The idea of losing one of my children is something I can’t bring myself to think about for more than half a second, really. The thought alone is just too much for me to bear, and if I were ever faced with the reality, I’m not sure how I could go on. But it seems one Colorado mom has found the courage to share her heartbreaking experience with child loss for one very important reason — and her message is now going viral.
Christine Miller, of the Facebook page and YouTube Channel Growing Humans, is recounting the story of her precious son Kyle, whom she lost in a car accident 12 years ago this month. She believes that Kyle’s death would have been prevented had he only been using a safer car seat (a 5-point harness instead of a booster), and she wants to use his death as a warning to parents everywhere to take car seat safety seriously, and not make the same kind of mistake she did.
Miller’s story was posted on the car seat safety page Car Seat Consultants just a few days ago, where it’s quickly gone viral. And it’s easy to see why: The grieving mother’s account of what it was like to lose a child is unbelievably raw, and it makes her warnings about proper car seat use that much more resonant.
Miller starts her post with memories of her boy, noting that “12 years ago today was the last time I saw this beautiful smile, kissed his sweet face or felt his little arms wrap around my neck.” She continues by remembering Kyle’s “adorable” laugh, and the way his eyes lit up with wonder whenever he called her “Mommy.”
Her last memory shattered me, and brought tears to my eyes (which didn’t stop until I finished reading the post):
“I still remember so clearly how he would only fall asleep if I laid down with him and let him stroke my cheek,” Miller shares. “And I’d whisper ‘I love you’ in his ear after he fell asleep.”
The description of her life with her son is so vivid, and makes her loss that much more devastating to digest. Miller goes on to describe in powerful details what it was like to lose her son, and explains that the loss of a child is something parents never really get over, even as they get back to real life — it’s the kind of thing that leaves permanent scars.
“Losing Kyle was like being plunged straight into hell, a pain and agony beyond description,” Miller writes. “If the scars on my heart were visible, people would gasp every time they saw me. In some ways maybe that would make it easier, but instead I carry those scars and pain inside, invisible to everyone except those who know me deeply. People see me and think I’m just a regular person, but I’m not. I’m scarred beyond belief. I’ve walked through hell and still carry a piece of it inside me.”
The loss of a child isn’t something that’s easy to write about, let alone share with a worldwide audience, but Miller is doing it because she doesn’t want any other families to experience a loss like hers — one that could have been avoided had she only known the dangers of improper car seat use.
“I think the hardest part of it all is knowing how easily preventable it was,” Miller writes. “Had I just known about the dangers of booster seats for toddlers, had somebody warned me, I would have put him in a 5-point harness car seat … and that simple difference would have changed everything. It would have saved his life.”
Little Kyle was just 3-years-old when he died. And I can totally understand how Miller’s mistake was made: 12 years ago, many of the car seat safety regulations weren’t as strict or widely known as they (thankfully) are today. Still, even now, I see kids Kyle’s age who are in booster seats, even though major health organizations like the Academy of American Pediatrics state explicitly that children should be in 5-point-harnesses until at least 4 years old (or until the highest weight and height limits stated by the car seat manufacturer).
Miller also shares some sobering stats to underline just how important we should be taking car seat safety in general.
“Car accidents are the #1 killer of children,” she writes, “and statistics show that 80-90 percent of car seats are installed or used incorrectly. Read that again and let it sink in. We are not protecting our children from the single greatest threat to their lives.”
I have a 4-year-old son who is still in a 5-point-harness (thank goodness!), but just yesterday I was considering sending a booster seat over to his grandma’s house so that she could more easily transport him around town. After reading this, I’m going to back off that plan for sure. Seriously, you can never be too cautious when it comes to car seat safety.
And that is exactly what Miller wants all of us parents to keep in mind.
“We try to protect our kids from everything from pesticides, GMOs, sharp furniture corners and cancer, but then buckle them into unsafe car seats,” Miller writes as she ends her impassioned post. “This needs to change. Please, if you have young children or know someone with young children, research proper car seat usage and talk about it with everyone you know.”
Miller also explains how easy it is to brush off the importance of it all sometimes, and also how quick other people are to judge parents who are too nit-picky or overprotective about car seat safety.
“I’ve lost friends and family members because they were offended that I pointed out their incorrect car seat usage,” she writes. “But to say nothing and have another child’s death on my conscience is not something I’m willing to risk.”
I have been on the receiving end of such critique myself, and I so appreciate her pointing out how this is just one of those things in life where you need to stick to your guns and tune out the naysayers. Our children’s lives are literally on the line here.
Miller wishes that someone had warned her about the dangers of moving her son into a booster seat too soon, and she hopes that by posting her difficult story, she will save another child’s life, just like she wishes she could have saved Kyle’s life.
Words can’t express how much I appreciate this mother’s generous heart and resolute stance on this issue. But most of all, I admire how she was able to take the most painful parenting tragedy imaginable and turn it into something loving and potentially life-saving.