'What Does Love Feel Like, Mommy?'

author's 4-year-old
Three days ago my daughter, who just recently turned 4, asked me one of the most difficult questions anyone has ever asked me: “Mommy, what does love feel like?”

We were driving home, and I was lost in thought and completely taken aback. I always try to answer her questions, even when I do not truly know the answers. But I can’t look in a book or browse the internet for questions/answers regarding love. I knew I had to respond and yet could only think of one word: safe.

It would be easier to answer such a huge yet simple question if Kayci was about 10 years older than she is, but she’s not your average toddler in any way, shape or form. I’m not sure I even understood the deepest feeling of love until she was born.

So I did what all adults do when they do not know how to answer a question: I answered a question with a question (don’t you just hate that?). I asked her, “How do you know you love Mommy?” She answered much more quickly than I had anticipated. “That is silly, Mommy. Of course I love you. You take care of me, are funny, and I don’t know I just love you.”

She kept pressing me for my answer. I finally surrendered and babbled: “Love is something that is hard to put into words. Mommy cannot imagine life without you. That thought is very scary because I love you so much. I think love is feeling safe and important and knowing you are loved enough to love yourself. I think you and Mommy love music so much because it puts into words what we cannot say.”

Fast forward to the next day when I was the lucky one to get the stomach virus going around. I awoke around midnight at the sound of my daughter’s voice calling me. I stood up and realized I was dizzy beyond belief. It was difficult to walk. However, my daughter needed me (love), and love sometimes means doing things you do not want to do. As I walked down the hallway I became more and more dizzy until I fell, literally, in front of our bathroom and then began vomiting everywhere. I was scared. I awoke the next morning with multiple bruises and unable to get out of bed.

My dad, who has always made me feel safe, was at our home within the hour, playing with Kayci and making me toast. I slept for the following 24 hours — that is sick. I never sleep during the day.

Our daughter has her first dance recital in less than a month, and yesterday was the last day to buy tickets for the show. I felt such guilt at the thought of not taking her to dance — or worse not buying tickets to her recital. Call it a mother’s strength, or call it love, but somehow I managed to get her dressed in her hot pink tutu, feed her and get her to dance class on time.

Her friend’s parents took one look at me and said,”What happened to you? You should be in bed. How did you  even drive here?”  Without thinking, I simply stated: “Love. I would do anything for my daughter.”

That is when I remembered the question, “What does love feel like?” There are so many different kinds of love: someone’s first love, love between two people who have been together for 50 years and as much as they get on one another nerves they cannot imagine a life without the other; there is the love between siblings, friends, and then the love a parent has for their child. Love has different feelings and can be amazing and filled with joy, and at times love can be scary and difficult.

We all have different ways we see and view love. I feel that love is feeling safe with another person. Chronic pain taught me who truly loved me and who did not.

If you love someone, you just know it; there is not a way to explain the feeling. As scary and difficult as love can be, it’s the most magical feeling in the world.

If you love someone who has chronic pain, they do not need you to fix them or even find the right cure or medication. They need your love. It really is that simple. The person with chronic pain or any invisible illness needs to know they are loved and safe. I will repeat the three most important words one can say to someone who has chronic pain: “I believe you.”

The Mighty is asking the following: How would you describe your disability, disease or mental illness to a child? If you’ve done this before, tell us about that moment and the child’s reaction. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Chronic Pain

two teenage girls wearing school uniforms standing in kitchen

12 Things I Wish My Friends Understood About My Life With Chronic Pain

Not being able to go to school, no parties, medications, hospital appointments — all these things are a part of my normal day living with chronic pain. I can’t help it. It’s not my fault I have chronic pain, and a lot of the time what I need to get through the toughest days are my friends. Sometimes, though, [...]
woman sitting on bed with insomnia

On the Nights 'Painsomnia' Steals My Sleep

This morning I sat at the kitchen table and cried. Alone, while my dogs were napping after their breakfasts and my husband was in the shower getting ready for his day. Those quiet, yet powerful sobs I’d mastered as a child growing up in a household where any show of emotion would be turned and [...]
A young woman with her head resting on her hands at a table in the park

What Feeling ‘Better’ Looks Like When You Have a Chronic Illness

Something peculiar can happen when one is chronically unwell; the measure of comparison against normalcy just vanishes and is replaced by stages of unwellness and disease. In practical terms that means some chronically ill folks like myself may have forgotten what being “well” feels like. How much does a person who is well feel on [...]
Beautiful happy young woman showing Ok sign isolated on gray wall background.

Why I Say 'I’m OK' Despite My Chronic Pain

We’ve all heard it before, especially as people with chronic pain. Your aunt or grandma comes over and says, “Oh honey, and how are we feeling?” You may sort of stare and think of what you’re going to say. Me? I just use my go-to phrase, “I’m OK.” Many people seem to think if you look OK [...]