Watching your child suffer

Most parents will never watch their child die. It’s something I can’t imagine and the reason I’ve been touched and transfixed by the journey of one family who is sharing their experience via Facebook.

Their 10-year-old son, Mitchell, is home from life-saving efforts at the hospital, spending his final days on this earth with his family. He is in heart failure after battling with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy since he was 3.

Natalie holds her son Mitchell. (Facebook photo)

On the family’s facebook page (, Mitchell’s parents chronicle their son’s journey, as well as their own low points and epiphanies as parents of a child with a death sentence. It’s heartbreaking but also eye opening.

“I hope when the time comes he doesn’t have to suffer. I asked God if suffering is required that I would gladly accept it to spare him any pain. I hope and pray that when it happens it happens quickly for him,” Mitchell’s father writes this week.

We have been dealing with a minor health issue with one of our children lately. It in no way compares with what this little boy’s family is going through, but it has made me realize how hard it is to watch your children suffer. I hurt when she hurts, and I would so much rather be the one in pain.

But I can’t. And this sweet father can’t take the place of his son. It’s a journey he must take — but not alone. He has wonderful parents to help him on his way.

I talk a lot about the various aspects of motherhood and parenthood on this blog — the good, the bad and the ridiculous. I define and redefine what my role is as a mother.

But while reading the story of Mitchell and his parents, my answer is pretty simple: Mothers and fathers have spirits in their care and their job is to love them, teach them and eventually guide them back to their true home.

Some of us get more time to do this than others, but maybe that makes the job even more important and precious.

Mitchell’s father writes, “In many ways raising our children is a bit like taking helium balloons to a park to release into the vast blue sky. As with any balloon we release, their journey and destination are unknown and each so very different and we do our best to prepare them for their own journey . . . and while we haven’t let go of the string, it is slipping away ever so slowly by the winds of change.”

Have you watched a child suffer? How did you find or give comfort in those times?


  1. sunshine4u4ever

    My 8 year old son has had 5 surgeries on his throat since May. Although not life threatening, it has been very challenging for him. I have learned so much from watching him go through this. Many times it has been him that has comforted me in those times. I have been amazed at his strenghth, faith and courage, by facing his fears, worries and the pain. We all have such inner strength, and I guess the silver lining to all this is that he has learned that at such a young age. I can’t imagine what it would be like to guide a child through a terminal illness, but I do know, they are amazing in their wisdom and understanding, even though they are young!

  2. From Tennessee

    I could not imagine how u feel…but I did loose my twin sister at 29 almost 3 years ago…it was the hardest thing I have ever went through…without god in my life and helping me through this I would be crazy today…it changed my life forever…it was really hard letting her go but I know she is in a better place now called Heaven…I miss her each and everyday but I know one day I will see her again…and that’s what keeps me going…this is just our temporally home and eternal life will be in Heaven with our loved ones…they are just gone for a little while but we will have them again…

  3. GAMOM

    Our daughter was born 15 weeks early and spend 7 out of her first 12 months in the hospital (not all at the same time). She also had many surgeries etc over the years. One thing I learned is that I am not in control. Meaning, at one point I came to the realization that all I could do was give it up to God and trust he would direct the Dr and us in what needed to be done and to truly rely one Him. So often it was heartbreaking and tortuous and painful to watch the struggle and realize there was nothing I could physically do. But over time I found a deeper ability to follow direction in my life.

  4. Jane Musters

    I have just recently started to watch the suffering of a child. My sweet nephew has been diagnosed with an extremely rare disease. Not a lot of information about it and not a lot of answers to the questions that his parents and us have. How do you answer questions for a young boy when there are not a lot of answers? I hate to see my sister cry. I don’t like the fact that he has spent the last 4 weeks in the hospital and that we don’t know what the future brings. I am thankful for Erin’s word. We really are just caretakers of out children who we are teaching and preparing to return to live with God. I just hope I can make that time last with my own family and those around me,

  5. kassey

    Almost the years ago at our twenty week ultrasound my husband and i were told our baby had a condition called trisomy 18. And that’s it’s not compatible with life. The Dr. then precede to list all of our baby girls medical problems.and offered Ann really termination. They told us that she could die during our the hour drive home, in a day a week. Anytime really. Only 10% lived full term, and only 10% of those survived delivery. Do we waited and prayed and waited more. This was our forth child and after many trips to the temple and many prayer and priesthood blessings i knew she would not stay with us long. So when the time canned for her to join our family we had her at our local hospital with our children and family surrounding us. She gave us a wonderful twenty minutes of lif. Then we watched her slip away. There is nothing harder then watching your child take their last breath. And yet there is a peace that comes as you know their pain is gone. My baby would be two this march. And i miss her every day. My heart breaks for this family. And yet their is joy in knowing that titer child elk be well and whole and waiting anxiously for they day they can be together again.

  6. Tamara Allain

    My son was diagnosed with meningitis when he was two months old. The bacteria has left him severely brain damaged, where he is now blind and partially deaf, feeds through a tube, and does no significant movements. He doesnt stare at me, or recognize me the way he used to and it breaks my heart knowing that im losing him. He is now 9 months old and has spent most of his life at the hospital for sick children. Watching him slowly wither away is heartbreaking, especially since he was born healthy. The doctors tell me that it’s only a matter of time until he passes. I sit at the hospital for months at a time, not knowing when he will leave my side. I’ve cried, I’ve blamed myself, I’ve stopped my life, I’ve suffered a period of depression … None of which helped me to cope. I’ve recently started to pick up myself, and I’ve started to smile again. Whenever I look at him, I remember what his smile looked like before he got sick, I remember the way he would giggle when I made a funny face. I’ve faced reality, and have accepted the inevitable, I’ve been finding peace within myself surrounding his illness, and my goal is to continue spending time with him. Even though he doesn’t recognize his mommy anymore, I’ve never stopped showering him with love and affection.

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