Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How to cope with life when your child dies in a drowning accident or drowns but doesn't die - a Christian perspective.

The purpose of this post is to help people cope with a drowning accident.
Before we get to that, let me say the most important thing - if and when your children are around water, make them wear something buoyant.  Foam swim clothes for babies, puddle jumpers for toddlers, life vests for older kids or kids on bodies of water other than pools.  If they are buoyant, they can make some noise and be visible and have a chance - remember, drowning is the silent killer.

A couple of years ago my 3 year old daughter drown in my neighbors pool.  Thankfully, God  resuscitated her and she is alive today.   There are 2 main things that will completely take over your life after such an event:
1.  How you should react/interact with your spouse and cope
2.  How you should act around your other children and your child who survived.

I was discussing the incident today with my now 5 year old daughter at the spot where she drown.  I'm pleased to report that my wife and I must have done something right, because all those things I worried about never happened and my daughter hasn't been affected negatively at all by her drowning.  She is not scared of the hot tub in which she drown, she is not scared of swimming, she is not repressing anything or maladjusted psychologically.  She even remembers the event fondly.  She remembers the drowning, being stuck in the deep box of the hot tub and not being able to get out, but she also remembers the time she spent with us, getting to ride in the ambulance with her mom, and spending the night with her parents at the hospital and getting to watch TV.

I can't guarantee if you do what I did you will get the same results.  Maybe my baby girl is just so awesome that she'd be cool like this no matter what her mom and I did.  She does have an amazing personality and smiles all day long.  She's a real corker, as one of our friends says.  But there were a couple decisions I had to make about how to treat this event and I would recommend them to anyone.

1.  Don't bring up the incident in daily conversation unless the child who drowned brings it up and wants to talk about it.  They probably won't bring it up, but if they do then answer their questions in a normal tone of voice.  Do not treat the incident differently from other things that happen in life.  Its not a family secret or a dirty little secret.  Don't whisper, frown, only talk about it when alone, etc.
2.  Tell the rest of your kids not to bring up the drowning unless the victim brings it up, and then when she does, remind them not to dwell on it or embellish it.  My daughter had 3 older very talkative siblings, who at the time were more than happy to say really stupid and insensitive stuff about the incident such as "Daddy let you drown" and "don't do that, you'll drown and die again!"  Not helpful, in fact its harmful.  People remember things only if they replay them over and over again in their minds.  So the goal here is to let the bad memories go.  Young children especially, will focus on the good things I think.  But if yours isn't, then feel free to remind them of the good things around that time.  I had to very sternly tell my children the rules about the drowning.  Kids think they know whats best, but their words can do so much damage.  I leaned on God heavily to tell me how to handle the situation and He did.  I told the kids not to talk about the event with each other or the victim.  Its best to let the memory fade.  The ability to forget is a wonderful thing.
3.  Don't change your swimming habits or routine.  If the drowning victim is more hesitant around water than she was before, then go with it.  Start over swim training if you have to, but do not push them at all.

If you find you are beating yourself up about allowing your child to drown, then try to focus on the good things that it brought about.  Maybe it encouraged you to get CPR training, like it did me, and you will see someone elses life.  One thing is for sure, you will figure out just how much you missed your kids by how you react.  Remember that - remember how much you love your kids, or miss the one who died, and dwell on it.  It will make you a better person when you take life less for granted.

If you are wondering where I'm coming from and what my credentials are, you should know that although I'm not a psychologist, I did take to it very well as I learned in the few classes I took.  I'd make a good behavioral scientist (I know this from what other people have observed about me).  Also, I can offer up the solitary journal entry I have from that event.  Because I know if I were you and I had just read this I would really want a full accounting of what happened so that I could determine the veracity of the above statements.  so here goes:

