When Did Grief Become All About Searching for Rainbows and Butterflies?


After my son died, I began to search for child loss blogs to read. Shattered beyond repair, I needed to know I wasn’t alone in the overwhelming things I thought and felt.

Everything I found was related to miscarriage and baby loss. While it was nice to know I wasn’t alone, the words didn’t necessarily resonate for me. My son was 7-years old.

The other thing I noticed was an abundance of posts written for people trying to support a griever. Great information, but not what I was searching for. I also found posts written from the other side of grief. While they gave me hope I could survive, they did nothing to validate the hell I was living. I grew to hate those posts.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret… surviving child loss is not all sunshine, hearts, and rainbows. You don’t simply see hope in everything that exists and search for the beauty.

My fog was so thick I didn’t have the capacity to be thankful or stop and smell the roses. Looking for the silver lining just made me want to throat punch someone. I had no interest in forgiving people their wrongs and making amends with people in my life. There wasn’t even a desire to hug those I loved tighter.

Yep, I said it! Loss has never given me greater appreciation for life. Just one more thing to add to my guilt… like I needed another.

I felt like a bad person. Surely I wasn’t the only one feeling this way?!

The phrase “This is going to sound bad” became part of my vocabulary. Everyone around me shook their head. Great, but I was still alone in how I felt.

So, I wrote it. I began to share it. You told me I wasn’t alone. I don’t want others to feel alone like I did. We need more people willing to talk about the uncomfortable, ugly side of grief.

I don’t share for pity, to one up someone else’s hardship, or because I’m a desperately grieving mother. I share to give an authentic voice to child loss… at all ages. To connect with others out there walking this path alone. To validate the complexities of life after loss.

We were forced into this club. Let’s at least help each other survive it.


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39 Comments on “When Did Grief Become All About Searching for Rainbows and Butterflies?”

  1. Wow. I was ashamed to say these things. I thought there was something wrong with me (other than the fact that my child was dead). Your blog is one of the few that I actually returned too. I felt like an outsider when I went to miscarriages or infant loss blogs. The ones that told me that I would survive and find joy again frankly pissed me off. Didn’t they understand that was my fear?

    1. EXACTLY!! I felt the same way. I am always terrified of finding joy and not having that sad undertone…or feeling like I have forgotten to think of him or include him. My hope is I never do that. I just want to learn how to continue living and remembering my child. As for the shame…exactly how I have always felt. Then it hit me, if I am feeling this way someone else has to be too! We aren’t doing any justice to child loss awareness by talking about everything through rose colored glasses. It’s just not the reality of it. I always thought there was something wrong with me. But in all reality, there is no shame in grief! We feel what we feel. Hugs!!

  2. Yes to this! It’s OK That You’re Not OK does a really good job of explaining how broken and afraid our culture is of ugly, unadulterated grief and how that leads many bereaved people to underplay the torrential pain of their loss, or qualify it with some version of “but don’t worry, I still have hope!” Anyways, here’s a mini-review of that book: https://ltop.blog/2018/03/14/its-ok-that-youre-not-ok-by-megan-devine/ It’s helped empower me to speak up and try to tell it like it is…

    1. I LOVE your stuff. You are doing exactly what we need out there…telling it like it is. Ugly and all. I believe it really forms deeper connections for those of us that are experiencing it. Loss is such a lonely thing. We all need to support each other and eventually the rest of the world will start to get it.

