When my son died I no longer knew who I was. I was lost. I felt as though half of me was missing. I felt transparent to the world — like everyone could see right through me and see that my heart was broken and bleeding. My mind raced and my tears flowed and I cried out to whoever would listen. “Who am I? I don’t know who I am any more!”
And, the truth is that I really didn’t know who I was when my son died. Was I Samuel’s mom? Was I still a mother? Was I an ex-mother? Who was I? Suddenly my identity changed and there was nobody who could give me my new name.
The first time this identity loss hit me really hard was when I had to sign his death certificate. It was real. My son had died and I had to attach my name to a paper verifying that my son was no longer here. I didn’t know how to sign my name…….. Was I Samuel’s mother? I can remember falling to the floor and sobbing for hours because I no longer felt like “me.” The “me” that I knew before Samuel left was happy and alive and was Samuel’s mom. Now….my insides felt empty and hollow and ached like nothing I’d ever felt before. I no longer felt like “me” any more!
Not everyone understands how terrifying it is to lose one’s identity when child loss occurs. Did you ever notice how much of our lives is spent saying, “I’m Jim’s mom.” Or, “I have three sons and one daughter.” Or, “My family is growing. I have a little girl on the way.” You get the picture. We usually talk about three things when we identify ourselves. We talk about our relationship status. Am I married, single, engaged, divorced, widowed? We talk about our jobs. Am I a career person, retired, in business for myself? And, then the topic comes up that we love to talk about the most.
Children. We identify ourselves with our children. Why? Because our hearts are entwined — joined — with the hearts of our children. They are part of us — the part that brings us the most joy and the part that stays with us forever. They are ours — forever and always ours. And, we’re so proud. They make us so happy. We love being with our children. We love talking about our children. We love everything about being a parent or grandparent.
And, when child loss occurs we are suddenly lost. Who am I? Who am I now?
I struggled with that question following the death of my Samuel for a long time. In fact, I’ll be honest with you. I tried as best I could to avoid the question, “How many children do you have?” Of course I knew I was Samuel’s mother, but he wasn’t here with me! I couldn’t talk about what he was doing. I couldn’t talk about his accomplishments in school. I couldn’t talk about his wedding plans or his plans to go to college. I couldn’t talk about any of those things because Samuel wasn’t with me.
And, I was lost. I didn’t know who I was any more. I didn’t know how I fit into Samuel’s life now that he was gone.
One day, on a rare but treasured trip to the beach, I was walking for what seemed like hours. I was by myself and I had been enjoying watching the clouds above the ocean. They were beautiful! The sun was going down and the air was cooling off as I walked and kept gazing at the clouds as they formed all kinds of amazing shapes.
I stood and watched for a while as I saw what seemed like the shape of an angel forming in the sky. As those clouds swirled around, the picture became clearer to me. There was the formation of an angel with outstretched arms. As those arms remained outstretched, they came closer to another cloud that was smaller and round in shape. The vivid, beautiful sign of a mother reaching out to hold her child was a clear as day to me. Watching with tears streaming down my face, the answer came to me that I knew all along.
I am Samuel’s mother yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I am Samuel’s mother forever! I was Samuel’s mother from the moment he was conceived and nothing can ever change that!
I don’t know why it took seeing those clouds to help me understand that once I became Samuel’s mother I was always his mother. I guess I was doubting myself because I didn’t have my son here where I could touch him, hold him, and talk to him. I needed something to seem real and lasting to me and I found it in those clouds.
It has now been twenty-four years since Samuel left this earth. I still miss being his mom on earth. I wonder what he would look like now. I wonder what kind of job he would have. Where would he be living? Would he be married? Have any children to call his own? I think about those things, but I no longer doubt my identity.
I am Samuel’s mom yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I am Samuel’s mom forever!
I welcome your thoughts. Maybe you’ve struggled with questions similar to mine following the loss of your child. Maybe you’ve had that “moment of knowing” when it became crystal clear to you that nothing can ever sever the ties between you and your child. I’d love to hear about your special moment when it became clear to you that absolutely nothing will ever take away your identity as parent or grandparent.
What a wonderful thought to know that our child is our forever and always and nothing — absolutely nothing — can change that!