I need to remember what it is I learned from this experience.  
Ever since Josh and Kelly Proctor had a stillborn baby I had wondered to God what it would be like to lose a Child.  I know this sounds bad, but I wondered, why aren’t they happy for the child?  After all, being a pastor, he should know it’s in a better place.  
That is the wrong thing to say to someone in that situation.  They want to grieve.  
I’ll never forget the evening of Friday, June 20, approximately 8 PM.  Annabelle should have been in bed by then, but  she and Savannah had worked hard cleaning up the house and had earned the right to go to the pool.  So I took them around 7:45.  Gerald was in the pool cleaning it, and he invited us in.  I notice the pool water had some debris in it, so I got the skimmer and started skimming.  I asked Gerald how often the pool water needed this, and he said every time you swim.  Bugs and leaves get in it all the time.  I started talking to him more and more.  Savannah jumped in with him and started swimming.  I walked past Annabelles life jacket on the bench and considered putting it on her.  I made a pass around the pool once while Annabelle took her Yellow duck float and jumped in the hot tub.  It has a seat around the outside and she can stand on it and be above water.  Plus she had the float, so I figured she was good to go without the jacket for a while.  Besides, once I was done skimming, I’d be right with her the whole time.  I had been teaching her how to swim a few days before and she made lots of progress.  
After the first pass around the pool, I started talking to Gerald and focusing on the corner near the hot tub.  Then I looked up, God prompted me to look up and check on Annabelle.  There she was, her duck in the corner of the tub, and she was floating face down in the water.  At first I thought she must be playing a trick on me.  But she is too young.  She isn’t moving, and she doesn’t know how to do that.  I grabbed her.  Her face is blue.  She is dead.  How long has she been like that?  This can’t be happening.  I tried holding her upside down and squeezing the water out of her lungs.  Nothing came out.  
I put her gently down on the Astroturf.  Her eyes were closed.  I should give her CPR.  I pushed on her chest a bit.  Nothing.  I tried opening her mouth.  It was shut tight.  I tried prying her teeth apart.  I blew into her mouth with them together.  It’s not working!  All the time, I’m saying Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit.  Oh Shit.  No, NO!  Gerald is out of the pool in a snap and on the other side of her, looking so very concerned.  
What I’m doing isn’t working.  I realize that God wants to save her, not have me do it.  This is going to be weird, but I’m going to do it anyway.  I look up the sky, reach out with my right hand and say “God, save her!”  I look back  down at her, pry her mouth open a bit, and blow into her lungs.  This isn’t doing anything, I think.  But her mouth loosens a bit.  Her eyes open.  She is so blue.  They are glazed over.  She looks like a zombie.  She is coming back from the dead.  God has restored her soul into her body at this point.  I’m a little hesitant to rejoice- there is still work to do.  The blowing worked, so I did it again.  She must have water in her lungs, so I flip her over and hold her upside down.  Nothing is coming out.  She says “Daddy” in a really slow and groggy voice.  She is getting stronger.  I’m trying to drain the water out.
Gerald takes her and does reverse chest compressions on her, pushing her rib cage up by her weight.  She vomits a big.  “That’s good”, he says, “That’s a good sign”.  He does it some more.  I think that will also get air into her lungs.  Nothing more for me to do.  I stand up.  I pace.  What should I do?  He is doing the best thing right now.  I call to Savannah – go get your mother!  A minute later she is there with a phone.  “Call 911!”, I yell.  “You can go inside and use his phone”.  I walk over to her.  “I found Annabelle face down in the pool.”  “How long was she like that?” she asks.  “I don’t know!”  I go over to Annabelle, and she pukes up the rest of her dinner.  I take her and hold her.  Stephanie brings me a towel.  Annabelle is going to make it now, I know, I just want her to be comfortable now.  I want her to feel my love.  I put a towel on my shoulder and hold her on it.  I pat her back and tell her how much I love her.  
“How could I let this happen!” I think.  No time for those thoughts now.  I check on Annabelle, she looks tired, but OK.  She is so precious to me, how could I let that happen?  When will the Ambulance be here?  They were just down the other street a minute ago, can’t they stop by here?  I talk to Stephanie.  We hear some sirens and decide to go out to the driveway.  Stephanie is holding her now, she wanted her mommy.  I’m a bit upset that she doesn’t want me to hold her.  Will she love me less?  I saved her, I want to hold her.  But I know I’m also the one who let her drown, so I just want whatever she wants.  She holds Stephanie while the Fire Response team arrives.  I go out to them in the yard, and wave them over.  They aren’t moving very fast.  I tell them what happened.  They put an oxygen monitor on her.  They want my ID and I tell them we live across the street.  The police come.  They look for a seat “For the mother”, and they get a stool out of Gerald’s garage.  There Stephanie sits, holding Annabelle.  They do a pupil dilation on her while I watch; normal response.  There are now four emergency vehicles in the street.  This is going to be expensive.  The cops are asking me the same information.  I explain to one what happened.  The EMS are talking about taking her to the hospital.  I realize I should probably get dressed.  I want to go with Annabelle, I want to be there for her.  I walk over to the house and get dressed and go back.  