Grief is such a small word to hold the power that it holds. The control that this word has exercised over my life in the last 5 months is mind-boggling. It is an emotion that has gripped me like no other. The actual definition of grief is deep sorrow. Synonyms of the word….agony, misery, heartbreak, torment…just to name a few. These words don’t even touch the surface of the feelings of sorrow I have experienced since the loss of my first-born child. None of these words seem adequate enough to describe the pain and anguish I feel on a daily basis. Am I learning to cope? Some days, yes…some days, not at all. There is no guidebook on how to deal with the death of your child…no directions on how to deal with the rush of emotions that flood your heart and your mind. There are no guidelines on how to manage the range of emotions that you feel between one second and another. I wished that I could put it into words that would help others understand. Unfortunately, there is no way to understand unless you experience this type of mind numbing and life altering loss. I would not wish this type of pain upon anyone…and I do mean no one.
I saw a quote the other day that read, “No one tells you that the hardest part of motherhood is when your kids grow up.” I used to think that, but what I didn’t know at the time was how fortunate I was to have both of my kids here alive and grown up. Yes, watching your kids grow up and move on with life is hard, but that isn’t the hardest part of motherhood at all. The hardest part of motherhood is having to bury a child…having to look at your child in a casket…no life in their body. That’s the hardest part of motherhood is….having to say goodbye to the physical body of a child that you once carried in your body….having to say goodbye their laugh, their smile, their eyes, their wonderful spirit…their life. That is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a mother. If you can’t imagine that pain…picture it in your head. Put yourself in that picture..with you being on the outside of the casket….and I won’t even speak the rest, because it is the unimaginable. I don’t even want to say those words, because I know the pain associated with that picture. I know that pain, as do many other parents, because I have lived it and I continue to live it every single day. I belong to a club that I never wanted to join…one in which no one wants to be a member. It is the worst club I have ever belonged to in my life. The only good thing about this club is that I have met some wonderful people in the process. But, I wished I could say that I had met them in a different way.
You see, it’s all about perspective. You can’t see things from a perspective you haven’t experienced. Some of you may argue with me on that…but I can honestly say that I never could have understood the pain a parent experiences with the loss of a child until I experienced it myself, nor could I have seen things from their point of view. Perspective is a funny thing. Perspective can sometimes rob you of the ability to appreciate what you have before you. Our life experiences often influence our perspectives…how we see things..how we look at things. When perspective is broken down into its word parts, its Latin root, spect, means “to see”….And all of the meanings of perspective have something to do with seeing or looking. Can I understand the plight of someone in poverty if I have never lived life in poverty…looking for where my next meal is coming from?….trying to figure out where I will lay my head at night? No. I can sympathize for and with these people, but I cannot understand their circumstances unless I have lived it. I cannot truly see things from their perspective unless I have lived in their dire circumstances. If everything in your world is right, you cannot see or understand the feelings of someone whose world has been torn upside down. This is where I lived for many years.
For years, all in my world was right. I knew people who had lost a child, and I sympathized with them…I can’t say I empathized, because I couldn’t put myself in their shoes. I’ve heard that expression my whole life…”put yourself in their shoes”. Child loss has taught me that I can’t always put myself in someone else’s shoes. Hard as I try…sometimes, it just can’t be done. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is harder than it sounds, but the saying makes it sound so easy. However, can we truly put ourself in the shoes of someone else if we haven’t shared some of the same experiences? Now, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to empathize, but sometimes I just need to understand that I can’t if I don’t understand the experience firsthand.
So, I now live in a world where all isn’t right…I’m missing part of my world. Some would say, “But think about what you do have.” There comes that perspective thing again. Yes, I know that I should think about what I do have…and believe me, I do. I have a wonderful mom and dad, a beautiful daughter, two beautiful step daughters…and two, very special grandkids with another on the way. I have a wonderful husband who has been very supportive through this loss. I have an amazing sister-in-law and two remarkable nephews. I have a fantastic brother with whom I am finding a new relationship. There are so many things I have to still be thankful for…and I am thankful for all of that and all of the people in my life. The hard thing is that Aaron was a part of all of that too….and he is missing from our family. Some might say, “You’re focusing on what’s missing.” Yes, right now I am. Right now, I’m trying to cope with his absence. Right now, I’m trying to accept that he will not be home for Christmas or Thanksgiving EVER again. Right now, I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that I will never celebrate another birthday WITH him. Right now, I’m trying to grasp the reality that my child died. Right now, I’m realizing that his dream of being a meteorologist will never be. Right now, I’m trying to cope with the reality that he will never have a family of his own….and I could go on and on. Coming to grips with all of those realities is harder than you think. It’s actually devastating to lay down each one of those realities and dreams. That in itself is a death…a death of the future…a death of what would have been. So, I am not only coping with the loss of my son, I am coping with the loss of what would have been….of his future.
The day will come, I have heard, when I can focus on the good memories and I can smile. The day will come, I am told, when the waves of grief will be experienced farther apart. I’m not sure when that day will come…but for right now, I am learning to navigate this new world and to cope with the most devastating loss a parent can experience. That by far has been the hardest part of motherhood…continuing to live without one of your children.
Thinking of Aaron tonight and thinking of all the other parents who have lost a child tonight. God bless each of you.