Another Mother’s Day just passed, or perhaps it was your first without your child. Are you still a parent, you wonder? Holidays are so hard after the death of a child. Today I posted another comment from a mother who wrote to say she wants to die. Preferably right now. Her son is dead and she wants to be dead, too, but… she has a daughter. She is pulled in two. But she wants to be dead.
I know that many people will tell her, now and as she makes new acquaintances over the course of her life ahead, “I can’t imagine how I would feel if my child died!” These people, after learning of her sorrow, will imagine they are saying something empathetic. But she won’t hear it quite that way for a long time into the future.
“No,” she will want to reply, “you can’t. You don’t have a clue.”
No one can know it until they truly face it, but readers’ blunt comments left on this blog show grief for the sorrow that it is. “I don’t know how would I feel….” Maybe you once said that to a grieving parent yourself, but now you are on this side of the fence and, hearing it directed to you like some unwelcome confession, you wonder how you are supposed to answer that. Do you blurt out that your reality can’t be reduced to a stupid pretend game? The truth hurts like hell. The death dropped you in a deep pit. It perhaps even made you wish for death, your own or another person’s. But you don’t say that because you know it would be unkind, judged cruel, and what would it change? Your child would still be dead.
I’ve written about the real physical pain that scientists now understand that grieving parents experience after a child’s death — that true, physical sensation of breaking — a broken heart, a broken soul. We have so much trouble “getting our head around” what happened when even our brains hurt. Many of us have entertained thoughts of suicide in the aftermath of the pronouncement that our child is gone, but we would only compound the grief for our own survivors. We know this. But …. gone. It is like a silent scream echoing in our own head, screaming and screaming and screaming “HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED? I CANNOT BEAR THIS PAIN ONE MORE MINUTE!”
I will tell you that, minute by minute, you bear it. And as time passes, you will laugh again. The first time it happens you may actually cry tears of anguish and guilt afterwards. The second time, and the third, perhaps, too. But eventually you will laugh and… it will just be a laugh. Not a forgetting or denial. Just a laugh. And after that, you will hope again. You will love again. The Titanic iceburg inside your heart will melt a drop a day. You will find a way to carry your precious child with you into a future where you can no longer hold, smell or protect that child. But you will remember and always love them and make sure they are not left behind. I can tell you this, my dear reader who needs so desperately to know it today, but… I’m sorry, you will not know it as a reality until many tomorrows ahead.
The tables have turned. “I can’t imagine how I would feel if I were to live a new normal without my child.” No, you cannot. But many of us can and do and we hold out our hands to you. We understand. Right now, you may try to imagine a sense of grace again, but you can’t. In fact, you don’t have a clue how this could be. And I try and try and try to express how it can and will be, but really, words fail. Like grief, you can only know healing when you experience it yourself. But it will happen, a nano-second at a time.
I am not trying to move you out of your grief or talk you out of your pain. That is impossible. Knowing that, I don’t automatically respond to desperate posts immediately. I let an hour or more pass, because the pain is real and I won’t disrespect it with a quick or flip response. We need time to reflect. You own your grief; it is yours. I understand this. Know that there is no right time to move on or a right or wrong way to grieve. You may never move on. But I also know that the scenery will change from hell to limbo to endurable and, drop by drop, even to peace.
In the meantime, we are with you on your journey, wherever you are. And you are safe to express what you feel on this site.