Apparently I missed the memo. You know, the one that said grief comes in stages. That once you are past stage one you go on to stage two, then three, then four, then…. you’re done. That seems to be the way the world expects grief to be. That there is a time limit , no one could tell you exactly… but I think I’ve concluded that each individual, judgmental person out there who has not lost a child can tell you THEIR opinion about now only HOW you should grieve but how LONG is acceptable. The time frame typically translates into a time frame that makes THEM comfortable. Because these people, the ones who judge, seem to be of the opinion that THEIR particular perspective is correct and right for all.
Well let me give them some perspective…
If my child continued to live, would I stop loving them?
If my child continued to live, would I grow out of being their mother?
If my child continued to live, would the world believe that , by me loving my child every minute of every day for the rest of my life, I would be strange or abnormal?
No. Of course not. I would be a terrible, heartless, neglectful parent if I stopped loving my child or grew “out” of being their mother. And it is certainly not strange – because that is what it is to be a mom or a dad to a child.
So why would anyone expect anything different when a child dies? Do I cease to be my child’s mother? To stop loving them? Of course not. And just like mother hood comes with the struggles of daily challenges, so does being a mother to a child who dies. Every milestone is like a stab to the heart, the fact you cannot share it with them. Every holiday, family gathering, or special event that the other kids get to experience. My child is gone – she is no longer physically here to bless us with her sweet smiles and little coos. Or to grow up and speak her first word.
Every missed milestone is something to grieve. But it shows the deep, sweet love that we have for our children. We are still mothers and fathers. We still have the love in our hearts for children who are no longer here. And while their lives, no matter HOW short, challenging or sweet – they deserve our continued love every day for the rest of our lives. It is not strange or unusual. It is a parent’s job to love their child.
To the well-meaning person who tells a grief stricken parent to “move on” or to “focus on the good” or “don’t beat yourself up”… I say you have undoubtedly not seen what I have seen. I sit here, 1 year and 2 months beyond the most incredibly devastating moment in my life and I have flashbacks, frequently and unexpectedly, of my daughter dying. Triggers in my brain send me back, to those horrifying moments in the ER room. I remember, like I was there yesterday, putting my hand on the top of her little warm head and cupping her little face to kiss her lifeless cheeks as she lay there, on the ER table… gone. Sleeping. Into blissful eternity. Without her mom. And my heart hurts – like it was yesterday. Every flashback. But I can feel her, smell her and remember her like it happened just moments ago. .
I hide this grief. Everyday. I lock it away and smile, and go about my day. I work. A LOT. It provides a phenomenal distraction. Some days, however, it breaks free. I have moments where I lose all self control and I break down. But I’m here – stepping forward – surviving.
Joy still comes and goes with waves. More frequently now as time has passed. But the waves of despair are so much more dramatic. It is incredible what you learn to fake. How you learn to suppress feelings. Sadly – we have to in order to continue on.