Stephanie is in the Ambulance still holding Annabelle.  I pop my head in and give her my cell phone since we can’t find hers.  We make plans to meet at the hospital.  I overhear the officer explaining to his chief what I told him.  I ask them if they need anything else, they say “No.”  I go back to the house and yell at the older kids once again to go inside – they are talking to the neighbors about what happened.  They just are not listening – they woke up the baby and aren’t going to bed.  I put them to work – they can’t find her phone either.  I can’t find the neighbors number, so I drive over there  really fast.  I drive back home and she is there a minute later.  I get some stuff for an overnight hospital stay and leave.  I drive like a bat out of hell to the highway and then as I go through in my mind what I need to take I remember that I forgot the car seat.  I have to go back.  Even faster now, I try not to draw attention, but I just want to get there.  I pull up the driveway with my blinkers on and hop out, grab the seat, and take off again.  I’m driving 25 miles over the speed limit – 65 in a 40.  I get to the highway fast and turn on my blinkers.  After I ride someone’s bumper a few seconds, they usually get over.  I’m going 85 MPH.  Why did they want to take her to downtown Dallas!  That is ridiculous.  I get to the busy interchange and have to slow down because there is too much traffic.  After a while I turn off my blinkers.  I’m going as fast as I can and still be safe.  I finally get to the exit, and right before I do, I finally see a cop car.  I’m glad I didn’t get pulled over.  As I’m driving I’m considering what I’d do if I saw one try to pull me over.  Would I stop or keep going?  If I stop, I’ll ask them for an escort.  I get there and park in the first lot I see.  Its so far away, I grab the stuff and take off jogging.  
I ask a stranger where a little kid would go if they came in on an ambulance – and they point me to the right place.  I wonder how crazy they think I am, or if I was going to ask them for money.  
I get inside and go to the desk.  The nice lady there asks for ID and looks up AB in the computer.  She isn’t there, she says.  Oh, there she is, they just put her in.  She says,  “You probably don’t want to wait, I’ll take you right back” and off we go.  “You are right, thank you.” I muster.  She takes me through the doors and to the room where I see my Annabelle laying reposed on the bed and my wife with a smile sitting in a chair.  I ask Annabelle what happened.  
“I was in the cold tub.  I slipped in the water.  I kept my mouth shut like you taught me.  Then you pulled me out.”  
The nurse is there, listening.  She says she has a good vocabulary.  I’m proud of her.  I’m ashamed of me.  What a bad parent I am, so let that happen to her.  How could I hurt her so much?  She is so perfect and innocent and godly and pure, and, and, and…..I push my disgust aside.  Its not helpful now, and I’m only doing what is helpful.  I talk to my wife next.  I apologize to her.  She is acting like it’s a regular doctor visit.  I ask her what happened and she explains the trip to me.  I talk to Annabelle some more.  I’m up, I’m down.  She’s watching TV and I sit right in front of her face and hold it and look into her eyes.  I was expecting her to be happy to see me, but she is watching TV and doesn’t pay me much attention.  I’m heartbroken, but I push it aside because I don’t matter.  Its late now, so I go over to Annabelle and tuck her into bed and rub her head until she nods off.  It doesn’t take long.  For the next couple hours I talk to Stephanie.  I have so much to work out.  But I know she isn’t’ ready for it yet.  I try to explain to her that I feel guilty for not being that shook up that Annabelle almost died – because I know she’d be in heaven so Its not such a big deal.  But on the other hand, shouldn’t I be really, really concerned?  She takes it as an insult, since she is acting the same way I am.  I explain its not, that it’s the way I feel.  Eventually she understands.  We talk and talk and talk.  She feels very close to me now, because of that, I know.  She is very supportive and comforting.  I put my head on her shoulder and take a short nap.  When I wake up, I want to leave.  I don’t want to be there any longer, I want to put this behind me.  Yet I’m torn, because this is such a big deal, I want it to be a big part of my life.  For four hours I’ve been wondering what God is trying to teach me through this.  Then it hits me.  I tell Stephanie about how I’ve always wondered what it would be like to lose a child- and when I think about that, I think of Annabelle.  She said she does too.  I wonder aloud if Satan is trying to attack her.  She is such a happy and obedient child.  She is the only one of my children who demonstrates a relationship with God that actively means something.  
We pray again.  The first time was for a complete and total healing of Annabelle, but now its for God to protect her from Satan, and to break his attack on her life.  I mention that we should give her a middle name, because she seems incomplete without one.  Like she is a person in Limbo; I don’t want her to be in Limbo – I want her to be with me, really and truly and fully all the way here in my arms firmly planted on this earth.  I think about names.  Life.  Her name is now life; because I am countering Satan’s attempt to take it.  It turns out that the name for Life is Eve.  Annabelle Eve Ulrich.  I’m learning a lot, but surely this isn’t about me.  Its about Annabelle, she is the one who nearly died.  Where is His compassion on her?  Surely God isn’t just using this to teach moi a lesson?
Annabelle, God is going to make it up to you one day.  If He used you to teach me a lesson, then He will make it up to you in Heaven.  Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair.  

