My heart has been broken, divided, smashed, and left empty by the loss of two children, an infant son and an adult son. I’m still in “recovery” and I will be for the rest of my life. I’ve come to understand that pain is the reality of child loss. At least I know what to expect. What I’m not okay with are the things that have been said to me following my losses! Why do people say these things to grieving parents? Do they think these comments will help? Do they not take time to think through what they’re saying? Or do they really believe what they’re saying will give comfort?
Maybe I’m sounding harsh, but I really wish that sometimes I had a neon sign above my head that said “don’t say these things to me!”
My first son was born sleeping twenty-nine years ago. I was so devastated with grief that I thought I couldn’t live. I honestly didn’t want to live for several months after this loss. It has been almost three decades now since little Samuel was born asleep. What’s it like? I did a lot of hard grieving for more than twenty years. I’m talking hard grieving. I found it difficult to even look at a baby or a pregnant woman, let alone feel joyful. When Samuel died, part of me died, too.
The first time it happened I was only fifteen. My sister, Carmella, died at the young age of thirteen. I went into a state of shock followed by deep, unrelenting grief. Back then people didn’t openly talk about grief so I was scared out of my mind. I didn’t know what I was feeling, much less what I was experiencing. My mother and father were struggling daily with their own grief. I didn’t know what to do, who to talk to, or when this terrible fear and heaviness would leave.
Nobody can really explain what the pain of losing a child is like. It’s a pain that only those experiencing can understand. Undeniably, it’s the worst pain anyone will ever go through!
Naively, I thought the pain of losing my son would feel a lot better in year two. Was I in for a heart-wrenching surprise! That second year knocked me to my knees and left me feeling so empty that I didn’t even know if I was truly alive on most days.
I marked the date on my calendar months ago. I’m feeling the pressing ache in my heart more and more with each passing day. Mother’s Day used to be such a day of celebration, but not any more.
This is the second Mother’s Day without my son, and the pain has grown increasingly worse with each passing day. I keep telling myself that this is just another day, but that’s a lie. This is Mother’s Day, a day is is supposed to be celebrated. Instead, I’m facing it with a brokenness that is unable to be fixed!
My son died. He died suddenly, without warning. On that warm day in May, the lives of so many people changed when my son’s life on this earth ended. He was the strong one in the family. He was the oldest brother and the one that the others looked up to always. He’s gone and our hearts are broken and life will never be the same again!
It is now going on two years since Mike died. Life has gone on for most everyone except his immediate family. For us, the pain is real. The pain is cruel. The longing for Mike overshadows every day in a million different ways. Our lives changed permanently when Mike died, and yet………..
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.
We’ve all heard the expression that a person turned gray overnight. Well, I didn’t turn gray overnight when my son died, but I turned into a different person — a person I don’t always like. Yes, my physical appearance has changed. When I look into the mirror the twinkle in my eyes isn’t there. My hair doesn’t shine any more. My skin has a strange color — dull, and has lost elasticity. In a word, I aged overnight. That’s what a broken heart will do!
Nobody ever plans on child loss becoming part of their life, yet the sad fact is that every day children die and parents are left grieving the loss of their child. This journey of grief is not an easy one. In fact, this is the most difficult path a parent will ever walk. The journey is long, lasting a lifetime. There’s no way to get off of this road. It is now the road that must be traveled every day for as long as a parent of child loss remains alive.
My life has been turned upside down and inside out by child loss and like so many others I was naïve enough to think it wouldn’t happen. Yet, it did. My son was snatched away without warning and now there are only memories to fill the huge hole that has been left in the center of my heart and soul.
I looked at my foot closely as I continued to rub coconut oil onto it in hopes of softening the skin surrounding the scar. That scar is now twenty-four years old and it still looks like it became a part of me yesterday. Normally, scar tissue isn’t something that I would look at, but this scar is different. This scar was given to me by my son Mike who died on May 22, 2015.
I never, ever want this scar to go away because locked up in that puffy mess is a well-spring of memories that make my heart smile!