  3. I couldn’t have read this at a better time… it was like you verbalized the exact feelings i have. And throat punch is one of my much used terms in dealing with others that have NO clue what we go through on a daily basis. I’ve never been an angry or impatient person but before I wasn’t missing my daughter Skylar…or trying to handle the traumatic instance in which she was taken…at hands of those who chose to drive impaired at the same time my daughter was on her way home. I tend to speak my mind openly when it comes to hearing of others that have put lives in danger…i get angry because those responsible will be able to go on and have families.. get married… go to college.. while my daughter doesn’t. Nope, it’s not at all butterflies and rainbows…it for lack of a better word.. sucks. Hugs and love to you and all the other moms forced to join this club. #flyhighsky

    1. It does suck!! That is a word I like to use for it all, but so many people get offended by that word. Still working on the not caring what other people think and speaking my mind part (I admire those that can). 😉

  4. I have a hard time writing how I feel but I see others feel the same way. You are an amazing person Emily. It’s definatley not rainbows and butterflies. It does suck

  5. My daughter died when she was 6 weeks old. My youngest son died at 26, just 4 months ago.
    The grief and the grieving are very different. After Jennifer, I bit my tongue and didn’t want to upset others. Having learned the hard way, I tell it like it is since Jeff died. Your child dying SUCKS and I will tell you how I really feel when asked

    1. Good for you! I so admire anyone that can speak their mind. It’s important for our grieving process to make people understand it’s OK that we aren’t OK. How could we be ever again? Hugs!

  6. It is so very true! I was finding the baby loss blogs you mention and I was thinking that these mothers were grieving the idea of motherhood, not a real, living child that you used to talk and braid her hair and hug…. A real person who had her own grins and favorite phrases and bad habits…… And this made me feel worse because I was feeling like a bad person.
    And also listening to other parents planning the future….. Saying stories about some daily incident of their kids… Kids of my daughter’s age, who were in the same classroom until a couple of days ago….
    I do not have other kids. She was my one and only. So I do not feel guilty or fear losing an other child . I have already lost the future. Any “normal” life, a parent is entitled to expect. Graduations, first dance, achievements, relationships, marriage, grandchildren …… everything. I knew that life was unfair, but this ….. So yes, no roses and rainbows, loving life or finding joy or even being a better person……. My world is painted black ( I used to be an artist) , and has space of only the darkest of greys! Thank you again, for giving me a place to be the self I am after my Irinna died!

    1. I too felt like loss made me a bad person. In reality, I finally began to put myself first and take care of my needs…what used to feel selfish before. I just care very little about how my actions and reactions impact others (bad…maybe). The pain of the what ifs never go away. Seeing children your child’s age or those they knew and were in class together continue on is hard. I understand why your world is painted black. Hugs!

  7. Oh my goodness yes, I’m so tired of trying to make the loss of my daughter into making a difference that I sometimes allow the falseness of that statement hide what I’m truly feeling. Yes I’m trying to raise awareness, yes I’m sharing her story and yes I have adopted a new son but none of them actually take away from the fact that my whole bring craves for my daughter.

    I don’t want to say I’m sorry that my tears still fall 9 years old. I don’t want to pretend I’m ok when I can never be fully ok again again I mean how could I be.

    1. I understand that statement. When we share our stories there is this false sense of “they must have it all figured out…they must be OK now”. We will never be OK. Sharing the ugly side of child loss to balance the hope side is all I have found to compensate for that falseness. Hugs to you!! And thank you for sharing your story and raising awareness…and dealing with the challenges that go along with it. Our words and stories make a difference.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. You are very brave for doing so. It is comforting to read stories I relate to. I lost my daughter when she was 5 yrs old. I am lost, lonely, angry, jellous, and exhausted alot of days. I don’t feel fun to be around. Joy.. what is that? Our youngest daughter is what keeps my husband and I going. She is 4 yrs old now and misses her older sister. She is grieving and that is heartbreaking to watch her go through that. This sucks!

    1. This does suck!! My daughters are what keep my husband and I going as well. My oldest misses her brother (they were best friends). My youngest won’t remember him (she was 6-months old when it happened). That makes me incredibly sad. It is such unfair circumstances are forced to live with. Hugs!

