Struggling with the Death of a Child

I want to preface this with, “I’m not crazy”. Sometimes I think, wow, if anyone listens to my answers to their questions, they probably think I am crazy. But if you know me, you know I’m a straight shooter. I tell it like it is. I have had days, months, and YEARS to chew on every single aspect of our story and struggling with the death of our child.

We are 8 years out from Cutter’s Angel Day. He would be 10 years old and going in to the 4th grade now. We are still married, and our residual struggles are still there so many days. Oddly, the loss of Cutter has not contributed to our challenges, but kept us strengthened in those times where we feel our marriage may not make it. My mother lives next door now, she has cared for our following 2 children since they were born. They are completely spoiled, loved, and cared for by her today. 

Losing Cutter

Cutter, age 1

On April 6, 2013, I was leaving my night nursing shift, I got to my car about 7:10 am and called my mom before leaving the parking garage to go home. I called to see how Cutter was doing, he was always an early riser. We are talking 3:30-5:30 kiddo. The phone on the other end answered, all I heard was my mother screaming her address, but it was not to me.

I realized obviously something very wrong had happened, I started screaming & screaming, but she wasn’t hearing me. I then overheard my older brother saying Cutter’s name, breathing heavy, and doing CPR. We later learned that Cutter had made his way to my mom’s pond in her large back yard when he was found.

I wasn’t getting anywhere on the phone. I was about 45 minutes away so, I began driving toward the hospital where I was sure they would take him. I called my husband who was about 5 hours away that day for work. I then called all 3 of my best friends. I then called my children’s pastor of our church.

When I arrived at the hospital, I just walked in through the ambulance entrance and starting asking for help. They said no one had called in they were coming, but they quickly started helping me. I remember knowing his exact weight, height, as we had just went to the doctor for his annual the week prior. His 2nd birthday was April 7th, the following day. 

The ambulance finally called everything in, they had intended on bringing him there. As he arrived, both of my kids pastor and main pastor had arrived to be with me. I remember 1 of them staying with me, as I had known her the longest, before I even had Cutter.

They quickly began working on Cutter, to save his life. I remember being very very calm, I think anyways. I remember looking at Ashlie and saying I don’t even know what to do. She said, just say JESUS, over & over. I was 7.5 months pregnant, in my white nursing scrubs, knelt down in that hallway just saying the name of Jesus.

I remember paramedics and police in the hallway as well. I wanted to hear if they got him back, therefore I don’t remember hearing anything else. I do remember my mother trying to come to me, I couldn’t look at her and waved her arm away from my shoulder. That’s a hard moment to think back on.

They worked on my sweet boy for quite a while, the doctor came and spoke with me. She told me that I seemed very calm and we don’t normally offer this, but I could come and sit with him. I said yes, I eventually called my husband, explained the situation. I held the phone up to Cutter’s ear so David could say goodbye to his oldest son.

They eventually stopped CPR, and allowed me a little over three precious hours to sit there with Cutter. I sat there and sang the silly songs I had made up for him because I wasn’t good at the normal baby songs. I sang “Happy Birthday” to him a zillion times. I just rubbed my hands over his face, his hair, and even his tushy because it was so precious.

I had 3 of my best friends rotating sitting with Cutter and I. I honestly cannot imagine how they felt doing that. I also had a friend I had not seen in years, but she had lost her daughter to SIDS, and knew the pain of struggling with the death of a child.

I remember sitting there, feeling very flat. Just thinking, this really isn’t a movie. This is my life. I am really going to walk out of this hospital and no longer be his mother. And God as my witness, I remember feeling my shoulders pulling back and my sitting straight up, and feeling like God said, “I’m asking you to bare this, you are going to make it”. David came, we had our time, said our goodbyes.

The Reality of Struggling with the Death of a Child

Nothing will prepare you for these moments of struggling with the death of your child. The shock that this just happened, walking out of that hospital without your child, driving home to see Amazon packages of birthday gifts on your front steps, toys, sippy cups still out from where his last little hands touched them. I was exhausted, I went to sleep for the rest of the day.

A little back story to help you better understand our full situation. My mother raised my brother and I by herself, to say we ARE close is an understatement. My marriage was completely strained at that point. Although pregnant with our 2nd child, we were absolutely not in a good place. My husband got along with my mother, but it was never great or anything.

So the fact that my mother was at fault for Cutter’s death was pretty devastating. It really was a big blow to our great relationship and to my marriage. I remember asking him not to make me choose between he and my mother.

In those first few nights, I remember feeling like there was such spiritual warfare. I can still hear the devil laughing… yes, I stand by what I feel I felt and saw. It didn’t feel like a dream, it felt like I wasn’t even in my bed. I remember feeling a big “swoosh” when those laughs came, like God was fighting for me. 

In the following days, my church and friends did an outstanding job putting together his celebration day. We used all of his TOY STORY birthday stuff I already had for his party. My friend made his cake and, another local baker made hundreds of little cupcakes. His preschool blew me away with the support. They put together LEGO themed centrepieces and provided BBQ lunch. It’s honestly, a very good memory for me. It was very tasteful, and somewhat of the 2nd birthday party he did not get here on earth.

I remember not feeling like I could be mad at God because he gave me Cutter and not being able to be mad at my mom because I knew how much pain she was in. I was like I said, kind of flat, and still in shock. My SIL Katrina said, “Tracy, do you think God can’t handle what you have to say?” I’ll never forget it, it was very freeing. 

After the celebration day, David went back to work for 3 weeks. That seems odd, but it was actually a huge blessing. I really felt like I couldn’t cry in front of him because I think it made him angry towards my mom, so I really tried to keep it together until he left. When he left, I was still off work, and I just felt all the things I feel I needed to feel.

Healing is a Process

I yelled, screamed, cried, for the next few weeks. I sat in our home and just looked at all of his toys. I thought of what he and I would be doing. I had another baby coming, I just could not imagine how I would navigate all of this, but I was honestly determined so early on to give Asher the exact amount of love and attention I did his brother Cutter.

I am not a reader, but I had a great “beginner” book from a mom that really outlined a great way to navigate the first few weeks of struggling with the death of a child. I even went to Barnes & Noble one day and looked through hours of books. I was looking for anyone who had a story like ours. How did their life look after? How did they navigate things with following children? I really wanted some SOLID answers, that now is pretty laughable, but I was hungry for them.

Early on, my OB, who lost his son to suicide, bought me a book called “A Grace Disgused”. I had to put it down for days at a time because it was so hard to read. But it was so good for me and my personality to read. God just didn’t promise us an easy pain free life. I was not the only one in the world suffering or who had suffered. I can have pity parties, I just could not live there.

Music was absolute key in those early times of healing. I couldn’t watch tv, food didn’t taste the same, and laughing felt like a crime. I would take drives just to get out of the house. Watching all of these cars go by and their normal lives I assumed, while mine had just been blown up. How surreal is it that life doesn’t stop. Bills need to be paid, jobs were still there, and I had to acknowledge I wasn’t the only one hurting.

I am thankful for my counselor, Jennie. She was amazing, a Christian, and led me so well. Every week I was apathetic, like, “how is this really going to help me, what will we even talk about, nothing has changed, it’s the same story?”. But it did. Every week she helped me navigate and talk about different things whether it was how I was currently feeling ,or the specific experiences I was struggling with the death of my child and what I missed out on.

The most precious thing I honestly share with anyone, when I discuss losing Cutter, is the beautiful “spider web”, as I call it, of so many different situations and people that strengthened me in the right moment. I could not have dreamed of a bigger cushion of support. I felt lead to move on, I felt supported, and I have been given the blessing of 2 more children. That only came from God, no one else could have orchestrated our situation like Him.

Moving Forward

I fight guilt daily. I don’t openly discuss drowning. I don’t write about or share on social media about that aspect of our story specifically. Partially because it makes me physically ill, partially because I do not want anything I write to hurt my mother any further or step on my husband’s toes, as he does not share specific feelings about our story.

I’ve always been a person who doesn’t like to live in “lala” land. I do not want to make things up about heaven to make me feel better. I have moved on knowing Cutter is in heaven. I know I will get to see him again. But ,thinking of his actual physical death is really hard to live with. I get one life. I was entrusted with this precious little boy. And to think we failed him. Like what kind of people move on from that?

I did have a dream or vision if you will, of Cutter running toward the pond and angels taking him before he even hit the water. I have no idea if that’s true, but I remember it very clearly.

 We have pictures of Cutter up in our home. We moved soon after he died, as our house was already for sale. We moved to the town he actually died in, as that was our plan all along. Our next 2 children attend the school he would be at as well.

His little brother is now 8 years old. Since he was 3, he has talked about Cutter as he knows him. He is so inquisitive about everything and remembers all of the details.

I swear people probably think I talk about Cutter all the time, but I don’t. I talk about him when it feels right. When we are discussing our family, my pregnancies, or how they all were when they were babies.

We see him when we need, as he is buried not far from our church. I have never been to his graveside with anyone else besides my kids. do Cutter cupcakes with him on his birthday, this year was the 1st year Asher read his favorite 2 books to him, which was completely precious.

