?Her parents were chronicling their family’s journey on Tiktok to raise money for the medical bill expenses but also to bring awareness to the process of fighting cancer—for a child and for the parents. And I also think that making those short videos helped keep their spirits up too. There’s so much waiting involved with being in a hospital setting, etc. that I think like any of us with a smartphone, you’d kill time too–being silly like everyone else on social media, experimenting with filters, effects, and what not—in an attempt to lift the spirit of others while you’re raising your own. And I think living through this COVID-19 quarantine made all of us stir crazy, so we were all captive audiences trying to stay connected with people.
Lord knows that the healthcare system in general needs to be better, but for the newest members of society to have to go through something so harrowing really hits you hard. If nothing else, the Hudson-Moore Tiktoks shed a light on a problem that needs more attention: cancer, the American healthcare system, and mental health. And by jove I hope the videos make a huge wave of change happen in all three of those problem areas.
Being a really sensitive person, I wanted to help anyway I could just like everyone else from the beginning. So on Christmas 2019 my family and I donated to Eliza’s GoFundMe and shared about it on our social network accounts too. Afterall, words are cheap, and donating really makes a difference, so I try to do that as much as I can. But this time, I saw directly how even money couldn’t stop something like cancer. And damn it, I really thought she’d beat it…clearly I was not alone in believing that.
The News That Shook Tiktok
Two weeks ago, millions of Tiktok users and beyond were devastated at the news of Eliza Adalyn Hudson Moore’s cancer battle nearing its end. I wrote in my journal that day: “6/9/21: Eliza (girl w/cancer) is dying. I feel sad for her, her parents, and scared for myself that I won’t be able to live with myself if that happened to Eileah.” The news doubly weighed on my mind that day because I was having lunch with a mom friend, who is moving to another state, and she shared with me that her daughter Aadya is stuck in India with family—where COVID-19 deaths are high…Eliza, Aadya, and my daughter are all soo close in age that I couldn’t help but braid their destinies in a web of worry and what-ifs in my overly imaginative mind.
Aadya (Nov 2017) at higher risk of dying.
- currently in India (COVID-19 rates are high)
Eileah (Mar 2018) low risk of dying.
- Tinley Park, IL (COVID-19 rates are steadily decreasing)
Eliza Adalynn Hudson Moore (Aug 2018)
- Hilliard, OH (cancer fighter)
Then two weeks later the news of Eliza’s death on Father’s Day (of all days, what the f*$%? God?) broke. For many people I’m sure, the news felt like finding out a relative or close friend’s child had died . And then the intrusive fear of losing our child set in for me that night. That’s where the idea for this article came from.
So how in the world did I get that fear of losing my child off my back?
Don’t Ever Compare Yourself To Someone Else’s Situation
My family and so many others could have been Eliza and her family in these past 2.5 years, but focusing on what bad thing could happen makes you forget what you can control; what a great life you have; what fun things there are to look forward to; and what you and others could accomplish. And the simple solution to keep your focus on the eight things is to avoid comparison because comparison is a thief of joy.
Intrusive thoughts are sneaky by nature, and I find distracting myself works really well. It’s like that strategy you use with your child to keep them from doing something they shouldn’t do. How do you distract your child? You give them an activity to do that redirects their mind.
Distracting yourself is harder for adults, but what’s something you love to do? Maybe it’s something you do on your own like doodling, watching TV, knitting, shooting hoops. Whatever it is, get lost in it for a while. Something you can do with others like team sports is the most effective way to distract yourself away from a line of thinking. The more people you feel good being around the better you tend to feel; it’s the simple law of energy.
And sometimes fixing something or having something to work on is just as great a way to distract your mind as passtimes. Anything that stimulates the reward centers of your brain will train your brain to not let intrusive thoughts so easily take you for a ride.
Entertaining what-ifs can be fun, but worrying about a bad thing will not help prevent it from happening. So when you feel like you’re beening pushed up a wall by an intrusive thought, the first line of offense is to divert your attention.
Don’t Just “Sit With It”
For some, “sitting with it” without support can be re-traumatizing and even dangerous. I think the idea behind “sitting with it” is to ground and relax in your body so you can more easily deal with something that’s bothering you. But some of us were not taught how to create that “space” for ourselves to “sit with it”; and most of us weren’t. But avoiding our feelings will not heal our wounds either. And frankly, there’s more to healing than “sitting with it.”
Go slowly; pace yourself; honor your sensitivity; find healthy distractions if needed; and be kind enough to yourself to reach out for support if it’s too much to sit with it alone. There are hotlines, therapists, and hopefully family and friends who can help you out of the ditch of negative thoughts by talking it out. And I know that healthcare is expensive and a complete mess, but don’t deprive yourself if you need a professional.
Keep Information Consumption In Check
The act of having children is an exercise in hope at its purest, but too much information seeking to keep your children safe makes it very difficult to keep hope afloat. And what’s worse is that you are compromising the hopes of your child(ren) when you let your thoughts and emotion rule you. Worry can be contagious, so don’t teach it to your children if you can keep it at appropriate levels. I’ve been told by countless older moms that you never stop worrying about your child, but like any compulsion, you need to make a concerted effort to keep it in check. And in this information age, the best defense againt worry is limiting our own parental screen time so as to manage our worry muscle. The next best defense is probably the most important—and that is to always feed your brain with all the things for which you are grateful.
When you needlessly worry about what could happen you’re also wasting time you could be spending on doing fun things with your child in the now. All those what-ifs you’re collecting and preparing for by staying “in the know” are creating deficits in your brain bank. So, to get out of that debt of thoughts you need to stop spending your time on the things that drain you. Don’t ignore what’s happening in the real world, but set boundaries for yourself so the negativity doesn’t swallow you.
It’s hard to break habits, especially nervous habits—but you can guide yourself out of those habits and practice new ones that help you better cope with fears and anxieties. The fear of losing your child is valid, but guard that valuable time spent with your child because once you lose time, then regret sets in and the cycle of self-flagellation keeps going and going until you feel you’ve lost yourself. Oh yeah, and then there’s insanity, but on a serious note—don’t lose sight of what’s good and real in your life. Your child will thank you for teaching them when they become a parent.
Rest in peace Eliza. Strength to you, Kate and Chance.
For Further Reading
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