Sunday, August 12, 2012

Monday Mournings: The Death of Two Children

My name is Jennifer Forbes and I’m 53 mother of 5. I’m a transplanted New Yorker currently living in Virginia with Bill my husband of 31 years, we are empty-nesters. I'm committed to the community in which I live and am an avid volunteer. My two favorite and longest commitments were when the kids were young and I volunteered in their schools and then later working with The Daughters of Charity, an Order of Vincentian Sisters serving the poor in our community from our Parish Church Outreach Office. Now I am currently caring for my elderly mother.

DW: Who were the people that died?
JF:  Our youngest daughter Gretchen and our youngest son Eric were the ones who died.

DW:  How old were you at the time?
JF:  I was 47 when they died.

DW:  How old were they?
JF:  Gretchen was 30 and Eric was 23. Their deaths were sudden and the result of an accident.

DW:  Had you experienced any other deaths in your personal life before they died?
JF:  Yes I've experienced many deaths of loved ones starting at the age of 6. This included my grandparents, three aunts, two uncles and my father, various friends and neighbors; not to mention many pets.

DW:  Were people supportive of your grief or did they shy away when you were grieving?
JF:  We received tremendous support and understanding, most especially in the early days and months when we were particularly numb and suffering from shock. Family (with one exception) and friends were very sensitive to our needs. But I have to say it continues even to this day. It is so meaningful when people remember the children by sharing stories or photos they might have recently recollected or found.

DW:  Is there anything you wish you'd done differently with them?
JF:  No

DW:  Were they buried or cremated?
JF:  They were both cremated.

DW:  Did you learn anything about the grieving process that you'd like to share?
JF:  The first time I saw my regular doctor after the kids died he cried and I remember being so touched by his emotion. I had lost many close relatives but this grief was so heavy and I believe he could see that. Then he immediately tried to medicate me and I remember being annoyed, I wanted to feel everything I was feeling I felt like it was my only connection to the kids.

Speaking for myself, I believe that grief is a natural process best felt and experienced drug and alcohol free. So I declined his medication and found a good therapist instead. In our first meeting I learned why the professionals call grief work. And for me the deaths of my children was a constant whirlwind of emotion going from one stage to the other and back again, frequently getting stuck- first in anger then in depression then finally acceptance after a long 4 plus years.

And for our family; the death of Gretchen and Eric was a life changing event but it was not a people changing event. What I’ve learned is that despite moments of intense closeness and family peace due to shock and grief; in the end we’re all the same people. This tragedy didn’t change any of us to any great degree; there were no light bulb moments! People only change if they want to and like grief that takes work. We all still disagree like we used to, the kids still complain mostly about each other, and still to this day nobody ever takes responsibility for stinking up the room. Now sadly there’s just two less people in it. But we're all OK because not only did we survive but there's still love there.

DW:  Were any songs played at the memorial that were important to your children?
JF:  At the funeral we chose Catholic hymns such as You are Mine, Be Not Afraid and Here I am Lord.

Okay, readers, I've added two buttons at the bottom of the post and I would be most grateful if you clicked on one of them if you don't comment.  It's a way of acknowledging the person who is sharing their experience on my blog.  Thank you!


  1. Thank you, Jennifer , for telling us about the deaths of your children. I am so sorry for your family and your sadness. You are, however, so right on (from my perspective) when you say that grief needs to be felt - and removing drugs (legal or otherwise) and alcohol from the picture is one way of looking grief right in the face. That comment is particularly inspiring to me .
    And I never really thought about it but , again, I can appreciate your comment that death is a life changing event but not a people changing event -- we are who we are , yes? and life does go in - though in some changed form - What a wise woman you are. Thank you again for writing this piece.

    and , Pamela, you know I appreciate your blog -- thanks for doing it. The Monday morning posts are particularly thought provoking. Good start to the work week......

  2. PS - that's a pretty song - it brought back memories of a time when I found community in a Catholic church

  3. Jennifer; I am so sorry for the loss of your children; I can't imagine your grief and I can truly understand the stages of it and getting stuck in one particular stage; grief is hard work indeed. I have not grieved the loss of children, but I do remember the intense grief after my mom died six years back. I do commend you to avoid medication and embrance your grief and continually working through it with counseling. It is good to hear you have a good support system with family and friends too.


  4. Jennifer, thank you for sharing this. Your post is full of wisdom.

  5. ~~Jennifer.
    Beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring, powerful post. Thank you for sharing with us.
    I agree about feeling "Everything." After Kay's murder, I wanted all of the pain. I still do. It's what gets me up in the morning to change things.

    Mourning is born, but does not die. Do you agree?

    Sending you much love from MN. Xxx

  6. Jennifer knows that I love her
    I am not jealous of what she's gone though but if that happens to me, I hope to have as much grace.
    Jennifer's Friend, m.

  7. Thank you Pamela for allowing me to share my story today on Monday Mournings. You do such an amazing service by giving us all a safe place to discuss a most sensitive subject.

    And to those of you who commented; you were most gracious and kind, thank you. To those who visited today to read our interview, thanks so much for taking the time, its appreciated.

    1. No, thank you. Without people willing to share their experiences, this blog is nothing.

  8. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing this. Beautiful, thoughtful, insightful Like Mark says above, if it comes to me to grieve like that, may I do it with as much grace.

  9. Thank you, Jennifer. Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story Jen.

  11. Thank you Jennifer, for sharing...Blessings to you and your family.


Comments are welcome and appreciated!