There are all kinds of ways child loss plays with your head.
One of the most common and often repeated questions among bereaved parents (especially those who have lost their only child , all their children or a child before or at birth) is this: Am I still a mama (or daddy)?
Short answer: YES. Absolutely!
The fact that your child has taken up residence in Heaven and is no longer here to hold and love and parent on earth changes NOTHING about your status.
I wrote this from my point of view as a bereaved parent. But I think the principles can be applied to any topic by anyone.
It is entirely possible to make your argument, share your perspective, even ardently and passionately support a cause without attacking the person you’re talking to.
No one has ever changed their mind about anything because they’ve been shouted down, silenced, shamed or made to feel small.
It’s funny how child loss has, at the same time, made me more yielding and more steadfast.
I give in without a moment’s hesitation to other people’s choice in where to go for lunch, what to do for birthdays, how to arrange this or that at church. My brain simply doesn’t have the capacity any more to argue over trifles.
But I will stand up to a lion for the sake of love or to protect a hurting heart.
Looking back I’m shocked at how much I allowed societal norms and expectations to determine how I grieved Dominic’s death.
I withheld grace from myself that I would have gladly and freely given to another heart who just buried a child. Somehow I thought I had to soldier on in spite of the unbearable sorrow, pain, horror and worldview shattering loss I was enduring.
And the further I got from the date of his accident, the more I expected from myself.
Life may be a highway but it’s not a straight one.
It’s full of bends, curves, switchbacks and long stretches with distant horizons.
For a gal who likes knowing where she’s headed and how long it might take to get there, it’s more than a little challenging.
Sometimes I’d want to get out and camp on the side of life’s highway, take a pause and just catch my breath before the next set of roller coaster hills forces me to hold on tight for the ride.
In nearly fifty-seven years I’ve hardly ever been able to do that. So here I am, barreling down the road again toward more curves and more changes.
My youngest son and my husband are on their way right now from the Left Coast driving a truck toward home. When they get here we’ll have to unload an apartment full of stuff from my hubby’s place out there into our already pretty stuffed house. We’ve lived a lot of life in these walls and I readily admit I’m a saver of memories and things that signify special moments.
So while they were packing and loading, I’ve been cleaning around here.
It’s been physically, mentally and emotionally difficult to drag my body and heart down memory lane.
It’s just so hard-STILL– to touch things Dominic once touched and it takes my breath away. My heart has broken again over not only losing HIM but also losing the family I once had. We’ve all changed so. very. much. A mother can’t help but wonder if life for my surviving children might not be much brighter and easier if their brother were still here to share it.
Tiny bits of this and that force me to face things I’ve forgotten (sometimes on purpose) and feel things I’ve suppressed. It’s a grueling process.
I’ve had to take multiple breaks and simply walk away from the mess I’m creating in an effort to organize and downsize but I know it will be worth it in the end.
I think it was second grade when I started a notebook dedicated to them-carefully copying out the words of others that spoke the truths of my own heart. Although the topics which draw me are different now, I’m still collecting them.
So here are fifteen quotes on grief that I hope will help another heart:
It’s a lesson I learned decades ago and have honed over the years.
When the big things feel out of control, focus on the small ones right in front of your face.
It has served me well since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
Right now there are so, so many big things outside my control-not just the ones all of us are facing like the pandemic, or job loss, or trying to figure out how to navigate a world where you can’t hug your friends or even see their smiles-but many in my own family.
So I’m getting up every morning and looking for the one or two or twenty (if they are small!) things I love and can do something about.
In practice (for me) it looks like this: taking a morning walk along with feeding my critters (stopping to notice butterflies, lovely flowers, falling leaves, sunlight through the trees and sticking my nose in my horses’ manes); sweeping off the front porch and tidying the kitchen so my eyes can rest happy on clear spaces (even though the rest of the house is out of order due to major reorganization/moving rooms); putting my hair up and washing my face; writing (obviously); choosing one corner to clean well and declare “finished”; taking an afternoon walk with my son’s little dog and laughing silently as her tiny legs churn away keeping up with me; smelling hay as I toss it to the donkeys; reading bits of books (my attention span still isn’t what it used to be); chatting with friends and family online or on the phone; resting after a long day’s work by watching old British mysteries with lots of interesting characters and no bloody violence; embroidering or crocheting until bedtime and sleeping with open windows.
It will undoubtedly look different for you.
And my list has taken years to develop-when Dom first left us I most often only managed a walk and maybe a little readingor journaling.
But you can begin by jotting down things that used to bring you pleasure or feed your passion.