• My Lenten Reflection: Grieving the Loss of a Child, Holding on to Faith

    What do you do when you are faced with the death of your own child?
    by Tina Santiago-Rodriguez .
  • “Do not judge the bereaved mother. She comes in many forms. She is breathing, but she is dying. She may look young, but inside she has become ancient. She smiles, but her heart sobs. She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she is, but she is not, all at once. She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity." – Author Unknown

    baby feet

    Photo from imgarcade.com

    We all know that death is an inescapable part of life – everyone dies; no one lives forever. However, we also know that before we die, we want our lives to be meaningful. We want to live as long as we can, as best as we can, so as not to waste our precious time on earth.

    We parents, especially, hope to live for many years – long enough to see our children grow up, and to bounce our grandchildren (and maybe even great grandchildren) on our laps. But what happens when tragedy strikes, and we outlive our children instead? Worse still, when our children die young, and leave us at such a tender age?

    Sadly, there are many parents who face that reality every day. Many who deal with the grief of losing a child as an infant or toddler grapple with questions and look to God, a “Higher Source/Being,” for comfort.

    Talent manager and mom of 4 Vania Padilla-Edralin is one such parent. Here is her poignant but inspiring story.

    A quick and tragic turn of events
    In August 2012, Vania and her husband, Santi, brought their third child, Giovanni, to the hospital because he had been ill. He was admitted for pneumonia and, in an unbelievable and heartbreaking turn of events, passed away that night, the same day of his confinement. Giovanni had just turned a year old 9 days prior to his passing.

    “I experienced inconsolable grief at that time,” Vania recalls. “My family helped me [recover] a lot – my remaining kids are the only ones that kept me sane and [made life] worth living.”

    Understandably, Vania was in denial and angry all at once. “I blamed everyone at the start -- the doctors, nurses, hospital and even myself,” she shares. “But as time passed, I could only accept with faith what happened. The pain never disappears, it just gets more bearable over time.”

    Vania says she and Santi went through all the stages of grief as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. “Those are stages that everyone goes through. The only difference is the length of the stages,” she adds.

    “My family’s physical presence every day was a huge support during that difficult time,” Vania continues. “Their watching over us and just being there without having to say anything meant a lot.”

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    You’ve got to have faith
    Not one to share a lot when it comes to her son’s passing, Vania does have to say that her faith really helped her get through the difficult first days after Giovanni’s passing.

    “Faith is all you have when you go through something as devastating as a death of a child,” she shares. “Of course, I was angry with God. ‘Why me?’ I’d ask. ‘Why my son?’

    “To this day, I don't really know why. I just have faith and when the time comes when I am face to face with God, I will know why,” she says.“Constant prayer and my love for my family, especially my kids, is what keeps me going.

    “A year after Giovanni passed, the Lord blessed us with another baby boy. He really is an answered prayer. He's not a replacement but God's greatest blessing to our family.”

    Of course, Vania isn’t the only one who is deeply affected by Giovanni’s passing. Her husband, Santi, also has to deal with his grief. “We’re getting through everything one day at a time,” she shares. “What happened has made us appreciate each other and the value of time spent with each other more, and to always make loving and lasting memories as a family.”

    Vania encourages those who may be in similar situations or grieving for other reasons with these words:

    “No matter what the trial or challenge in your life, never lose faith. Only God can get us through. Love your family and treasure every single moment with them. Remember that everything in this life is temporary -- fame, riches, career. Focus on what's important and lasting.”

    To end, we share this beautiful eulogy that Vania wrote for Giovanni in 2012, with her permission. This originally appeared on her blog, My Mommy Musings. May her tribute to her son inspire us to treasure every moment with our children and the other people we love:

    Eulogy for Giovanni Paolo+
    September 1, 2012

    Honestly, I don’t know what to say. I never in my wildest imagination ever thought I would find myself in this situation. I feel like I’m watching a sad movie and I’m the main character. I feel like this is all a dream and I will suddenly wake up and find Giovanni sitting beside me on our bed, waiting for me to give him his bottle of milk.

    Whenever I look at you, [at] pictures or at things that you used, Giovanni, my tummy feels like it’s tied in knots and there is a very heavy feeling tugging at my heart. I guess that is what heartache feels like.

    My heart aches, Giovanni, that I can no longer hold you in my arms and kiss your chubby feet or stubby hands.

    My heart aches, Giovanni, that I won’t be able to see your dimpled smile or hear your cute, cute laugh.

    My heart aches, Giovanni, that I will not ever see you again reach out to me and say “Mama” when you want to be carried.

    My heart aches, Giovanni, that I will not see your big eyes staring so lovingly at me again.

    My heart aches, Giovanni, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

    I love you so much, Giovanni. I always tell people that you are my sweetest baby. From the moment you popped out of my womb and I saw you for the first time, I could already see your kind and gentle soul. You never gave me a hard time in all your 1 year and 9 days of life.

    At just 5 months, you would already sleep through the night, giving me the rest that I needed.

    You would not cry or complain unless you were really hungry or were in dire need of a diaper change.

    You didn’t mind when your Kuya and Ate would pinch your chubby cheeks and say, “You’re so cuuuuute!” or when Kuya and Ate would be so rough, especially when giving you a big bear hug.

    You didn’t mind when I dressed you up in a monkey costume made of wool for Halloween, or when I would tie your then-long hair into a high ponytail, making you look like a Japanese baby samurai.

    I love you, Giovanni.

    You came unexpectedly into our lives (just 1 year and 3 months after Ate) and left, just as unexpectedly. But for the whole 1 year and 9 days with us, you filled those days with lots and lots of love.

    I am grateful that we got to have that special spur-of-the-moment family vacation in Boracay (which was one of many firsts for you), and especially that we got to celebrate your 1st birthday with all our family and friends. It was a simple celebration, but the people that mattered most were all accounted for. It was as if you already knew you would be gone soon and so you gave us numerous memories filled with special moments with you.

    I love you, Giovanni.

    Seeing all the people here and everyone that visited over the past few days, not to mention the countless emails, calls, texts, tweets and FB messages, it just goes to show how much you have touched people in your brief life on earth. You truly are such a special baby. So special, that God wanted to take you early so you could already be with Him in heaven.

    I am so very grateful to have been chosen to be your mama. My life is infinitely blessed because I was able to call you mine. I thank God for giving you to me, Giovanni, even for just a short time.

    I love you so, so, so much, my baby boy. I will never, ever forget you. Please watch over us always, my little saint. I still don’t know how I will cope without you, but I know you will help me get through every day. See you in my dreams for now, Giovanni, until we meet again. I love you.

    Love always and forever,
    Mama

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