  9. I agree with everything all of you have written! It does suck. I learned that life is short and anything can happen at anytime. Looking on the brighter side means nothing to me. My daughter will be gone 7 years soon and I am not happy all the time or fun to be with either. There is a huge part of me missing and I am ok with that. When I am down or grieving that is when I feel the closest to my daughter. I too looked for every website, fb page and book to be able to relate to others.

    1. It really can happen at anytime, to anyone! Like you, I will always feel closest to my son when I am down and grieving. It seems so strange, but it is so true. Hugs!

    2. Thank goodness someone doesn’t want me to be a better person because my son died that there has to be a greater good. because there isnt my son died and its the worst feeling in the world. I am bitter and resentful and I live in a world of could haves and would haves. I do know i will feel better and this feeling will lessen as i grieve but i cant bear the hope stories. I read stories so i know other people are grieving, as bad as it sounds it does help to know your not the only 1. thank you for being honest

      1. I believe honesty is so important in grief. People need to know they aren’t alone and what they are thinking/feeling isn’t crazy. This is your own journey so you get to choose how you do it. Hugs to you!

  10. Great point! We really do need to support each other and help all parents who lose a child no matter what the age of the child. We have 2 older boys and we lost our baby girl 3 months ago at 13 days old. The problem I have found at this point (being 3 months out), is that my support system of friends and some family have gone on with their lives and you are left to try and figure out who you are again…alone. Makes a person feel isolated. Trying to be strong for everyone in your life is hard enough. Support is very important!
    I think losing a child of any age is so hard. I have done a lot of reading and it seems parents who have a lost a baby, child, teen, or adult child have such a hard time. It is because of my older children that I see what I’m missing out on. I see who they are becoming and it’s not fair that I will never experience that with the child I lost. She was a part of our family. A missing piece. And I think dealing with your other children grieving is difficult too. My oldest son had to grieve. Hard enough when you don’t understand your own grief. Trying to explain to a 9 year old what happened and understand their grief is really awful. Just a horrible experience all around.

    1. Seeing your children grieve is so hard! We are in our 3rd year and I still don’t understand how to help my oldest daughter. It’s hard enough to try and figure out our own grief. As for your support system leaving, we felt that too. I get it, their lives go on and while they may remember and want to help their lives weren’t impacted the way ours were. That doesn’t change. I was lucky enough to have a couple of people that have really tried to understand and still insert themselves. However, I believe that support may be rare. Connecting online with other bereaved parents has helped me a lot! If for nothing else than to validate the things I think/feel/go through. Seek that out. I’m in the process of launching a Facebook group (literally brand new), if you’re interested in joining. I want to help provide a place for other bereaved parents to find those connections… help offer a different kind of grief support. One that focuses on connecting people that understand child loss and can support each other in how to live again. Grief and child loss is a horrible thing to have to live with. Sending lots of love as you navigate your loss. https://www.facebook.com/groups/livingafterchildloss/

  11. Yes, so true. I feared losing my pain, as it was a connection to my son. Of course, I have learned, after nine years, out was a groundless fear. My search has not been for butterflies or rainbows, just for the moment when I wanted to live more than I wanted to die. That took about 8 years, I’d say. It involved lots of small steps and backsliding, and slowly coming out of my cocoon. It involved focusing outside myself and my pain. But I was playing with my adopted 3 yr old daughter one day, and I suddenly realized I had arrived. I wanted to live more than I wanted to die.

    I guess it’s a modest goal, but it was achievable. Butterflies and rainbows . . . Not achievable, not even wanted.

  12. Thank you for what you are doing. I started following just recently since finding this site. I have also subscribed and wishes to continue to follow. I have found all that have been shared to be very very helpful and true in the way life has taken on after the loss (es). Yes, it is unfair for the young to die so suddenly, or even the old. Substitutes cannot fill the hole. It seems every person has their place or space to fill in the vastness of one’s life even for a short while, hence the loss felt cannot be filled.

