It’s tormenting to lose a child. I put myself through an emotional wringer every day. It’s almost like I’m keeping score. There is the good mother column and the bad mother column, and the bad mother column always has the higher points. I know it’s crazy. I know I’m punishing myself, but I still do it. I remind myself over and over again of all of the missed opportunities I had to be a good mother and it’s breaking my heart.
When I got the phone call that my son died, I remember two things. I remember falling to the floor screaming, “No! No! Please, God, no!”, and I remember immediately thinking I failed as a mother. That’s right. Failure. I blew it! If it’s possible for a heart to bleed tears of blood, then that’s what mine did. And there are moments yet when the horrible thoughts of my many failures as a mother overcome me and the tears that fall flow so hard and so heavy that they paralyze me.
What do I think about? Everything possible that could label me as a bad mother.
I remember the times I dropped off Mike at nursery school and didn’t get out of the car to walk him inside. He was so shy and I didn’t walk in with him! I remember yelling at him to quiet down and go to sleep. I should have read him a bedtime story instead. I remember the times I was trying to cook supper for the other kids and didn’t go to his ball games. Bad mother! Terrible mother! His ball game was far more important than fixing supper. We could have bought hot dogs at the concession stand. Why didn’t I understand that?
I remember how impatient I was with him as a teenager always on his case to clean up his bedroom. Stupid stuff on my part. Nagging. Picking. What fifteen year old boy is worried about making his bed every morning before school?
Why did I think that making a bed was important enough to holler and fuss about? Bad, bad mother!
I remember being so upset with him when he took apart the weed eater and laid it all out on the garage floor. He couldn’t get it put back together and I carried on like it was the end of the world. Why didn’t I see this as his intelligence at work?
His curiosity is what propelled him in life yet I never seemed to be able to see beyond the messes he made. Bad mother again!
I remember the times I was so angry with him that I just shut down and didn’t talk.
Really? I didn’t talk to my child? Bad, horrible, terrible mother!
I remember all of the missed opportunities to say how proud I was of him and to tell him how much I loved him. One particular incident comes to mind. It was late at night and I was laying in bed thinking of all he had been through with the company he had started. Not an easy thing, for sure. But, he was succeeding and doing well after overcoming many difficult obstacles. So, I sent him a late night text and said how proud I was of him. His response? “Are you okay?” “Why are you saying this to me? You never say stuff like this.”
That was like an arrow shot through my heart. He was right. I didn’t say those words often enough. Terrible mother. Terrible, terrible mother! I thought those things plenty of times, but I failed to say the words. I’ve thought about that thousands of times since he died.
My score card doesn’t look good. “F” – failure. That’s how I feel so much of the time.
I don’t want people feeling sorry for me. No parent of child loss wants that.
But, every parent needs occasional validation that we tried our best. The guilt of losing a child is often overwhelming.
On my better days I can remember the good stuff. I remember going without food to make sure Mike got his new skis and season ski pass. I remember listening to Mike for hours on end when his heart was broken over a girlfriend who broke up with him. I remember calling him for late night talks when he didn’t get voted into the club in his Freshman year in college. I remember always cooking his favorite foods. I remember sending him money when I really and truly didn’t have it. Those things were a joy to do. And, I’d make those same sacrifices a thousand times over if I could. Only this time, I would have a better score card. I’d have many more marks in the good mother column. In fact, I’d score a trip A plus if I could just be his mom all over again. But, I can’t.
There are no second chances to being a mom. One time around is all we get.
The death of a child is brutal. Terribly brutal for a parent. We love our children with every breath within us yet there are times when we feel as though we’ve failed miserably. This feeling of failure is a thousand times worse when a child dies.
If only…………..if only death wasn’t so permanent I know I could get this mother thing right the second time around.
If you connected in any way with the thoughts expressed in this short article, I urge you to get a copy of the book Child Loss – The Heartbreak and the Hope.
If you are in need of daily hope and encouragement, please order a copy of Hope 365: Daily Meditations for the Grieving Heart.
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