We were too busy or we were not busy enough. We spoke harshly when weshould have withheld judgement. We insisted on “good behavior” when our child was simply being curious and doing what all active children do.
The difference between most parents and bereaved parents is this: As long as there is breath, there is hope for forgiveness, for mending fences, for saying, “Hey, remember when” followed by an apology and understanding.
When your child is out of reach there’s no chance of making amends or even having a conversation.
So I’m left alone to work through any regrets I have.
I am forced to play both roles and make assumptions about what Dominic may or may not have understood at the time. I have to hope without confirmation that he would forgive me for the moments when I was less than the mom I wish I had been.
Most days I rest in the truth that no matter what, Dominic knew he was loved.
In fact, I try hard to imagine that even in the last second of his life-before he met Jesus-he may have been focused on my mother love and that if I could have been there I would have been.
But there are cold days and cloudy days and days when I feel oh, so inadequate and all the regrets come knocking at the door of my heart.
Those are hard.
So although I rarely play the “if you only knew” card with friends and family I will say this: Tell the people you love what you need to tell them. Let them hear you say aloud how much they mean to you.
Savor ordinary moments because that’s what life is made of.
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 can only live forward and there are no do-overs.
No amount of regret can roll back the clock and give me another chance to do it right, do it better or just do it at all.
I can’t undo or redo my past.
If I’ve made blunders, hurt hearts, missed opportunities or just plain screwed up, I have to live with that. And other people might have to live with the damage I’ve inflicted.
I need to own that.
But it is not helpful to let regret stop me working NOWto repair, restore and rebuild relationships.
Sometimes my best efforts may be rebuffed.
If I’ve hurt someone’s heart they have every single right to tell me, “No. I won’t let you back in.” I don’t get to establish a timeline for their healing. But if I don’t try to make amends I can be sure the rift won’t be mended.
If someone has hurt me I can choose to look beyond that pain, forgive the offense and commit to begin now, leaving the past in the past, and start fresh.
If so much time has passed that it feels awkward-so what? Embarrassment is a small price to pay for restoration.
So write a letter.
Send a card.
Make a phone call.
There’s a proverb that’s been spoken by my family for years. It goes like this. A young man asks an old farmer, “When’s the best time to plant a tree?”
The old man answers, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. But the next best time is now.”
I can’t go back and sow seed or plant trees when I wish I had.
If you follow my personal Facebook page you know that part of my family evacuated ahead of Hurricane Dorian.
We are waiting the storm out at my parents’ farm in a safe spot. It was an unexpected opportunity to see one another and a sweet blessing (the visit, not the storm!) but a houseful makes it hard to do the kind of writing I normally do.
So…you’ll see some reposts for a couple days.
Hurricanes and random shootings and awful accidents can make a heart remember that relationships are really what matters.
One hard, hard lesson I’ve learned from waking up one morning to a never-coming-home son is this: You may not have another chance to make amends, say “I love you“, kiss a face or hug a neck.
I’m here to tell you: don’t drown your important relationships in unsaid words, unshared feelings, unacknowledged wounds.
All that does is guarantee distance grows between your hearts.
If you let the distance become too vast, or the pile of unsaid truth get too high, you might just find you can’t reach that far or that high to reconnect.
It takes a bit of brave to say what’s important and uncomfortable.
“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” ~ Tuesdays with Morrie
A parent’s love doesn’t end simply because a child leaves this earth.
The relationship is not over as long as a bereaved parent’s heart beats.
So we face a challenge: How do we express love to and honor relationship with a child out of sight and out of reach?
We tell our stories and theirs. We start foundations or fund scholarships or do Random Acts of Kindness in honor of our son or daughter. We lobby legislators and city councils. We fight for changes in medical protocol. We post pictures on social media to keep their lights bright in friends’ and family’s memories.
And we say their names.
Because death can take a body, but it can’t steal a relationship.