    I have lost my first child, 7 year old son in 2016, and still have not forgotten him. I do not wish to forget him. He is at present a part of me that is not with me. However, I keep busy and try to work to ensure that his younger siblings ( 2 brothers) are also looked after. I do not want to loss another. Still the grief has its space too in that.

    My love for you.

  13. I love this. An “authentic voice” and to “validate the complexities of life after loss”. The realness of your post is refreshing. Because our losses are all so personal there is no way we can ever expect our grieving to be the same. The best way to help each other survive is by allowing and encouraging each other to be real and honest even if it’s not pretty. Grief is not pretty. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  14. Thank you for your honesty. I thought I was the only one. So many other things I’d like to say but I’m too exhausted. I thanks those of you who can find the energy to type the words my heart feels. Love and prayers to everyone on this journey.

  15. A-freaking MEN! Just the fact you used the phrase “throat punch” made me see you GOT IT, got how i feel daily.

  16. I lost my only child Matthew at the age of 29 almost four and a half years ago. I found him just before he took his last breath. This is forever in my mind. All I can say is that I hate people anymore. They are idiots. Lost some friends and family pretty much stayed clear cause they didn’t know what to say! Really! You hear all kinds of advice, as if they have a clue. One of my sons friends parents said that if we exercise, that will help! That advice was given to me and my husband a week after his passing. I agree with everyone, it just plain sucks!!!

  17. I just want to scream at other whiny women who complain about the most ridiculous things! How this is unfair and that’s unfair! You wanna compare unfair lists with me, I want to shout in their face!! Our youngest son died at 19 then one month later my husband got a job in another State! I don’t see or live with him now either. I’m totally alone in this place, I go to work and come home. I see my husband every 6 weeks for 46 hours. I hate everyone and everything! I feel like it will never end….

  18. Your story is so similar to my own except my son was two. He had a stomach bug this March. He was talking to me all day. He had color and he didn’t appear overly sick until he was. It happened in an instant. He started seizing and at the hospital I went through the same hell as you. The brain death tests etc. I never ever thought he could die from a stomach bug that he barely showed symptoms of. My three other kids are suffering and so are my husband and myself. I’m so sorry for the loss of your son but your blog was the first one that I read and could completely relate to. I have become angry and I have learned that people have no idea how to talk to me. Their lives go on and they don’t suffer like I do. My son was supposed to start preschool with his four year old brother. This time of year is making things harder for me. I don’t know how to get through the day without crying and missing holding him. Five and a half months and I cry every day. I no longer live. I just exist. I feel guilty that I have lost a love for life because my other three deserve a mom who is all in like I used to be.

  19. I felt some hope at the beginning. Literal, physical manifestations of “rainbows and butterflies” and sunshine that I simultaneously clung to and despised, that made me feel like my little boy was okay and still aware of us, but that would go away as quickly as they came and then he’d still be gone and they began to lose their meaning. As the months have gone by, it hasn’t gotten any lighter. It just sinks in more and settles itself on my shoulders. My son was six weeks old when he died, so in some ways maybe I should, but I, too, feel no connection with the overwhelming majority of #lossmoms (I personally, strongly, very much dislike the hashtags) who experienced miscarriages, or stillborn babies, or infant loss through CHD or another anomoly that was detected on a scan during pregnancy or at birth. We took our healthy, 9lb son home. We spent three weeks under the happy illusion that we had two healthy children. When my son was three weeks old, I took him in for a weight check because he had started acting a little fussy when he was eating, and the next thing I knew I was being strapped into an ambulance with him on my lap by a herd of paramedics. Three weeks, two hospital discharges, and what felt like a sea of days spent feeling either too worried or not concerned enough later, he was fine. He was so good, they said. They sent us home with a little feeding tube and a handful of follow up appointments and some vague answers, and then he died of an unexplainable heart attack in their arms in the emergency room 36 hours later.
    I feel like an island with no one to relate to, because the only people who reach out to me or that I have been able to find are the ones who tell me I’ve joined their club. They know how I feel. They lost a baby, too. It’s the same.
    But it’s not. Just like losing my son at six weeks isn’t the same as you losing yours at seven years old. I have another little boy who is almost three; I know how that love and that presence grows as they do. I also know what it’s like to come home with empty arms and see my child’s things left in the places they had been. Things he had touched. Things that smelled like him. I know how it feels to feel like being alone is the only safe, isolating place for your grief, even if other people try to have good intentions. Even my own parents think, shouldn’t you be doing better yet? It’s been seven months.
    I feel guilty for being angry. Guilty for feeling separate. For feeling split between sincere compassion for others, and bitterness at being told where I belong and how I must feel. All of the “at leasts.” I feel tired of being jealous.
    I know I’m not ever going to be okay with not having my little boy here with me. I function fine, most days. Our therapist said my husband and I are “emotionally healthy” and “self-aware.” But the pain doesn’t stop, and people don’t see it. The hope people talk about is very elusive most days, and the grief is exhausting. And I think most people become weary or afraid of it, and I don’t want to hear or see my sweet son’s name met with discomfort or presumption, so most days it’s easier to just not be around people. And so, the loneliness goes. And it goes.

