My Child Died

Jacqueline Dooley
Grief Book Club
Published in
6 min readMay 9, 2019


Illustration by Jacqueline Dooley

According to the American Cancer Society, about 600 adolescents, aged 15 to 19, die from cancer each year.

In 2017, my daughter, Ana, was one of them.

Ana was sick for four and a half years. During most of that time, even as her cancer progressed, I didn’t think that she was going to die from her disease.

I thought that she would beat it. I thought that her tenacious will to live would help her overcome the odds, and that scientists or doctors would invent something miraculous to shrink her tumors and restore her health.

When it eventually became obvious that a miracle wasn’t going to happen for Ana, I turned my focus to helping her die.

Her death pulled the rug out from under my life. It shattered my understanding of the presumed natural order of things. It left me with the dilemma of trying to make my way in a world that made absolutely no sense to me. It robbed me of my ability to feel joy, at least for a while.

Ana, Age 8

Living without Ana wasn’t something I’d ever considered. When I did let myself think about it — her empty room, my empty days — my mind recoiled from the thought.

But it happened, the worst possible outcome — I woke up one morning in a world without Ana.

I had to get out of bed, had to do laundry, had to try and function for my husband and my remaining daughter. I had to walk Ana’s dog and feed her ancient gerbil (a creature, to my unending chagrin, that had outlived his own life expectancy by nearly triple the length).

There were a million everyday scenarios that required me to move through life as if a piece of my heart wasn’t permanently gone. Those early days of living in a post-Ana world felt like an affront.

Back then, I had an almost obsessive need to tell whoever crossed my path that my daughter died.

“Don’t you understand?” I wanted yell, “None of this matters because my daughter died!” (by “this” I meant everything — work, life, the upcoming season of Game of Thrones and everything in between).



Jacqueline Dooley
Grief Book Club

Essayist, content writer, bereaved parent. Bylines: Human Parts, GEN, Marker, OneZero, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Pulse, HuffPost, Longreads, Modern Loss