I do pretty well with a lot of this, but I do have boundaries with my mother I guess you could say. I do not cry about Cutter in front of anyone really, especially my mother or my husband. I’m overall a more stoic person.

A few months ago, I couldn’t believe our conversation. We were in the car, and I felt his little hand on my shoulder. He said, “why did the devil do this to our family?” I said, “Buddy, I think this is a conversation for when you get a little older.”

He reiterated that he wanted to talk about it now. He just ask why did the devil do this? Why did God allow him to die, but saves bad people in mommy’s hospital all the time. I had to help my children deal with their grief.

I just told him how I feel. That God knew the number of days Cutter would be on Earth, he knew the devil came to steal our joy, but that God knew we would be faithful. That it is not my job, nor his, to question God’s plan for Cutter’s life or for our own. It is our job to trust God, his goodness, and let the devil know we will never deny our good, good Father. 

Encouraging Scripture and Quotes for Struggling with the Death of a Child

  • “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Psalm 119:50
  • “For our struggle is not against flesh & blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world & against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” Ephesians 6:12
  • “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; Perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not abandoned; Struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9 
  • Our worst day, was Cutter’s best day 4/6/13.
  • “Heaven is the ultimate upgrade for the believer.”- Levi Lusko. 
  • “Though we experienced one of life’s deepest losses, they also experiences one of life’s deepest measures of God’s Grace. He was there for them every moment, of every painful day.”- Lysa Terkeurst
  • “Moving through whatever you are facing, isn’t merely surviving until it’s over, and then numbing your way through the rest of your life. It’s about continuing to live a life of purpose, always moving forward, no matter how devastating the unexpected is.”-Christine Caine
  • “To really know God, you have to wrestle thought the pain, struggle with honest doubts, & even live with unanswered questions.”- Craig Groescel 
  • “I’ve never felt so crushed & so loved all at the time same” – Ann Voskamp 

Rely on Jesus

I could really go on and on, but this for the most part is our story. We have the best support system, the best friends anyone could ask for in this situation really. We have continued to love and honor Cutter, but continue to raise our next 2 children and have them know how special they are as well.

In our struggling with the death of our precious child, we rely on our faith in Jesus every single day, and know… I will get to see my precious blonde hair, blue eyed boy again in Heaven. I have never longed so much for heaven prior to this happening, but I sure do now. I want more than anything to see my 3 children together and to see what he looks like now. 

Guest Author Bio.

Hello, my name is Tracy Emmons. My family & I live in the Tulsa, OK area. I am a Christ follower, wife, mom, daughter, aunt, & nurse. Thank you for allowing me to share our story with you.

10 thoughts on “Struggling with the Death of a Child

  1. Pingback: Helping Children Deal with Grief - A Child Shall Lead Them

  2. Oh Tracy, thank you for sharing your story. What a beautiful faith you have! I can’t even begin to imagine the pain you and your family endured, and still are this side of heaven. I cried all the way through your story, putting myself in your place. What a glorious reunion you and your little boy will have one day!

  3. staceypardoe

    Tracy, thank you so much for sharing this heart-breaking testimony with us. I cannot even imagine walking through this loss. You are using it to point the world to Jesus, and I have a deep sense he is pleased. May he continue to bless you as you make his goodness known to the world…

  4. Melinda

    I am from Claremore, Ok. We lost our 25 year old God-loving son unexpectedly Aug. 1, 2021. Thank you for sharing your story. The first time I was able to see my son after his death he had just arrived from the Medical Examiners to the funeral home. I asked to be the first person to clean his face. They brought me damp wash rags. It was my last act as his mother on this earth. I too caressed his face. I ran my fingers through his hair and kissed his face. For me, I was searching to find ANY signs of life before he was embalmed despite the deep “v” incision on his chest from the autopsy. We are still waiting the for his death certificate to tell us his cause of death. When my heart determined that he was truly gone I turned my music on and played, “I Can Only Imagine”. I had one last worship time with him. This gave me the closure I needed. Afterwards my I was by one of our grown kids that that was a inappropriate & gross thing to do with a dead body. I was shocked to hear that. Reading that you did a similar thing – I refuse to feel shamed. Thank you so much for sharing that moment.

    1. Oh Melinda. I am so sorry for the loss of your son. I am praying for you and your family. That sounds like a beautiful moment with your son. I am so thankful that Tracy’s story was able to give you some validation and comfort. Praise God for the way He gives peace and answers to His children.

    2. Tracy

      Thank you for sharing. There is not a chapter in any book that tells us how to manage, let alone survive those types of moments. I’m thankful you did what you felt led to do as his mother & soaking up every earthly moment you had with him. I’m incredibly sorry 1 of your children felt that way. Your fellow Angel Mama has your back ♥️

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