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Why Wedding Season Gives Me Anxiety as a Grieving Parent

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Since my oldest son, Christian, died, there are places I can’t go anymore and occasions that are hard to celebrate.

Weddings, whether or not I am close to the happy couple, are always painful. The pain is beginning to lessen, but sometimes even watching strangers commit to spending the rest of their lives together has brought me to tears. I am aware of how strange this sounds. There are very few people who know this about me. When I told my husband about how weddings make me feel, he was even surprised. (Of course, I never mention these feelings to the bride and groom.)

Sadness always presents itself during the ceremony when the couple professes that they will stand with each no matter what life throws their way. You see, my husband and I continue to do just that. But when speaking my own vows, child loss was not a thought in my head.

Going to a wedding instantly brings me back to my own special day. It was June and gorgeous. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The beautiful weather that day was thought to be a gift from my grandmother and grandfathers in heaven. We had an amazing time. A friend of the family always tells me I was the happiest bride she ever saw.

Sure, I was a bit naive. I knew the potential problems my husband and I could possibly be faced with, but the list never included losing a child. It never crossed my mind that that might happen to us. Perhaps this is why weddings trigger anxiety in me.

If there is a mother-and-son slow dance at the wedding, there will definitely be tears. But here is where it gets complicated; my emotions include sadness and guilt. Sadness is present because my son, Christian, will never get married. There will be no discussion when he is ready to purchase a ring, there will be no wedding planning with him, no dress shopping for a mother-of-the-groom dress and no brothers standing by his side.

He will never get married; the mother-son dance is a blatant reminder of that.

After the sadness arises, guilt immediately sets in. I am fortunate enough to have two other beautiful, amazing sons whom I love immensely. They will do all of the things their brother never got to do. I will get to be involved in their celebrations. I also know for a fact they will include Christian in their weddings in one way or another. I will get to do the mother-son dance with them. But, and there is a but, I will still never have this opportunity with Christian.

Celebrations and weddings for some grieving parents might include what I like to call the “tether effect.” Once joy returns in our lives, which it eventually does, we become adept at feeling joy alongside pain. I liken this to a helium balloon tied to a weight. The weight may be as light as a rock or as heavy as a boulder. One thing is for sure, that balloon will no longer float eagerly to the sky. It’s lost the innate ability of helium balloons to float among the sun and clouds. It will always be tethered to that sadness, much like a bereaved parent.

Photo credit: LElik83/Getty Images

Originally published: August 15, 2018
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