Grieving for my daughter - Sarah’s story

05 Dec 2023
Sarah and Laura smile close into the camera.

When Sarah’s daughter Laura died suddenly at the age of just 25 she found people began to act differently around her. Through Sue Ryder’s online bereavement services she discovered support and comfort and the opportunity to connect with other parents who were grieving for adult children.

Laura was my eldest daughter. I know she would want me to be brave and tell people about her. A few years ago, Laura contracted sepsis and lost the use of her left leg so her mobility was quite limited. It was tough but she just kept going and always had a smile on her face. She was a happy person. She loved time and clocks so she was never late!

We are a military family and we had just moved into our forever home. I had become Laura’s full-time carer. Everyone was coming out of Covid and getting used to living again. Then, all of a sudden, like so many people, we had that dreadful day. Our whole world was turned upside down. Laura had a cardiac arrest and we couldn’t get her back.

When you lose a mum or a dad it’s terrible but it’s the natural progression of things. To lose your child - I never expected anything like what we went through to happen.

As the mother of an adult child I found there wasn’t a lot of support out there. You get through those first few weeks. You have the funeral and everyone is around and then, within a month or so, you are on your own. My husband had gone back to work and my youngest daughter, who has been amazing, went back to university, and I was left on my own thinking what am I going to do now?

Coping with my grief and finding the right support for me

I started to realise that I needed some support. I joined the Sue Ryder Online Bereavement Community and it helped to read other people’s stories and connect with people who had lost adult children. You don’t feel so on your own because you can see that other people are experiencing the same feelings as you. It makes you realise you’re not going completely crazy.

I thought maybe I wanted to speak to somebody so that’s when I contacted Sue Ryder’s Online Counselling Service. Luckily, they said they could give me some sessions.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re carrying other people’s grief too and you don’t get a chance to speak about how you’re feeling.

I often felt I couldn’t get my words out but then I met my online counsellor. I think I just cried in the first session, but she listened and over the weeks I sort of started looking forward to the next session.

Sometimes it can feel like people behave differently around you when you’re grieving and your relationships change so we spoke about that. We talked about Laura and the things she loved and we talked about how I was going to move forward. It was nice to be able to speak without other people telling me how they felt and what they wanted. Or telling me that I would feel better in time.

The last session was a bit sad. I felt a bit lost again because my counsellor was someone I could speak to about things, but I had been able to unburden myself of some of the grief which is something I couldn’t do with anyone else.

I still think back to those [counselling] sessions and I know how much I needed them.

And I still go on the Online Community because there will be people who are starting on that same journey, where you just don’t know what to think or who to turn to. I thought, well actually I’ve been there and I understand so I might be able to help someone in the way that it helped me.

That journey through losing someone is so hard. It’s probably around the six-month mark that people seem to think you should be back up and running. It would be nice if there was more recognition for parents and families who have lost adult children. Even though my child was 25, I’m still her mum. I still lost my daughter. I’ve realised it’s ok to be sad on Laura’s birthday or on the anniversary or any other day.

I signed up to receive the text messages from Sue Ryder’s Grief Coach service which come once or twice a week. Even though you would think a text message isn’t much, to receive them was quite a boost. It just made me think. I even still have the messages on my phone and it helps me to go back and look at them.

Grief is like glitter…

Thankfully I did go back to work and I think the counselling helped me with that. Without work and that structure it would be a lot harder.

I have also started painting which I never would have thought I could do. It’s one of those things that takes you away from all the feelings, even if it’s just for half an hour, where you don’t have to think about the situation. You can be your own self again rather than a person who is grieving. Because there are days when you feel so terrible but you just have to go with it and then the next day you might feel ok again.

I read that grief is like glitter – you think you have cleared it all up but it just sticks around and gets everywhere and all of a sudden there it is again.

When I look back over the last two years, I just think how does anybody do it? And the thing is, there is no right or wrong way to grieve especially in those early weeks and months. There’s no rule book and it doesn’t matter how much you talk about it – you could speak to another mother who has had a completely different experience. It’s about taking the bits you can relate to from other people’s experiences.

With Sue Ryder, and the Online Community especially – when you are crying and you don’t want to see anyone, or it’s 2am and anywhere else would be shut – you can go on there and you can belong to something that will give you that strength. For me it’s been huge what Sue Ryder has done. In the middle of the night when you can’t sleep, someone – a complete stranger - will be there to say it’s ok, I’ve been there.

Sue Ryder has played a huge part in how I have tried to navigate and understand my grief. There are still going to be some tough days to come but it’s nice to be able to think of Laura with a smile on my face now.

If, like Sarah has done, you’re interested in sharing your experience of grief and bereavement with us, please get in touch via our online stories form. We’d love to hear from you.

This article is also posted on Grief Guide, our place for expert advice, information and support. 

A black woman sits on a double bed next to a younger black male whilst they both look thoughtfully at a laptop. The son leans his head against his mother's.

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