What do I say to a parent who has lost a child

The loss of a child tends to make others very uncomfortable. “What do I say”  “How do I act” “Should I bring it up”. So instead of being there for the family who has just been turned upside down and sideways, sometimes you say nothing at all.. From my own experience I would have to say this:  I need to talk about my son, I need to remember him and I need you to remember him. I want to talk about how funny he was, how loving he was. When I’m doing something that TJ would enjoy I want to say it out loud. Please don’t stay away because YOU feel uncomfortable. I remember after TJ passed and how at first the phone was ringing off the hook, then as time passed, friends began to drop off, the phone calls became less and less and after a couple months people move on and forget that you are still sinking deeper and deeper into grief.. NO it does NOT get better after a while.. The grief remains. So as a message to anyone who cares and loves someone who has lost a child.. Just be there, talk about their loss, ask them how they are doing, mention their child and your memories of them. Our children may be gone but they are not forgotten, they will never be forgotten. Speaking for myself and I think most parents, its OK. Don’t avoid us out of fear or your own discomfort. Just continue to be a friend.. I am blessed because the majority of my friends understand this.. They talk about him and they support me and my family in our efforts to carry on my son’s legacy and his memory and I am so grateful for that. But I know from personal connections with other families that they feel very alone in their grief.  Just be there, thats all most of us need. Knowing that you care and you remember is such a precious gift.

How do we deal with the loss of a child?

I was recently asked by a friend, “How are you able to still be so involved with brain cancer and children with brain cancer”? “Isn’t it like you are reliving the pain over and over?”

I didn’t even have to think about the answer to that. I can honestly say that if I was not able to do something to try to end this devastating disease, I don’t think I could get up in the morning. The truth is, this is what I NEED to do. Does it break my heart every time we lose another child to cancer? Without a doubt YES. Many children as well as adults have passed in the years since we lost our sweet son. Each and everyone of these losses are felt deep within my heart and my soul. So yes it is very hard to get the news that another child has been taken from their loving families. One more child that will not live long enough to realize their dreams. One more family that will be forever broken. Parents left behind who feel that their reason for living is gone. I am one of those parents, I know the pain and the loss. With that said, how can I NOT do something. How can I get up every day and NOT try to make a difference. How can I NOT carry on the fighting spirit of my son TJ. I don’t think I could look myself in the mirror if I didn’t do something.. We can all make a difference. Small contributions add up into big contributions. Whether it is by offering support, attending fundraisers or writing a check, it all adds up and it all makes a difference.

I’ve always had big dreams for my kids and still do. Its just that now, for TJ, its up to me to make those dreams happen in his memory.

Childhood Cancer: TJ’s Diagnosis of Glioblastoma Brain Tumor

Cancer is more than a word, or a diagnosis.. Cancer is a life altering disease. It rips apart the very core of the family. It devastates lives and it takes our loved ones piece by piece. In our family’s case, brain cancer was the culprit. More specifically GBM (Glioblastoma).. Our beautiful son TJ, an active and gifted athlete, who lived for sports, became a fragile, terminally ill young man in a matter of a few years. There is no way to describe the levels of pain and emotional turmoil that envelops an entire family.


The fact that this happened to our child, takes that level of pain into a whole other realm.

First comes confusion. “Someone must have made a mistake”, “do the tests again, you’re wrong” “My child does NOT have brain cancer”, “Find another Doctor who knows what he’s talking about”

Then comes denial. “My son will NOT die”, “How dare you say that to me”, “If you can’t cure him then we will find someone who can”

Then comes the fear. “Oh God no, please don’t take my son”, “This can’t be real”, “Please let me wake up from this nightmare”

Finally comes the realization which is where we go into lifesaving mode. Find the best doctors, do our research. And a weekly, if not daily schedule of doctors and tests and hospitals. Tests that seem almost barbaric and medieval. Tests and procedures that we are told are our only options in trying to save our son. If there was a treatment, we most likely had it.

Lastly, for us, came the loss of our child. After a nearly 5 year battle with this beast, we lost our beloved TJ. To say he was brave would be an understatement. He was a warrior, never showing fear in the face of the monster. Never complaining about what must have been painful and at the very least, terrifying. TJ went through things that would have brought a strong man to his knees, but not TJ. He was 14 years old when first diagnosed and he took everything that was thrown at him without so much as a wimper.

Now we are left with the anger and bitterness for the cards that have been dealt. It is not easy to find your way out of the abyss. It can take years, or even a lifetime to really move past the anger and the “why me”. We are all trying. We lost TJ on Sept 20, 2007 and let me tell you, it does not get easier. I still miss him, I still ache for him, I still think about what he would be doing now if he were allowed to live the life he was supposed to have. Maybe I’d have grandchildren now. You see, cancer does not just take the life of the person who has the disease.. It robs every person who knew and loved them as well.

It would be safe to say we are a work in progress.  Still trying to figure out the why, to which there is not an answer that will probably ever satisfy me.  NO parent should ever have to suffer the loss of a child.. it is a very specific kind of pain that we live with. As if a physical piece of our body has been removed but it is not visible to the outside world. To the rest of the world we appear no different that anyone else. But inside we are amputees. This huge part of us is gone and we still feel the ghost of what had once been there. A dull constant ache that just becomes part of day to day life. An ache and longing that will never go away.

I hope that in doing this blog, I can open it up to other parents, families, friends who have experienced the loss of a loved one to brain cancer or childhood cancer. I want this to be a place where we can share feelings, information and our thoughts. I feel that we all sympathize and feel bad for friends and families who have lost a loved one, (especially a child) and only those who have been there REALLY and TRUELY know that unique kind of pain.. A pain that you can’t compare to any other kind of pain. It is a “club” in a way, but a club that nobody would ever want to be a member of.

So let me just finish for now with this last statement. I welcome your comments, condolences, feelings, personal stories and sharing. Whether you are dealing with your own loss or just want to comment on my blogs from time to time, please feel free to do so. I hope this will be a place of sharing and of comfort.

TJ’s Dream Team-HEADing for a Cure is about raising money for brain cancer research but its more than that. TJ’s Dream Team is about sharing, comforting and in some way being able to help others who are going through it and don’t know where to turn. If we can all come together in this cause we can fight it in huge numbers. Lets get the word out and if we can help save another family from going through this pain, then our work will have been worth it..I fight for my son TJ. Although he is not physically here I will continue to fight for him till I take my last breath. I hope you will join me in this fight because it is far from over.

Diane Peacock