I shared this post for the first time five years ago.
Before I was part of the community of loss parents, I had no idea how quickly we are expected to “move past”, “get over” or “deal” with the death of a child.
I was horrified to find out that even though most parents would say something like, “I just don’t know how I would survive if my child died” they were the very ones who thought I should sail past this life-shattering event after what they deemed an “appropriate” amount of grief and/or time.
So I’m sharing again in honor of Bereaved Parents Month. If these words speak to you or for you, please share them. It’s our opportunity to help others understand a little more about child loss.
It was just over a year after Dominic’s accident and a friend forwarded an article about odd behaviors of those who were “stuck’ in grief. Along with the forward was a little tag, “Reminds me of you.”
When days become months and months become years it’s hard to explain to others how grief is both always present but not always in focus.
I’ve struggled to help those outside the loss community understand that the absolute weight of the burden is precisely the same as when it fell on me without warning that dark morning.
Dominic’s absence, if anything, has seeped into more places, changed more relationships and influences more choices than it did seven years ago when I was only just beginning to comprehend what a world without him would look like.
But I, and my family, have continued to live.
We’ve added family members through marriage and birth. We’ve gone places, made memories and made career moves. We’ve gotten older. My husband retired. Children moved away.
All these things and more mean that life is simply bigger than it was when Dom left us.
It’s a slow, gradual process.And for some hearts who are forced to endure multiple losses in a short time the jar may never get very large because the grief is so great.
I remember when I realized that sorrow was not ALL I felt nor Dominic’s absenceALLI saw.It was a bit frightening to be honest.
Did that mean my love for him was waning or that his importance in our family was forgotten? Was I a bad mother because I no longer cried every day for the child not here? Had my heart grown cold?
But then I realized none of those things were true. What allowed me to feel joy again, to participate fully in family outings or gatherings, to plan holidays and birthdays once more was instead that my heart had found a way to hold both sorrow and gladness at the same time.
There are still days when grief looms large and my world seems too small to contain it. But those don’t come as often as they once did.
Life will march on, regardless of how hard we might wishit wouldn’t.
And, in large measure, life after loss is what we choose to make of it.
You’d think that seven YEARS would be time enough to adjust to missing my child, to the changes child loss and sibling loss have wrought in my family, to the awful, unavoidable giant HOLE left in every photo, every gathering, every holiday, every everything.
But it isn’t.
That’s largely why I’m still writing. It’s why I fill my social media profile with invitations to those who share my experience and reminders to those who do not (thankfully!!) that this continues to be the Life I Did Not Choose.
I’m not looking for sympathy, just raising awareness.
Because, really, isn’t the whole point of being human to try to make one another’s journey just a tad bit lighter?
Child loss rips through a life like a tornado-wild, unpredictable, viciously destructive.
It drops from the sky like a meteorite-no warning, no defense, just crushing weight.
Today is thirty-seven years since we said, “I do” and had absolutely NO idea what that would look like.
I first shared this a few years ago on our anniversary because I wanted other bereaved parents to know that while it is hard (and isn’t marriage always hard?), it is not impossible for a marriage to survive child loss.
We are definitely not the perfect couple. We fuss and we struggle. We sometimes retreat into our own separate worlds as we process some new aspect of living this earthly life without one of our children.
But we have learned that we are stronger together and that we are willing to do the work necessary to stay that way.
Today my husband and I celebrate 37 years of marriage.
Our thirtieth anniversary was a mere two months after we buried our son.
Here’s the last “before” anniversary photo (2013)-unfeigned smiles, genuine joy, excitement to have made it that far: