Child loss is not a single event.
Of course the moment when the last breath leaves a body is noted and duly recorded because the law requires such. I can pull out Dominic’s death certificate (what an ugly thing to have to say about my child!) and it reads: Time of Death: 1:10 a.m. April 12, 2014.
But I didn’t know about it until 4: 15 that morning when the deputy rang the bell.
So for me, his death came then.
For family members away from home it happened when I called them.
Others found out later that day or the next.
Yet hearing the words and swallowing them down deep where my heart could comprehend them were two different things. I think it wasn’t until I saw his body that it truly dawned on me he was not coming back. This was not a dream or a mistake or happening to someone else. It was very, very real.
That was just the beginning.
I continue to experience loss every time there is a moment when Dominic SHOULD be here but he isn’t. Every time one of his peers gets married, has a child, makes a career move, celebrates a promotion-I think, “Dominic would be doing this if he were still here.”
When our family gathers for photos and the gap where he should be standing is closed in by another body, squeezing his presence from the record of our lives, my heart sinks. I smile-that’s what you are supposed to do for pictures-but my mind is working double-time to keep the tears in check.
My living children touch base with me nearly every day-a habit they had before Dom left us but one reinforced by the knowledge that no one wants to regret the phone call or text they didn’t make. But just like the photographs, his absence is highlighted by their intentional presence.
When extended family ask for updates on my kids, I have to mindfully skip Dominic and land on Julian. They don’t notice the tiny pause but my heart marks the place and mourns the lack of news for my third born.
I know for other people Dominic’s death was a date on the calendar.
This realization was very painful at first because my wound is so deep and my sorrow so great. I’ve made peace with that now. I understand why folks can move on and forget. The loss happened-past tense-and their lives are full of new people, new activities, new connections and commitments. That’s how it should be.
But for me, the loss is an everyday event. It continues to happen. It will continue to happen.
I’m not “dwelling” on my son’s death anymore than I am “dwelling” on my living children’s lives.
They are my children.
Loved and remembered-every one.