young woman looks out a window

To the Mother Who Feels the Same Grief as Me

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You and I have never met, but yet we visit the same place every day. We both walk down the same unguided dark path. We cling to memories as if it’s our life support. Our minds drift off to that same place, the place that temporarily distracts us from our grief.

You’re the one person who knows the way my stomach feels — the unhealed knot in the center of my gut. You know the hollowness in my heart. Your tears are the same shape as mine, and they roll off the cheek without warning. You smile just like me. It’s a smile that has been perfected so others would stop wondering about your state of health and when or if you would pull through this.

Our deep exhale has been performed countless times, since the reminder to breathe is still necessary.

Only you understand the box in the closet where we keep the little things — the items that most people wouldn’t find a connection to. But we do. We can find that connection. Maybe it’s a ribbon, a stone or a piece of paper someone had written your child’s name on. An article of clothing that was last worn as we try desperately to preserve their smell.

This isn’t the same box with all the newborn items in it. This is a different box than the cutely decorated one that holds baby blankets, hospital bands, old pacifiers and first haircut clippings. This box is kept much further back in the closet, almost hidden as if it’s a secret.

You are the only one in this world who can look me in the eyes and say, “I get it.” Dear friend, how I wish you didn’t get it.

Like clockwork, I lie awake in my bed every night. I know you’re probably doing the same. As lonely as I feel sometimes, I know you’re feeling lonely, too. As indescribable as my pain is, I know you understand. It’s like a silent language that neither one of us wants to speak.

Our children’s stories are most likely different. The paths that led us here are probably nothing alike. It’s what happened in the after that forever bonds us now. It’s the pain of burying our child that makes our scars the same and our paths cross.

I wouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone, but yet to know you exist is somewhat of a selfish comfort for me. It’s the only place I find acceptance — to know that someone out there is just like me. I know with you that my tears aren’t measured and my sadness is never judged. The length of the time I grieve will never be rushed, all the wrong things will never be said and you understand sometimes silence is enough. 

My sadness will never make you uncomfortable because our words fit together like a puzzle. Even though I’m a stranger, my heartache brings you to tears. You live with that forever emptiness, too.

So as I pray my nightly prayers, I always include you — the mother I’ll never meet. You’re the other person out there who shares my same grief. I hope you find some comfort in knowing you’re not alone and that there’s someone out there like you.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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On September 10, 2016, my little man turned 4.

4! How did that even happen?

As I sit here typing, I find myself wondering what most 4-year-old boys would want for a birthday gift and what type of party themes are popular.

I wonder, but I don’t really know…

There will be no gifts. No 4-year-old themed party with handmade decorations. No house full of rambunctious little people singing happy birthday to the man of the hour. No adorable party guests asking for “just one more piece of cake.

Yes, it was my son’s birthday, but it was also his heaven day — the day he died. These days are one in the same.

Although this is a sad truth, and a difficult part of my reality, I choose not to dwell or let my focus live there.

Instead, I choose to find joy.

I remember what an amazing little boy my son was, and how his brief life had an amazing impact. I think about all the things that have happened in the past four years because of him. I recall the ways he has changed my life and the lives of others.

I choose to celebrate… and invite others to join the celebration.

Instead of a dirt-and-dinosaurs theme party (or whatever a 4-year-old boy might want), this year we celebrate Amalya Nathaniel (our Work of the Lord, Given by God) and his one hour and 20 minutes of life by asking people to “Do 4 Others” — instead of gifts or cards, we want people to pick one (or more) of the following:
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Today, I choose to embrace my son’s forth birthday with
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Today my little man turns four! Happy Birthday, sweet boy, with all my love…

An original version of this article was first published on www.purposefulgift.com.

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When Grief Feels Like Riding a Broken Merry-Go-Round

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I have been told grief is a sign of great love. I know that is true because I greatly loved my son, Lincoln. But what nobody tells you is how messy and unnatural grief feels. Nobody tells you there are days when it seems almost as if that horribly tragic, life-altering event never happened, when it seems like you never lost a child. Then suddenly you feel so taken aback that you were happy, that you had a bit of normalcy without your child. So you begin to feel angry. You’re angry for feeling normal.

