Coping With The Death Of A Child - Sharing Some Thoughts…

Steven Katsineris writes about coping with the loss of his daughter. Steven Katsineris is a Melbourne based writer. He is a frequent contributor to TPQ.

I’d been thinking about as a father struggling to cope with the loss of my lovely daughter and how I’ve managed to survive the past years since Chione’s death (16/10/92-14/10/1998). There are a number of things that have made these difficult and blurry years easier in grappling with the grief and pain of this overwhelming loss. I thought it might be useful to others in the same situation if I shared my thoughts on what helped me. 

The main things that stand out for me are:

Knowing that our surviving children, Sian, Andreas and Lara are struggling to deal with their sister’s death and that they would be worse off without me here, even though I often feel helpless when they are sad or angry, that they do really need me and my being here is a help. And the presence of these beautiful, caring, sensitive children of ours helps me immensely to cope with the heartache of our loss.

I also felt that to be able to go on, I not only needed to tackle bereavement by reading and knowing about grief and death, etc, but I also needed to try to understand more than that, to try to discover if there is life after this life, to know where Chione had gone, if she is alright without me and if we would be together again. So I began to read all the books I could find on life after death as well as near death experiences. I found the books of Cherie Sutherland, PhD, especially Beloved Visitors (where parents tell of after death visits from their children) and Children of the Light (about the near death experiences of children) of most help to me.

Some months after Chione’s death, she started to contact me in various ways, (this began six months after on the day of death) in dreams, things happening around the house and yard and elsewhere with noises, lights, things being moved, especially on significant dates, birthdays and anniversaries. And she sent me messages of things that I should do, or of events that later happened. While there is still so much I don’t understand, the little I know has been a great reassurance and support. I am now sure that there is life after death.

The love, assistance, comfort and patience of a few good family and friends who have stuck by us in our grief and listened, advised and sometimes just hugged, especially my wife Laurie, our wonderful friends Karen, Kristen (our doctor) and Carolyn, my sisters Teena and Julie, the people at TCF’s, SIDS among others for their practical daily support.

Lara, our daughter born after Chione, whose happy and affectionate nature reminds me so much of Chione in so many ways; this can at times, make me sad, but mostly is a great comfort and help. Also, that Chione wanted us to have another child and felt it would be a girl and had even chosen the name Lara (meaning cheerful).

The value of being in nature and in the garden, especially initially, as I cried almost endlessly for more than a year and needed to be left alone a lot. Working in the garden finishing the things Chione, the other children and I started together or that she wanted done. Tasks like the garden around the cubby house, a large fish pond with flowers planted all around and the nature strip being planted in trees and shrubs. Other positive projects that I felt Chione would want done, like the completion of a pathway near where Chione was killed, etc, these kept me focused.

Writing, which I used to enjoy before Chione’s death, but it became a very important therapy; while engaged in writing I could escape reality and go somewhere else in my mind. Although I found after her death I couldn’t write much in the way of articles or short stories at first, in fact for a long time I couldn’t write at all, but that just jotting down my feelings, frustrations, etc on pieces of paper or in a diary was a big help. In those early years I did manage to write some poems for Chione. Later I was calm enough to finish some writings about her and our lives. There are also stories Chione liked me to tell her and she wanted me to write them down for others to read. These stories and some poems for Chione are of particular importance for me to finally finish. These writings and other pieces on other topics are fulfilling to do and are essential to my wellbeing and keeping me sane. 

Chione and I were incredibly close and I love and miss her very much. I still think of her constantly and find each day very hard without her. I wake each morning and brace myself to find the will to get through the day. I still very much take each day at a time; life is busy, the children are challenging at times, but they also keep me going as they are my greatest joy. I do not feel I have healed, but survived Chione’s death. I don’t think that I will ever forget or get over her passing or know contentment again. I just try to carry on in the world and deal as best I can with the feelings of sadness, frustration and distress. After such deep loss it is often a matter of slowly picking up the pieces of your life, finding solace in positive things and focusing on creative activities to do that are meditative and beneficial to your and others lives and little by little going on with life. Amid our own sorrow and despite all the appalling evil in the world, there is still much goodness, wonder and delights, even in the simplest of things, we just have to be patient, take small steps each day and persevere. Different things will help different people, so seek out what things give you the solace you need to carry on. Dealing with grief is a protracted, unhurried process, you will falter, but just hang on and eventually you will find your way and see some light, just don’t give up hope. 
The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

Steven Katsineris. (Father of Chione). August 2015.