Tonight was one of those nights. I went to Monday night yoga as usual, not really feeling any different than I had all day. It was Monday, and time to get back into my work routine. I ran into class a few minutes late, placed my yoga mat down on the floor and began to do the relaxation breathing. I closed my eyes and began visualizing a beautiful beach scene when suddenly out of nowhere………I could feel myself beginning to shake from the inside and then it happened.
I don’t remember much about holidays as a kid, but I do remember the first Father’s Day in our home after my young sister Carmella died. My dad was never the touchy-feely type of dad. In fact, getting a hug from him was a very rare thing. I can remember two times when I got a hug from him. He hugged me at my wedding, and he hugged me when I was pregnant with my first child.
This particular Father’s Day was going to be rough. As a kid of sixteen I knew it. I saw how terrible Mother’s Day was for my mom, so I was already bracing myself for what the day would be like for my dad. As kids we were taught that home-made things were always better than store bought. I know part of the reason was we were dirt poor. The other reason is that it’s true. Gifts from the heart mean so much more than something you can go buy at a store.
When each of my children were born I studied them for a long, long time. I ran my fingers across the tip of their noses. I grasped their tiny hands into mine and looked in awe. I slid my fingers ever so gently across their heads leaning down and smelling that newborn baby smell. I loved how each of their tiny feet fit into the palm of my hand. These are just some of the things I’ll never forget. A love as deep as a parent’s love wants to soak up everything about our child. We even study the pores of our child’s skin!
As our children grow older, we continue to love them with this same intensity — maybe even more if that’s possible. We know the way their lips curve into a smile. We know the look that comes right before the tears. We know the sound of their feet skipping across the floor.
As parents we never forget the smallest of details that make our child uniquely ours.
Garbage. Garbage. Garbage. I’m cleaning files at my office, and tossing out files from fifteen years ago. It was getting late, and I was grabbing one more pile of papers to toss into the garbage, when I stopped — frozen. I looked. I stared. As I began to read the words my tears began. Tears poured from my eyes. I began to choke on my sobs.
Since my son Mike died, I’ve lost my car keys at least a hundred times! Slumping down and bursting into tears I decided to call it a day at 5:30 p.m. I was exhausted. I couldn’t think straight. I was frustrated because I lost my keys again only to find them sitting on a box in my garage. My life is messy because I seem to have lost the ability to organize even something as simple as what I should wear to work in the morning.
When child loss occurs, there is often chaos within the family unit. Nobody knows what to do or say. Everybody knows that each person is suffering. But, no words are spoken. Why? How do you even begin to communicate within a family when everybody is in shock and grief? This radical miscommunication often leads to the breakdown of a family and that’s just what we want to guard against.
If you’ve lost a child, there has come a moment when you’ve cried out in despair, “I can’t do this! I can’t do this thing called child loss. I want my child back. I want life to go back to how it was when everything seemed okay.”
In chapter 4 of the book Child Loss – The Heartbreak and the Hope this feeling of despair is discussed in great detail. This is when the numb part of our loss begins to wear off and we begin feeling the raw pain of brokenness. This is when we want to scream out saying, “This can’t be true! This didn’t happen to my child. This is all a very bad dream!”
If you’re like me, one of the most difficult things for me to hear is how quickly life has gone on for others following the loss of my son. I want to know others are feeling some of my loss. I need to know that others still remember my son. I want so desperately to know that others still think of him.
And, yet the fact is that life has gone on very quickly for most.
Any way you look at child loss it ends up being the same. It hurts like nothing else in the entire world. We get to the point of where we think we just cannot go on any longer because we miss our child so bad. Others try to help us. They try to do everything in their power to take away our pain, but really there’s nothing that anyone else can do to “fix” this hurt. Child loss is the “unfixable” loss.
Following the loss of a child, we become familiar with the term “new normal.” We read it in books, and we hear the term in grief classes we attend, from our Pastor, and many times we hear the words “new normal” from our doctor. When I became a bereaved mom, the words “new normal” were words I held onto tightly. Why? Because any kind of normal following the loss of a child would feel good! When child loss take place, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — that feels normal anymore!