Nobody tells you that you might forget — and I mean completely space out on — your child’s 3-month birthday (if they were alive, of course), then the next day cry your eyes out for feeling like such a horrible mother. In reality, you did nothing wrong other than survive. You keep going day to day, minute to minute, and occasionally things like that will slip by. Because if you stop for every one of those moments, you wouldn’t be moving forward in life. You’d just be standing still, waiting for that next moment.

Something nobody tells you about grief is it’s like a broken merry-go-round. You got on expecting the ride it seems like everyone else is experiencing. But now it won’t stop. No matter how loud you scream, how much you beg or how many tears you cry, it isn’t stopping. I believe it’s both a blessing and a curse that life doesn’t stop during grief. You think, but how can I possibly keep going on with my life when my child is dead? Yes, I said it. That ugly word nobody ever wants to use when talking about child loss. He isn’t lost, I didn’t misplace him. He died.

Life keeps going. I believe that might be one of the saddest parts of losing a child or a loved one. Life just keeps going, like nothing ever happened. Like your whole world didn’t just shatter.

Simply put, I don’t know how you keep going. I can’t explain how I did. Looking back, I remember closing my eyes, forcing back vomit and just getting out of bed.

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When People Can’t See the Depth of My Pain After Losing My Son

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Two months ago, Logan, my 19-year-old medically fragile son, died after complications from the flu. I was his primary caregiver, administering complex infusions, managing multiple specialists and in-home nursing and making sure he lived an amazing life. He was my world.

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We have all experienced loss. Most of the time, you can’t tell the depth of their pain by looking at someone. If you could see their loss, would you so harshly judge the woman who was angry in the grocery line or the man who seems distant and cold? Let’s live gently with everyone. Like me, the person next to you may need your understanding.

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What I've Learned Since My Son Passed Away

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Unfortunately, it seems most people are completely oblivious to the profound grief that follows the death of a child. They could never possibly understand nor comprehend such a loss. Only those who have endured the same fate can. Find those people because, rest assured, they’re looking for you, too.

Sadly, contrary to what we’ve been made to believe, time does not heal all wounds. At least not this one.

It’s OK to shut the world out and fall apart. Some days we’re just barely hanging on, and it takes every ounce of strength we have to put one foot in front of the other. So be proud of yourself at the end of every day, even if you did nothing else. You managed to survive another day without your child and that’s everything.

When you lose a child, it’s difficult to agree with others that their death was part of some grand plan. Just be mindful to the fact that they mean well, and honestly, they just don’t know what to say.

Guilt and regret are a normal part of the grieving process, but we tend to live in our heads and sometimes allow the “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” to entirely consume us. Just be careful, it can swallow you whole. 

All those people who are constantly telling you how incredibly strong you are and how they can’t even begin to imagine what you must be going through, believe them. They’re not lying. You’re the warrior of all warriors! And let’s be honest, they really don’t know how you do it. I mean, we don’t even know how we do it.

Everyone has their own cross to bear. This is ours, and sadly, it is a heavy one to carry. 

Your grief journey is like your fingerprint. It’s different, it’s unique and it’s your very own. You should never apologize for the way you choose to weather the storm.

Grief is one of those things in life that you can’t go over it, under it or around it. You must go through it and come out on the other side. If you try to run from it, you will only die feeling tired. 

Stop blaming yourself for their death. There’s absolutely nothing you could have done differently to save your child’s life. Instead, try spending less time apologizing to them because you feel like a failure and more time focusing on ways to save yourself from feeling this way. 

Regardless of our religious beliefs, we as humans question the “afterlife.” We all wonder at some point if there truly is some other dimension out there that awaits our arrival, a beautiful place where the souls of our children are waiting for us. When we expire here, will we really spend eternity with them there? We cling to the hope that life after death does, in fact, exist. Don’t feel ashamed for doing so. I believe God understands. 

Last but not least, moving forward with your life doesn’t mean you’re leaving your child behind. It simply means that although their physical body has perished, you understand that their soul never dies. They will always live within you.

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To Those Who Have Lost Children: I Carry Your Grief With Me

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Because of social media, much of what would have been hidden family business  at one time is now out in the open. Many now choose to share their stories of child loss. While I have my own experience to draw from, I will never understand how another parent feels when they suffer loss – because as different as each individual child is, so is the grief.

