What really happens when you lose a child

Losing a child is fear for all parents. It’s so frightening that we push the thought from our mind…or obsess about it. Blogger Oana Papaconstantinou of Mama’s Haven speaks about what it is really like to lose a child.

In July 2014, Georgie, my then five and a half month son, died of an aggressive form of leukaemia.

Losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare and nothing can ever prepare your heart and soul for the tsunami of emotions that ensues the physical loss.

What I was never prepared for were what the specialists call “secondary losses” of my faith, friends, possibly my marriage and of my identity, which have proved to be as traumatic as the loss of my beloved son.

Losing my faith

In the aftermath of his death, shock was soon replaced by anguish and then anger.

I had been raised to believe in a God who cares for us and loves the little children but being on that cancer ward with my baby and seeing the extent of suffering and misery that children go through every single day made me doubt that belief.

I was told that people in church were my brothers and sisters in Christ but once Georgie’s body disappeared in a plume of ashes I found myself utterly alone in the face of the most terrifying giant, Grief, as most of them disappeared as well.

Trying to live in the aftermath

The first year after Georgie died was all about survival. I had short-term memory loss, due to the trauma we had suffered, and my energy was entirely consumed in the cruel game of what I now call relearning to live. Reprogramming my mind to accept life as it now was proved a full-on battle and making sense of it all took about 12 months.

At the end of that first year, my mind grew tired of fighting and asking the “whys“. I had had terrible sleep issues and I found that accepting the reality as it was, with its randomness and cruelty, allowed my body to relax and my mind to rest so in the end, I had to choose to make “peace” with my life as it stood.

I thought that this was the beginning of my recovery, that’s what we learn in movies and books, right?

It was not over

Acceptance is the beginning of wisdom, they say. But whoever said that did not take into account grief and its circular, destructive cycles.

Acceptance has not offered a protective shroud against the pain that has continued to hit periodically and randomly, triggered by anniversaries and flashbacks.

Acceptance is not the ticket out of the maze of grief, as I had hoped it would be.

In this second year, grief has taken other forms, more terrifying in their purging force than the loss of faith and friends I had experienced the previous year.

These past few months, grief has been, like a magnifying glass, picked at the very core of who I am.

I am no longer the person before the loss, for sure.

But who am I?

I am a strong, determined mama who needs to find a new meaning to her life.

I was robbed of my child and with him, I was robbed of my identity as a mother, a wife, a human being.

These past two years have all been about tearing down in order to rebuild a life in which I feel happy and in charge.

I am still very much on the path.

I know now that I can survive the unthinkable, the unmentionable but can I also find new meaning for my life, out of the immense sense of loss I have been experiencing?

Only time will tell…


About the author: Oana Papaconstantinou of Mama’s Haven also writes the BritMum’s Life Changes Round-up covering the thorny issues in life and is BritMums’ Health Editor. Find her on social media @MamasHaven.


Home page image by Dubova via Shutterstock

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About Oana Papaconstantinou

Oana Papaconstantinou is a mum of 2 children who blogs at Mama’s Haven on grief, travel, photography and reviews. Oana has had the life-altering experience of child loss, when Georgie, her 5 months baby boy died on leukaemia in July 2014. She has now made it her blog’s mission to support people who have been equally affected by grief. Oana works from home in creative writing and social media support. She is on Twitter @MamasHaven and Instagram as mamashaven.


  1. 21 April 2016 / 10:00

    This must be the worst thing anyone can go through ever. Losing a child is something no one should have to go theough and especially at such a young innocent age.

  2. 21 April 2016 / 10:13

    This broke my heart to read. I am so so sorry for your loss. You are such a strong Mama to share your story xxxxxxx

  3. 21 April 2016 / 11:00

    A brilliant post oana. I agree with every sentiment. I wish you all the best in your journey. I too have experience of grief. I had my brother taken from me far too soon. I have fallen out with God big time. It has been my mother who has kept me strong. Go to yours and treasure her and your beautiful daughter. They will keep you strong. Lots of love lovely lady xxxx

  4. 21 April 2016 / 14:19

    Words will never be able to express how sad I am for your loss. You are an amazing woman Oana, I don’t think I could cope in your situation. H x

  5. 21 April 2016 / 16:16

    What an honest and emotional Post Oana. I have followed your blog for a long time and you are an amazing person.