Just so I don’t forget, I want to write down what it is like to lose a child.  If its even remotely your fault, you will hate yourself for letting them die.  If it was your miscarriage, you will question every action of your pregnancy.  You will question what you could have done to save them.  You will second guess every decision of yours, your spouse, and your doctor – everyone involved.  You will hate yourself.  You will probably want to die so you can be with them.  I pray that you are a Christian, so that you can avoid suicide.  Otherwise, I don’t see how you could go on living without them.  Satan will use it to take another life – yours.  He will want to take you away from the people that love you – its called a twofer.  You will never forget that moment you first saw your child dead.  It will be laser ingrained in your memory forever.  You will start to think about all the Firsts your child is going to miss, and you will cry for them.  You will cry for all the lost opportunities.  If you have any other children, you will neglect them because you cared so much for the one.  Even though if they had died, you’d be crying for them, you just ignore them.  Sure, you hug them and hold them tight, but they don’t understand, so you go off alone so you can cry without them asking you a hundred questions.  
You will think a thousand times faster and question everyone, especially God.  IT will give you more time to think of all the times you spent with your child and what  you could have done differently.  If you ever see someone who lost a child, hold them, hug them, and cry with them.  Just do that, nothing else.  Listen to them.  They will want to know “Why me?, Why them?”
You’ll never get an answer. If you survive long enough, you might look back on how that tragedy helped you help someone else out with theirs, and maybe, just maybe, then you’ll have part of an answer.  But you will want your child back anyway.  
Just know, God will make it all right someday.  
Yesterday at the doctors office they had health tips playing.  One was on water safety.  I was so grateful they were playing that, I wanted to hug the doctor who decided to play that.  But no one was watching it.  I wanted to call attention to it in the waiting room.  I want to write a book that will help prevent drowning’s.  I want to warn the whole world – watch your kids!  Wear life jackets!  Hold them close and don’t ever miss a chance to hug them.

You will need to talk a lot.  You will want to talk to someone who understands what it is like.  

No comments:

google search

click on this video for relevant video on my blog