  20. My 35yr old son died 6 months ago. I’m tired , exhausted , cry & cry because we miss him so much. Reading others stories helps me really relate to what they are saying.

  21. We lost our 1st little boy at 36 weeks gestation, I had 2 twin boys at 28 weeks, one made it, one was stillborn. We lost a baby right at 40 weeks gestation. I was absolutely devastated. I would be in a store and hear a baby cry and my milk would let down. I couldn’t pass pregnant women or see clothes in the store, I had to leave immediately in tears. . We had no memories that other people had of their child who lived. I remember almost thinking that I wanted a comparison of losing an older child and the babies I had lost. I didn’t want to lose another child but I wanted others to know how difficult the death of a baby is. Then 10 years ago we lost our 21 year old son. Losing my babies was every bit as hard as losing my 21 yr old. I have 4 kids in heaven. Luckily I have other children who are living. Their grieving has been so hard to help them with. The thing that people don’t realize is HOW HARD it is to lose a baby. You feel like you don’t have a right to grieve because others think that you didn’t know them. That’s one of the losses, you didn’t even get a chance to know them. My heart has been ripped to shreds many times. I have been through such deep depression . Luckily my family has been strengthened and become even closer than we were. With the Lord’s help I have been able to hang together and be here to raise my other children. I know I will be able to see my kids in heaven one day. Love and hugs to you all.

  22. I always come back to your blog .

    It’s real, raw and honest. Thank you so much for being our voice in this crap club we’ve been forced into .

    I cried reading your story, to lose your seemingly healthy precious boy suddenly on Christmas Day and your birthday 🙁

    It hit home for me. I lost my 19yr old beautiful best friend daughter the day after Christmas 2019. She finished work in a mall, ran into a friend, laughed & hugged her, suddenly told the friend she felt dizzy, collapsed and instantly died. I was in the same mall but didn’t get to get in time before ambulance took her away . We still don’t know how she passed as covid has slowed autopsy lab tests down .

    Thank you for sharing your journey . Big hugs to you

  23. Thank you for the blog and sharing your story. I lost my 33 years old son on christmas eve 2020. When I read your blog, I feel all the same feekign as you are mentioning.
    Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone.

    Grief that sucks.

  24. Thanks for sharing. I was a sweet, caring person before my son’s fatal car accident. Now, the only people I find any empathy for are my husband, my youngest son, and parents who have lost children (any age). I am so sick of people whining about minor things in life. The only “good” change is now I fear nothing. My worst nightmare came true – there is nothing left to fear. Everyday I wake up and count the days since I last saw, spoke, and hugged my son. I also say “D-1”) I don’t have an absolute for “D” – but every day I live is a day closer to being together again. I’m not suicidal – I need to live for my other son, but I don’t fear death.

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