My fear of death since I had kids
I wrote this post a few months ago and something made me share it today. I flew to the US without my kids a few weeks ago and this irrational fear of something happening to me came up again. My daughter decided the other day in London that she had enough of walking and just sat down. The rest of us didn’t notice and continued walking. When we noticed and turned around and she wasn’t there my heart stopped. Horrible thoughts, scenarios and things I could do rushed into my brain in seconds. I think it was only a minute until I spotted her pink sweater on the park bench but it felt like a very long minute.
Why do we loose this easy going, light-heartednes once we have kids? Why do we see danger around every corner? I guess it comes as a package with becoming a mom….
I am posting this today, to show you that you are not alone. I have fears all the time, I fear death all the time, I cry about things that don’t make sense - I am a mom just like you.
On Easter Sunday this year a series of suicide bomb attacks happened in Sri Lanka in churches and at luxury hotels. I am not sure when I will post this, but as I am writing this, it happened just a few days ago and I still have tears in my eyes right now.. Although I don’t want to go into any political direction with this blog - I am not a political person at all - as there are just too many pointless bombings, suicide attacks and gun violence around the world and every one breaks my heart, this one triggered the fear of death again within me.
I am a mom and this is one of the reasons, this one is particularly close to home for me. The reason is not only that Sri Lanka is not too far away and that there are so many Sri Lankans living in Dubai, it is a popular holiday destination for people living in Dubai, not so long I was there on a short trip myself, we have many of our friends who went there just before the attacks but mainly because I am a mom and I am thinking of all the parents who have lost their children and it just breaks my heart. In particular one family who was there on holiday and has lost three of their four children. In one second this big family has halved. How can anyone, a mother, father or the surviving sibling even live on after this? I was holding it together until I read that story, that’s when I couldn’t anymore and gave in. I don’t know the family but I think because they also have four kids, this hit me right in the middle of my heart.
It made me aware again of my simmering fear that something might happen to my kids. Or that something might happen to me and I won’t be able to be there for my kids anymore.
I don’t think I have feared or even thought about death much before I had kids. Yes, I have experienced death in my family and with family friends and it was sometimes tragic and of course always very sad but like with so many other things, death became a whole new meaning since I had kids. Suddenly the fear that something could happen to them is there all the time. Of course it is not prominently there all the time, it is simmering somewhere, it is there somewhere inside my body, my feelings, my heart.
How the fear shows up
It comes out in different forms. For everyone it shows up differently. For me it happens a lot when I hear horrible news where children were involved. We are so lucky that most of the time we live our lives and the days come and go and everything is fine. And then we get totally shaken by some horrendous news and you hear so many people say that they hug their kids tighter at bedtime. I did the same last night. I hugged my kids tighter, I stayed a little longer than usual with them, I listened, I kissed more and really felt their little hands hugging me back. And I was thinking how can anyone want any harm to little kids? How can parents who lose their kids even survive?
It can also be news closer to home. I remember when I was young, a boy from my sister’s school class strangled himself by mistake while playing alone in his bedroom. He was a single child. And I remember it so clearly because my mum was so particularly shaken by it.
Also as we live in a hot country there are so many swimming pools and unfortunately I still hear of too many kids drowning in a pool.
But it does not have to be these big bad news. This total irrational fear of something happening came out when my son went to his first playdate alone after school with another parent in the car. Or when he went on his first school trip with the school bus, when he started cycling alone to friends and activities, when I lose a child out of my sight for a while at a bigger event or a playground or worse by the pool, when they had a particular bad fall or the kids are getting more confident in the sea with bigger waves.
Every morning when I say my good bye’s to my kids in school, I give them a kiss and I pray that when I pick them up they are still the same, healthy happy kids. I can’t help myself but sometimes think of those horrible shootings that have occurred at schools in America and just be grateful for every day that I can hug my kids when they come home after school.
My mom said many times that she was always so relieved and happy when we were all sound asleep in our beds, healthy and at home. I was smiling at her and didn’t really think much of it, now I totally understand.
A more rational fear of death hits me when my daughter runs across the street without looking, when my son fell down the stairs with his head first, when my second son had a piece of plastic stuck in his throat, when both my sons fell into the pool without being able to swim. There are so many things that have happened to us already where nothing happened and we are so lucky as these instances could have been so much worse. Why are we so lucky and others are not?
Another form of fear of death is that something could happen to me. I had a big health scare twice since I had kids and that really shook me both times. It also always comes to me when I travel alone. I am so scared of flying alone without my kids just in case something happens to me and they have to grow up without their mom. I know this fear does not make sense. I know statistics show it’s much more dangerous to drive on Sheikh Zayed Road (a big highway with many accidents in Dubai). And I don’t (usually) have that fear when I am driving anywhere.
A friend of mine once asked me why I am so scared of that. Whether this is actually about me and not about my kids? Because overall that fear is a selfish fear.
And yes, I also don’t want to leave this planet any time soon ;-), I still have so many things to do. But the thought of my kids growing up without their mother, makes me sick and can eat me up from the inside - if I let it happen. It gets a little better the older they get, I remember that it was a lot worse when my two boys were very young. However I feel that my kids need their mom. Actually they need both, their mom and dad. But they do need warmth and cuddles and just this mother love that is different from a dad somehow.
I know that I am not alone with this thought.
I have often talked to my oldest friends about this and we all said we are so afraid that something will happen to us. That we won’t be able to be there for the kids.
When you google this topic there are actually many blog posts and threats of women having the same feelings, often worse, a lot revolving around their own health and not being able to be there for their kids. And I don’t really have help or an answer for this, other than getting professional help once it seems too overwhelming - but I do want to tell you: I know what it feels like.
That is why I really truly try and enjoy every minute with my kids. I am grateful for the little things. I am grateful for every day we have together. I am grateful for every smile from my kids. I am grateful for every kiss, every hug. I am there to tug them into bed as often as I can. I am trying to intentionally be there and enjoy every moment I spend with my kids. That is why I love family holidays so much. We are together, we are creating great memories for all of us. That’s why I love sleeping all six of us together in one tent in the desert so much ;-)
And I have to admit I had to learn this. I had to learn to be intentionally grateful, to intentionally enjoy the little things instead of letting daily hectic life run everything.
I stay away from the news a lot to be honest or at least I am trying to consume them with intention. News can seem constantly tragic and obviously they can drag us all down. I heard once that watching the news for just 2 minutes in the morning can give the whole day a negative feeling. And there are so many studies done that news consumption drags us down emotionally, it brings about more worries and anxiety.
At the same time I also don’t want to shut down emotionally. It makes me human to feel, to cry. So sometimes I let those tears run. Sometimes I do listen to the news, sometimes I let myself imagine what those poor families of the victims must feel in pointless shootings or wars.
I heard recently from Jordan Bach that our tears are the water for the soil in our body, our mind to have us grow. (or similar, but this is how I took it on) This is so true. This is how I will end.
And: You are not alone, I know how you feel. I feel the same.