How Do You Breathe?

It was the question I asked the bereaved mother that came to my son’s funeral.

It was the question a mother asked me as we stood by her granddaughter’s casket, surrounded by family and flowers.

And it is the right question.

Because when the breath leaves the body of your child, and you look down at the shell that used to be the home of a vibrant, living soul, you simply can. not. breathe.

What should be an autonomic, automatic, don’t-even-think-about-it bodily function escapes you.

When your lungs finally scream for oxygen, your body takes over, against your will.

And even more than two years later, it’s where I still live-between the conscious world of aching loss that drains me of the will to go on and the unconcious biology of a body still functioning without my permission.

I live in a no-man’s-land with one foot in the HERE AND NOW and one foot in FOREVER.

But there are no bright flags to mark its borders, no crossing guards to give warning to the people I mingle with every day that they are over there- outside my world of hurt-and I am stuck in here.

And so they wave from across the way, cheerful and unburdened by the weight of sorrow I drag around.  They give me odd looks now and then, vaguely unsettled by my inability to plunge unrestrained into their fun.

Memory escapes them-what happened? how long has it been? shouldn’t she be over that by now?

They can’t understand, and I’m thankful for that.

“How do you breathe?”

Only the ones who share the secret knowledge know the answer to that question.

You learn to will your heart to keep beating and your lungs to keep filling because there are others who depend on you and who need you to stay.

You can’t hold your breath forever, even if you want to.  

You lean harder on the hope you have in Christ.

You recite verses and hymns and fill your mind with the promises of Jesus.

And you beg the Spirit of God to fill you to fullness with His breath, His life and His hope.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 NLT




Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

20 thoughts on “How Do You Breathe?”

  1. At 84 the pain of our loss still over takes me, I know the sadness we feel and no way to escape it. I know my 5 year old daughter is still with me. I never loose a moment with out her. Her death shocked many in out small town, it was long ago, I really didn’t have anyone, of course at that time we hadn’t a computer, just books, most of all the love ot out other children and my husband. GOD was with me I am sure , I could have never handled her loss with out his love and support. She was a very special daughter. Thank you , LORD JESUS

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember going in to see my daughter’s body at the hospital. My husband would not go in with me but her fiance and I did. I will never be able to put into words the feeling I had. At that moment, I wanted to die immediately so I could be with her. That was the only thing I could think of. I didn’t care about anyone else.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 5 years ago my daughter passed away/59 massive heart attack/ i year later my grandson committed suicide/ he was 44/ excactly one year later on same day my other daughter passed away/59 lung cancer.I didnt care if i lived or died/ i still ask WHY?They were all such a big part of my every day life and i never imagined I could loose them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree. After Jason died, I found that it really was hard to breathe, partly because I really didn’t want to breathe any more without Jason in this world. I would cry so hard that I simply could not catch my breath and my body would hurt from lack of oxygen. As time went on, I realized that I was breathing very shallowly, as if I breathed didn’t too deeply it wouldn’t hurt as much. I had to intentionally focus on breathing more deeply. It helped when I started walking more because my body had no choice but get more oxygen for the exercise by breathing more deeply. Even all these years later, my oxygen levels can run low because I don’t breathe deeply enough. It’s something I still have to specifically concentrate on doing.


    1. Thank you for sharing this! I have experienced the same thing! I forget to breathe! I never thought to check my O2 levels but that would explain alot!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. You describe it perfectly. You can’t hold your breath forever, even if you want to. Your body keeps breathing, and some days that feels like betrayal. Other days I’m thankful I keep breathing in spite of myself.
    So I hold on, and wait, and sometimes still hope for that joy and peace in Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s been 41/2 years since my daughter ran ahead to heaven.
    Some days the pain in my heart is so intense that I don’t know how I breathe,but I do.
    I read your email daily.
    Thank you for your honest and caring words.⭐

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karen, I am so sorry for your loss and your pain. It is a hard, hard road. I’m sorry anyone else has to travel it but I have found great strength and comfort in knowing I am not alone. I pray that you do, too.

      May you feel the Father’s loving arms around you and may He overwhelm your heart with His grace, mercy and strength. ❤


  7. It’s been twenty three years since I lost my beautiful daughter Amber. My only child. I remember during the funeral service, I wasn’t breathing. My husband sitting next to me started to cry openly and out loud. I reached over and took his hand. Later he told me that when I took his hand he couldn’t feel his breathing. I said I know the same with me. Our Christ Jesus was breathing for both of us. Even after all these many years she’s been gone, I still need help with breathing.
    Her Dad is with her now and they are breathing just fine.
    Brenda B

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow it’s been a little over a year since our son went to Heaven! This describes it PERFECTLY..not wanting to breathe, but you have to cause it’s not all about you! It’s about your son’s daughter that you love cause he can’t; about the new granddaughter you’ve had since he passed and my wonderful daughter and her family! Love ❤️ you always Cole

      Liked by 1 person

  8. So well said . . . “And even more than two years later, it’s where I still live-between the conscious world of aching loss that drains me of the will to go on and the unconcious biology of a body still functioning without my permission.

    I live in a no-man’s-land with one foot in the HERE AND NOW and one foot in FOREVER.”

    In June of 1993, I found myself sitting in a movie theatre in Long Island New York with a friend and colleague almost a year to the day, after my son was stillborn. We were on a business trip that overlapped the day of Cole’s birth and there I sat in that dark theater watching Sleepless in Seattle. I remember choking back sobs as Tom Hanks recited the words of his character, Sam Baldwin, following the death of his wife explaining how he planned to move forward with his son, Jonah, to a radio psychologist Jonah had called in the middle of the night. . . “Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.” Every muscle in my body was locked in tension as I fought to keep my anguish from rolling down my face and exploding from my aching throat.

    Today, I think more of my body weight is balanced on the side of FOREVER than in the HERE AND NOW. I have three children on that side of the unbreachable chasm as opposed to one husband and one child on this side – the HERE AND NOW. Yet, they need me. Were that not the case . . . well, I have serious doubt in the strength of my will to survive. I can hear the whispers, “She died of a broken heart” to describe what would surely amount to little more than suicide by neglect.

    There are men and women who have proven to be far stronger than I can ever imagine myself to be. They have lost all and continued to live productive – even inspiring lives. I hold no illusions regarding my own ability to do the same.

    I trust my Savior far more for my eternal future than for my daily life. I know He will not abandon me in the HERE AND NOW, but the lack of will, the apathy regarding any kind of a bright future is a burden beyond my strength to withstand. I am not nearly as confident as Paul, as the “. . .” clearly attests to when he said in Phillipians 1:20-21, “I . . . hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have complete boldness, so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

    To die (not by my own hand) is gain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It might be almost impossible to believe but I had never actually watched “Sleepless in Seattle” until a bit over a year after Dom’s death. I was in the comfort and seclusion of my own bedroom so was free to give voice to my anguish when Tom Hanks said those lines. It was the only time I have ever dreamt of Dom since his death and it was not a beautiful dream of comfort and reassurance. It was so awful that I’m not sure I ever want another one. And, yes, it is my husband and children that keep me here. I do not envision a victorious life this side of eternity. My heart hurts with yours and yearns for the day when our feet can be firmly planted in one plane.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s been three and a half years since my son committed suicide and there’s days that I still have to tell myself to breathe. And that I have other children and grandchildren. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

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