When we mourn our children, we are not mourning the loss of a general “someone,” or stranger, we are mourning the loss of a unique individual. A person who has never been here before and who never will be here again. An individual who had different habits and needs, and who created different memories with their family.

I do, however, feel weight when another family is suffering — a physical weight.

It’s a deep, in the muscles and sinews type of weight. It’s in my shoulders and under my skin.

I can honestly say that in some small way, I carry their grief with me. This is meant with the upmost respect, a respect that acknowledges in saying this, I am not attempting to step into their sacred space or claim their sorrow. I am not trying to interject myself into their situation.

But to those who are suffering tonight:
I see you, and I carry your grief on top of mine. Because I carry your grief on top of mine, it always is, and always will be with me.

I hope for some people, the knowledge of others carrying their grief is seen for what it is, a genuine mourning of your child.

I carry your grief with me.

I carry it up high on my shoulders. It makes me stoop, bends my knees.

I carry your grief with me.

I sometimes feel that last touch I see in your photos as vividly as if I were inhabiting your body. My fingertips itch with the feel of soft child flesh under my skin. The reality of “last time” sets in in my own mind, and it is incomprehensible. As incomprehensible as it was for my “last time.”

I carry your grief with me.

I can not fathom the loss you bear, but I will bear it with you if you’d let me –shouldering your grief on top of mine. Holding it aloft so that once in a while, you get the opportunity to breath.

I carry your grief with me.

I mourn the loss of birthdays, of sweaty feet in sandals, of tangled hair and smudged up noses. I mourn the loss of sweet good nights and of too-early good mornings. I mourn the loss of your innocence, both emotional and tangible.

I carry your grief with me.

I see the cruelty of an earth where your sweet child does not breathe any longer. I see sadness and terrible stories of abuse and neglect on the news, stories which make you shake at the unfairness of it all, and I shake with you.

I carry your grief with me.

I make no mistake. Your grief is wholly your own. You feel the sharp sting of your loss like I never could, but I carry your tender heart in the palm of my hand, guarding my words and actions in order to create a sacred space for you and your child.

I carry your grief with me.

When you can’t sleep, going over the “if only’s,” I am awake too. I am in my questioning place. We can walk through those rooms together, if you’d like.

I carry your grief with me.

When each and every pregnancy announcement is projected into your sphere. When it seems like everyone else is out there having a great time, while you are just trying to breathe – I carry that too.

I carry your grief with me.

I keep it in a sacred space. A place where each and every tear is recognized. A place where there is an understanding that a calendar is not just a book of days, but a record of what will always be missing. Only a parent who has lost a child can comprehend how intimidating a calendar can be.

I carry your grief with me.

The years of longing, of groaning under the silence because of your tact. The grief you feel when those around you try to “fix” you. Offering platitudes and reasons and books and stories of what “so-and-so” did in the same situation and all sorts of things which just won’t make your child come back.

I carry your grief with me.

In the middle of the day, when you are doing a mundane task, and the reality of what happened hits you for the hundredth (thousandth… millionth) time.

Today.

I carry your grief with me.

When you open that box.

And you take out those clothes.

And you crush them to your face, in hopes that some scent has remained.

And for a moment you are transported back to a place where no one could help you carry the grief.

And then, when you close that box and return to normalcy. The letting go, door-shutting action does not go unnoticed. I carry that too.

Because it is an altogether different type of grief, and one which deserves close watching and accolades.

Not everyone makes it through this.

I carry your grief with me.

Out into the world, I take it with me like I take my own skin, attached and breathing, alive.

My own grief has gained such a foothold in me, that it would be remiss if I treated it as anything other than a vital organ. It has situated itself into my own heart, deep, like a thorn. It is there that I carry your grief with me. Embedded deeply within. Part of my ever-evolving parts.

I carry your grief with me.

And when the mourning is through, I will remember your child.

When your mourning is through, and you can see the sunshine again and the world becomes a beautiful place. When once more you see it’s OK to love fiercely and let go at the same time — I’ll carry your grief with me then, too.

For all the days which pass I will carry your grief with me.

I will remember her name. I will remember her life.

And most of all, I will remember your love.

That love which cherished and protected a most precious gem.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to carry your grief with me.

Follow this journey on She Brings Joy

 

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