By Molly Belling
I am not a writer, but I have done a lot of writing since Peyton died.
Peyton Daniel Belling is my oldest son. He was born September 20, 2011, and was just shy of 3.5 years old when he got sick.
It started with a low-grade fever, and within a couple of weeks, we had a cancer diagnosis. It took an extra day to find out it was Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and that he had more than a 90 percent chance of survival.
Six weeks and four chemo treatments later, Peyton had a seizure at home and never woke up. I could write a book describing that month we spent with him at the hospital, but that’s not my purpose today.
Losing Peyton has changed everything in my life. I might appear the same on the outside, but I process things differently. It’s hard to explain because it doesn’t always make sense. There are two questions I am frequently asked that tend to have a consistent answer. The first question is for bereaved parents, and the second is for those supporting them.
How do you go on living after losing a child?
I honestly don’t know; it just sort of happens. The first year was like living in a fog. I couldn’t focus or keep a train of thought. I couldn’t remember anything. Everything hurt.
Everything was complicated. Basic everyday activities, like taking a shower or making breakfast, were exhausting. The three things that helped me the most were:
1. Communication. Grief is different for everyone, and different parts of it hit you unpredictably; my husband, Eric, and I didn’t always need the same things at the same time, and we can’t always support each other on our own bad days. We talk about it a lot, and it helps to know what the other needs.
2. One breath at a time. So many people in the beginning told me to take things one day at a time. The thought was overwhelming. I couldn’t make it 10 minutes, how could I make it one day? Then someone said, “Take things one breath at a time,” and it clicked. I began focusing on each breath and taking note that I was making it from one to the next. It took away some of the anxiety in thinking about living the rest of my life without my son.
3. Learning. Eric and I read everything we could get our hands on. We entered a new world we knew nothing about when Peyton died. We needed to understand as much of it as possible, as quickly as possible. We will always have questions, but we have discovered things we never knew existed, and we have found ways that help us cope. Grief is a life-long process, as is learning about it.
How can I help? How should I behave around bereaved parents?
Don’t talk just to fill the silence, and don’t avoid the topic. This is tricky because bereaved parents (especially new ones) can be extremely sensitive; however, it is important that you don’t ignore the death.
It isn’t something you can fix, and nobody expects you to, but it is always on the minds of bereaved parents. Pretending not to know often feels harsh to those experiencing the loss.
Listen. Allow bereaved parents to tell you about their child. Ask questions about the child’s personality and favorite activities and about the parents’ favorite memories/stories.
Send daily necessities. Sometimes, just thinking about leaving the house after losing a child can cause great anxiety and sadness. Paper products, groceries, toiletries and other frequently used items can be very helpful.
If all else fails, ask, “What can I do to help you?”
My life changed forever on February 25, 2015. We have to live every day without Peyton, but not every day is bad, and a big part of the good is friends and family who support us and help us keep Peyton’s spirit alive.
Molly (Crider) Belling is a Hancock County native who now calls Fishers home. She and her husband run Peyton’s Promise in memory of their son, Peyton, who died in 2015 at age 3 from complications from leukemia .