Why I Grieve for a Child I Haven't Lost
As I sat on the bench in a public park, the tears came easily. Watching little toddlers peddling trikes and mothers chatting to babies. Seeing preschool children laughing and chatting as they wheeled around the water on their brightly colored scooters.
It has been building for a while.
The night before last it was anger and hurt as a friend shared how her 14-month-old was defiantly talking back when they were trying to get her to bed. I wanted to scream and say, “But she understands! But she talks!” Instead I mourned silently.
The world goes on while I grieve for a child I haven’t lost.
It is a very different pain to others. I know the pain of not having children. I know the pain of losing a yet-to-be-born baby. I know the pain of losing someone very close. I know that feeling of despair and anger and hopelessness. People understand when they know you have loved and lost.
But how do you explain you are grieving a child you have not lost?
I get to read to my son. I get to bathe him and dress him and kiss him. I hear him laugh when I tickle him and get to push him on the swings at the park. He goes to school. He will watch a video sometimes. And yet I feel he is lost.
I have yet to hear his voice. I grieve for the conversations we might never have. I grieve the fact I might never hear him sing or shout or chat with friends like those little ones in the park. I grieve for the fact I might never hear him tell me a joke or talk to me about his day at school. I grieve for the loss of never hearing him whisper “I love you.” I can only dream about what his little voice may sound like, how it might grow in depth and tone as he aged, what sort of accent he may have had or how he would pronounce names of people he knew. A part of him might never be. And I feel the loss and pain of that.
I grieve for all the milestones I have missed and may never have with him. As I watched a mom bend down to hold her son’s hand today to help him walk, I thought about how much she might take for granted. Her little one was not much over a year old and yet he confidently held her hand to take some steps. By the time my child did anything like this, he was tall enough that I had no need to bend and his hands weren’t as tiny as her son’s. I have skipped the toilet training, the bike riding, the learning to read and write, the school plays, the attending clubs and the having friends. We haven’t experienced things others take for granted and that I believe should be part of childhood. There is a loss and a sadness for times that might have been but might never be.
There is sadness that I cannot walk him to school or that he cannot go to school with his twin sister. There is pain relying on others to tell me about his day when I should hear it from him. There is heartbreak watching the neighbor’s child of the same age jump on a trampoline and my son cannot balance on one leg, let alone jump. There is a lump in my throat when people ask what my child wants for Christmas and he still plays with baby toys at almost 7. We have never experienced the tooth fairy with him, he has no concept of Santa Claus and neither chooses his own clothes nor has the ability to dress himself. He has never said, “Mommy can I have” or gotten upset because he cannot go out to play. He has no friends his own age and doesn’t get invited to parties.
He is here, but to many he isn’t.
I have a son. He is my pride and joy. I am so proud of everything he does. But I still grieve for him, for the things he might never achieve and the experiences he might never have. And I grieve for myself as a parent when I see a world of parenting I can only ever dream about.
As I sat on a bench in a public park, the tears came easily — tears of heartache and anger, tears of frustration and pain.
It is all part of the journey. Before I can move on I need to grieve for the loss. And grieving takes time.
So please forgive me and support me. Life goes on and I understand that. I have no bitterness at that.
But sometimes those tears are needed. Bear with me as I grieve for a child I haven’t lost.
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