Having been in the bereaved parent circle for a while now, I have come across a number of parents that seem to echo similar flaws in today’s society when it comes to grieving, in particular, the grief of a parent. I, myself, have felt many of the same things these parents have. Yet, no matter how many blogs I read, how many articles fill up with words about what needs to be done, and how many specialists validate our feelings, the bereaved parent community are still ostracized and left feeling alone.
Why is that?
I suspect it’s because of one main reason: We are your worst nightmare.
How many times have I heard the words, “I can’t even imagine.” Or “I could never…” There’s also been, “You are stronger than I am.”
If I was being frank, (which I really am usually when I write because it’s much easier to be bold to a computer screen than a person’s face), I can’t stand hearing any other these.
“I can’t even imagine.”
You are right. You can’t. The horror of hearing the words that will give your child’s death sentence is unfathomable. Pumping your child full of poison, strapping them to a table to send radiation into their body, letting a team of doctors do an experimental surgery that really doesn’t guarantee a single thing, holding your baby’s hand as she takes her final breath on earth, hoping she can hear your last “I love you” uttered in her ear is more than horrific. It’s impalpable. Even for those parents that have faced this road can’t understand or imagine how we made it through.
Can I just tell you something, though? We don’t want you to imagine. We never desire you to put your own sweet child in our child’s place and consider what you would have done, what you would have felt. Instead, we just want you to see. To listen. To ask. We know that the pain is too deep and complex for you to know, and we are OK with that. We just need you to hear our story, so that perhaps, we can find our breath and balm in it all.
“I could never…”
If you would have asked me two years ago if I could ever calmly tell my girls that their sister was going to die, I would have flat-out told you, “No”.
If you would have asked me was I capable of high levels of stress, accompanied with minimal sleep, and still be able to get the day done, I would have laughed in your face.
I never thought I could do all I could in the face of cancer, but when my child needed me, I could. I did. I would again.
You never know what you are capable of doing until put to the task. God gives us grace for only the step we are about to take, not the mile ahead. So, if it came down to it, you could too. Please don’t tell us that you could never, because it is simply a reminder of what we faced, and how hard and difficult it was. I think many say it as a way to build up or boost a parent. But in reality, it makes us feel weak and feeble.
Instead, I implore you to be thankful that you have never… and to pray for those that must.
“You are stronger than I am”
Tell me that when I am fallen over in the shower in tears, not sure I can breath again. Tell me that when I scream at the top of my lungs in times of frustration and anger that I can not watch my child dying another moment longer. Tell me I am stronger than you when I walk away from a beautiful tree planted in memory of my daughter, only to be filled with jealousy, anger, and resentment, while others get to walk hand in hand with their own children.
We are not stronger than you. We are weak. In fact, we are weaker than you. We live with half a heart. We live this parallel universe in which there is no way out. Always wondering what our child would be doing if they were here, who they would have been, and what it was like before they left this world.
Instead of comparing our strengths, take what little strength you think you do have and use it to say a kind word, share a memory, open your arms and hug.
Coming up on a year without Molly, I find that it is much more difficult than it was in the beginning. To live this life without her is my load to bear, and mine alone. However, my wish is that others will know that my loss does not have to be your horror. You need not pass by on the other side of the street, avoid eye contact in the parking lot, or stop texting. You only need to be. Remember. Acknowledge. Understand that you don’t need to understand it all.
To my fellow bereaved mothers out there, I know your heart. Whether you lost you child in womb, held them but a moment on earth, or grew beside them for years, my heart is with you. My heart walks, talks, and breathes with yours. My arms are wide open to you, Mother.
Posted April 30, 2016