I, like many bereaved parents, am still processing the horrific event in Uvalde, Texas.
I have spent the past couple days enveloped in a fog of disbelief (like most folks) and utter horror (as only fellow bereaved parents can comprehend).
I’m processing. I’m mourning. I’m angry.
I’m reliving the awful reality of learning that my child will never again walk through my door, hug my neck, call my name, sit at my table or contribute to a family conversation.
Maybe tomorrow my thoughts will be organized enough to share with the rest of the world, tonight they are still disjointed and cannot be reduced to words.
But I want to share something I wrote last year because I think it’s important. It won’t be anything the parents of those precious little lives can digest right now, but it might be helpful to the rest of us.
Recently I was challenged by someone close to me to examine the impact on my heart of spending so much time in community with those whose loss was fresher and more raw than my own.
They were being neither judgmental nor argumentative.
They were coming from a genuine place of concern, grace and love.
So I took the opportunity to take a step back and reevaluate whether or not I need to continue writing in this space, spend time reading and responding to posts in bereaved parents’ groups and ruminating on how grief has changed over time (now seven plus years!).
I understand the temptation to share cute little sayings like these in response to a bereaved parent’s Facebook post.
What runs through my mind, even eight years later when I read this isn’t, “Oh my! Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t I just turn that frown upside down and CHOOSE to be happy instead of sad.”
Instead it’s, “If I could, don’t you think I WOULD?”
If I could just make a mental adjustment and wash away the pain and missing of loss, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
Many times those who have been spared think that those who haven’t are holding grief too close, refusing to let it go. They may think we are using it as an attention getting prop. They rest certain that if it were them, THEY would rise above, get over or overcome grief.
You will never know how thankful I am that YOU. DON’T. REALLY. KNOW.
So when you’re tempted to subtly correct me and (out of the goodness of your heart) try to steer me toward a “cure” for my grief, think about it. Think about how hollow these words might sound in the ear of a mother or father who will never, ever hear or see or touch their child again. Think about how ridiculous it would be to suggest that all it takes to “be happy” is to “choose” correctly.
Think about which one of your children you could live without.
This will be the ninth Mother’s Day since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
Every year has been different because families continue to grow and change and the world turns and life marches on.
Every year presents unique challenges and particular paths that must be navigated anew. It’s always an emotional roller coaster.
Three years ago our family welcomed a first grandchild. His frightening entrance into the world made his life all the more precious and Mother’s Day gave us a chance to celebrate him, his mama and the fact that his story has a happy ending.
In March we welcomed his brother-also a bit early but not nearly as perilous! Once again we give thanks that things have turned out well.
This year I’ll be a motherless child when the sun rises tomorrow. For the third time in my life, I won’t be able to see or telephone my own mother. Another light and life lost from sight.
Dominic and Mama in Heaven together.
Every year my living children work hard to celebrate me even when they are unable to make it home.
I always feel loved.
So what’s a mama to do when her heart is torn between the very great and beautiful blessings of her living children and grandchildren and the very great and devastating sorrow of missing her child in Heaven?
Since discovering there is an International Bereaved Mother’s Day my heart has taken advantage of having a day to think about and honor Dominic and then another day to think about and honor my living children.
I also rise early enough on Mother’s Day to have time alone with my thoughts and feelings.
I walk my heart through the upcoming hours and “pre-grieve” moments where I’ll be looking for Dom among the faces at the table or around the room. I remember the gift of his life and place it in context of the gift of each of my children.
I thank God for my family.
And then I get up, get dressed and open my heart to the love I have in front of me.
I never, ever want my living children to think that their brother’s ABSENCE is more important or more precious to me than their PRESENCE.
My mama’s heart has room for all of them as it always has.
Ninety miles an hour-that’s how fast my mind can go from here to there.
From what’s in front of me to what’s behind me.
From laughter to swallowing sobs.
We sit in a living room surrounded by toys and playing with children, talking about life and love and plans and people. The little brown face that turns his eyes to mine looks so much like Dominic I have to suck in my breath.
Giggles. Squeals. Cars running up and down my arm and around my feet.
I first shared this post six years ago after a group of bereaved parents and I were talking about how things that used to be simple and straightforward simply weren’t anymore.
Things like the question, “How many kids do you have?”
Things like going to a movie or picking a place to eat out.
So. Many. Things.
Honestly, I thought it’d be less of a minefield by now-I mean it’s been eight years already! And while there ARE some things that I find easier, most of the things I talk about in this post are still hard.
One of the things I’ve been forced to embrace in the wake of child loss is that there are very few questions, experiences or feelings that are simple anymore.
“How many children do you have?”
A common, get-to-know-you question lobbed across tables, down pews and in the check-out line at the grocery store. But for many bereaved parents, it can be a complex question that gets a different answer depending on who is asking and where we are.