Courage Letting a Daughter Grow Up After Brother’s Death

Susan - Signal Mountain, Tennessee
Entered on October 29, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: death, family

I believe it takes a tremendous amount of strength to let your child live a normal life after the death of her sibling.

We were a family of four. My husband & I, and the kids, Derek, 20 and Samantha, 9. We had two cats and a dog and a horse. Derek was a sophomore at UTC and Sam attended Nolan Elementary.

Derek had recently moved into an apartment. It was difficult when he moved out but we understood he wanted a place of his own. He shared an apartment with roommates and very much enjoyed being on his own. We were delighted with his visits and welcomed his presence.

Our lives were shattered when Derek died in a car accident weeks after his 20th birthday. This is every parent’s nightmare, to lose a child. Our life as we knew it was over. The days that followed were filled with much sorrow, anger, and what would be my long time companion, grief.

I began to question every decision I had ever made. Had I done something or made a decision that led to his death? How could this have been avoided? I had done everything right or at least I thought so before the accident. Despite my best efforts to raise my kids safely, one had died an untimely and unnatural death.

Irrational thoughts haunted me and I was tortured by the thought of losing Sam. I would wake up shaking from nightmares of Sam vanishing off cliffs. The fear of something happening to her was overwhelming. This fear was creeping into my daytime as well as nighttime thoughts.

Our family was grief stricken and broken. Sam was just nine at the time of Derek’s accident. Days and weeks following Derek’s funeral, looking into her eyes I saw the tremendous amount of sadness she carried. I wanted so much, more than anything, for her to be happy and know what it is like to grow up in a house filled with love and happiness.

I made Sam a promise. Somehow we would get through this. I didn’t know how but I told her that we would be okay. We would always love her and be here for her.

As hard as it was and still is, I let Sam go out, hang out with friends, go to sleepovers and actually let her out of my sight. She goes on vacation with friends and family, and school trips to Disney World. In the future we are considering a European cruise!

Sam will be fifteen on her next birthday. Oh my God! Talk about the hardest part is yet to come. She has started driving a little and that absolutely makes me crazy but I put on a brave face. As difficult as it will be, I know she will be driving and her friends will be driving and I will not be there to watch over her.

We do not keep Sam in a bubble and she does not live a sheltered life. She is allowed to live a normal life that a teenager lives. It is not easy. My heart pounds when I hear sirens and I will always live with a certain amount of fear and anxiety. Fear that something might happen… Sometimes while she is out, I will randomly call her and say, “I thought you called!” She is very smart and understands that “Mom” has to do this.

I look at Sam now, a beautiful, happy outgoing young woman. I made a promise to Sam five years ago that we would be okay. We are okay.