Scarlett’s Sunshine: Finding Meaning In The Loss Of A Child

There is no trauma quite like that of losing a child. Those who have experienced this tragic loss struggle to cope no matter how much support they have or how strong they are perceived to be. Whether newly born or beginning the twilight period of their lives, the loss of a child never feels right. It is in the “wrong order,” and any parent who goes through it, no matter how old they themselves are, have an incredibly difficult time making sense of life following the tragedy.

Many parents attempt to find meaning by creating projects in the memory of their child. Scarlett’s parents are one such example.

What is Scarlett’s Sunshine?

Scarlett’s Sunshine is a project set up by Aaron and Holly Middleton, the grieving parents of Scarlett, who died at the age of five in 2018. Their purpose is to spread random acts of kindness in memory of their daughter. They hand out flowers to strangers in the street, as well as residents of nursing homes who have no one to come visit them.

Scarlett’s Story

Scarlett died suddenly after developing sepsis following a family trip to Disney Springs. It began with nothing more than a fever and vomiting. A trip to the doctor reassured her parents that it was a routine stomach bug. However, Scarlett’s condition deteriorated and her parents became alarmed. They called an ambulance, but Scarlett stopped breathing on her way to the hospital.

Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away

Doctors attempted to revive Scarlett, but they could not restart her heart. The lead doctor explained to Holly that they had tried everything and suggested they stop compressions. Holly made the hardest decision of her life, and gave them permission to “let her go.” As Scarlett died, Holly sang to her:

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey, you’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Parents who have to grieve the loss of a child all face this feeling that the sunshine in their life is being taken away. They struggle to make sense of this sudden, inexplicable loss. Life will never again be the same, as a part of their lives they never expected to lose fades away. A gaping hole is left in their place, which cannot ever be truly filled. It may seem like they will never feel happy again and they face the near impossible task of finding meaning in the tragedy.

Sepsis Awareness

Scarlett’s death was caused by sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s response to an infection. It can overwhelm the body and threaten its continued functioning. It is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals. With advanced awareness of the threat of sepsis, more people will be able to recognize it early enough to make a difference.

Scarlett’s parents have made sepsis awareness part of the mission of Scarlett’s Sunshine. By helping other parents understand the risk of sepsis, they can create something positive and meaningful from Scarlett’s death.

Flowers to Keep Her Light Shining on Earth

After the loss of a child, many parents inevitably feel a pervasive negativity. It can become difficult to feel empathy towards others, who continue to live their lives ignorant of what has been lost. Life seems so unfair, and grieving parents may project that unfairness onto others.

This can, unfortunately, make it difficult for the parents to heal and continue living meaningful lives. Instead, they begin to live life on autopilot, going through the motions but never feeling fully connected.

Scarlett’s parents used Scarlett’s Sunshine to help them heal, by putting more kindness into the world, even when they felt like they wanted to do anything but. Spreading kindness helped keep them connected to life in the aftermath of something that could have severed that connection forever.

“Creating Something Extraordinary Out of Tragedy”

Through Scarlett’s Sunshine, Holly and Aaron managed to “create something extraordinary out of tragedy.” They managed to give meaning to Scarlett’s death. They made it their mission to spread kindness, making the world a more forgiving place for many others. They decided to spread awareness of sepsis, Scarlett’s cause of death, to ensure that other parents don’t have to go through the same tragic loss. This way, they see Scarlett’s legacy continue. Their terrible tragedy has given others the chance of surviving the threat of sepsis, possibly saving the lives of many other children.

How Can I Help?

If you would like to contribute to the mission of Scarlett’s Sunshine, you can donate via the GoFundMe page. Funds will go towards buying flowers for spontaneous acts of giving, as well as the resources for further spreading sepsis awareness.

You can also help by doing your own acts of random kindness, whether handing out flowers or any other spontaneous generosity.

Scarlett’s Sunshine: Spread Love and Sunshine!

The purpose of Scarlett’s Sunshine is to spread love and sunshine into the lives of others. While the sunshine of Scarlett’s parents’ lives may have been cruelly taken, the tragedy can be used to create more sunshine for the living. Spreading love can improve your sense of wellbeing, whether or not you have experienced a loss of your own. You can help yourself as well as others around you, bringing more meaning into your life and making the  world seem a little bit more forgiving.

Scarlett’s Sunshine is just one example of parents finding meaning in the loss of a child. Aaron and Holly have created something positive out of the worst thing that has ever happened to them. Throughout the years, many other parents have done the same, spreading kindness, as well as creating awareness of life-threatening illnesses, in the wake of a tragedy. This is one way of coping with such a devastating loss. While everyone heals differently, creating meaning in tragedy is certainly one effective method for finding the strength to continue living.

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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