  6. 21 April 2016 / 18:41

    thanks for sharing the post – I can’t imagine how hard it would have been. Hopefully it helps others in the same situation x

  7. 21 April 2016 / 22:16

    I’m not sure I have big enough words to convey the depth of my sorrow reading this. I have a young daughter and I quite simply cannot bring myself to imagine your tragic and utterly abhorrent circumstances. I am so very sorry. Wishing you and your family much love and peace xx

  8. 22 April 2016 / 00:57

    Beautiful writing Oana, it really is, and sadly I appreciate every word. You.keep hearing it’ll never be the same, but until you.live it you don’t appreciate what that means. I wish you peace and strength xx

  9. 22 April 2016 / 07:51

    I’m so sorry for you heartbreaking loss. You are such a strong woman and mother. Such a beautifully written post it’s so brave of you to share xxx

  10. 22 April 2016 / 09:22

    Thank you for sharing your story Oana. It was a heartbreaking read, but no doubt your honesty will help others who have gone through loss too x

  11. 22 April 2016 / 10:12

    Oh Oana what a strong woman you are. I am so sorry that you had to go through this. What an ordeal for you and your family. Heartbreaking to read but I am sure this post will help many other grieving parents and give hope that you can come out the other side. x

  12. 22 April 2016 / 11:45

    It is something that I most fear and having followed your blog for a long time, I know how much he was wanted and although I will never understand the pain you feel, I shared in your loss xx

  13. 22 April 2016 / 12:47

    I have to admit I found this really hard to read, but thank you so much for writing and sharing it x

  14. 22 April 2016 / 20:14

    You are so strong Oana and your words have had me in tears more than once over the past few years. I can’t imagine your pain x

  15. 22 April 2016 / 20:17

    Oona, I am lost for words, I don’t know what to say other than sorry for your loss, a phrase I have no doubt you have heard countless times.

  16. 22 April 2016 / 21:23

    I am so very, very sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through, but thank you for sharing, I am sure it will be a comfort to a lot of people.

  17. 22 April 2016 / 22:25

    Oana, this is such a beautifully-written post. I have so much admiration for you in being able to write about what you have gone through in helping to raise awareness and offer comfort for other parents going through similar, both on your blog and on Instagram etc. I am so sorry you had to experience this and really saddened to hear thaton top of everything, friends were not there for you when you needed them. I wish I could offer something more to you other than letting you know I am thinking of you, but I really am. Much love x

  18. Michelle Murray
    23 April 2016 / 08:07

    Such a lovely post but heartbreaking too. I too have lost a child. I was 40+5 weeks pregnant and lost our baby girl. It was 6 years ago and although I miss he every day I have found talking about it too whoever will listen really helps. I am so sorry for your loss

  19. 24 April 2016 / 20:09

    This is such a well written, touching and eye opening post Oana. My heart truly goes out to you. I cannot even begin to imagine what you are going through and I really wish that this couldn’t happen to any parent, especially one as lovely as you. I’m sorry that the people that should have been there for you weren’t. I can’t imagine ever abandoning anyone I knew when they were going through something as heart breaking as you have. Thank you for sharing, I’m sure you’ll help many others with your openness x

  20. 25 April 2016 / 10:04

    Sending huge hugs Oana. I really admire how you are so open and have shared your journey. xx

  21. 25 April 2016 / 18:54

    Sending my hugs and love xxx

    I love reading about George and I airways will

  22. 25 April 2016 / 18:55

    I always will be here for you x

  23. 09 May 2016 / 02:11

    Such a beautiful emotional and honest post. Sending hugs x

  24. Rebecca Beesley
    21 June 2016 / 11:33

    You are in our thoughts and prayers. I believe God can take the tiniest bit of thread that our faith is hanging by and strand by strand strengthen it. Sending much love. Xxx

  25. 21 June 2016 / 14:43

    Thinking of you and wishing things could be different. Hugs xx

  26. 22 June 2016 / 09:03

    I volunteered for an NCT event a few years back and at the stall a parent came and asked me why she stopped receiving the newsletter. I was newsletter editor but did not do the distribution so I said I will enquire. She told me that she had lost her child but still wanted to receive the newsletter. I passed the message on and found out that the distributor thought it was a kind gesture not to send her any more newsletters but that mother did not see it that way. She was feeling excluded.

  27. 27 June 2016 / 21:08

    Crying reading this Oana, I am so, so sorry again, sending you so much love. Always here for you xxx