I don't think you ever "get over" the loss of a child...EVER. It's always there, waiting to swallow you in the depths of it's grief. But as time passes, those waves of sorrow do come less frequently. Most of the time, I smile when I think of him. Even though the memories of him that I have are all of saying goodbye, there is the bittersweet feeling of knowing that someday I'll have him in my arms, alive and well, even if it's a lifetime away.
In many ways I'm jealous of those who have lost children after birth; Not that losing them before or after makes it easier or harder. It's just that those who have lost them after have more tangible reminders of their child and memories that they can go back to and hold on to. I don't have that and I desperately want those. To know that, for even a moment, your child felt your presence, your touch, or heard your voice would be so fulfilling and comforting. Or when days are hard, to have memories of your child's smile, laugh, or touch to hold onto. To have felt their heartbeat or their breath on your cheek....that would be Heaven! In fact, after you lose a child, those are the things you crave with all your being! Now, imagine never having gotten the chance to even experience them in the first place; It is tragic and devastating. It's like forgetting your chlid's entire existence except their funeral. You feel like there's this hole in your life and heart that can't be filled.
One of the hardest parts of having a miscarriage or stillborn is the sense that somehow, you're not entitled to grieve as long or as hard for your child; that your loss is somehow less than that of someone who's child lived after birth. That in some way, my child would have mattered more if he'd simply taken a breath or had a heartbeat? That in that magical moment my love for him would have then begun or transformed into something more real? No, I can't believe that's true because my love for my angel son was and is as strong as for my other living children. He is a part of me that I carry always. An quiet ache in my heart that others don't see, but is always present.
One day, while I was shopping I saw a ring that I KNEW I had to have. It was a simple silver spinner ring and engraved on it in script are the words: i think of you all the time. And I do. My son, and the grief of losing him, are so much a part of me that I couldn't separate where one begins and the other ends. In so many ways, my grief is all I have of him, one of the few reminders that he was actually here and not just a dream.
I imagine him now as a 7 year old child and who he would be. What would he be like? Would he have dark hair like Cori? Or blond like the rest of my kiddos? Would he love super heroes? Cars? What would his voice sound like? Who would this mystery child be? The anguish of not knowing can be paralyzing in it's intensity at times, and others....it's a soft whisper like butterfly wings against your heart but it's there just the same.
This is perhaps one of the best descriptions of the grief process after losing a child :
STEVEN KALAS: When you lose a child, grieving is a lifelong experience.
When our first child is born, a loud voice says, "Runners, take your marks!" We hear the Starting gun and the race begins. It's a race we must win at all cost. We have to win. The competition is called, 'I'll race you to the grave. I’m currently racing three sons. I really want to win.
Not everyone wins.
I'm here at the national meeting of Compassionate Friends, an organization offering support and resources for parents who lose the race. I'm wandering the halls during the "break-out" sessions. In this room are parents whose children died in car accidents. Over there is a room full of parents of murdered children. Parents of cancer victims are at the end of the hall. Miscarriages and stillbirths are grouped together, as are parents who have survived a child's suicide. And so it goes.
In a few minutes, I'm going to address Compassionate Friends. This is the toughest audience of my life. I mix with the gathering crowd, and a woman from Delaware glances at my name tag. Her name tag has a photo of her deceased son. My name tag is absent photos.
"So ... you haven’t,.. lost anyone," she says cautiously.
“My three sons are yet alive, if that's what you're asking me," I say gently.
She tries to nod politely, but I can see that I've lost credibility in her eyes. She's wondering who invited this speaker, and what on earth he could ever have to say to her.
My address is titled "The Myth of Getting Over It." It's my attempt to answer the driving questions of grieving parents: When will I get over this? How do I get over this?
You don't get over it. Getting over it is an inappropriate goal. An unreasonable hope. The loss of a child changes you. It changes your marriage. It changes the way birds sing. It changes the way the sun raises and sets. You are forever different.
You don't want to get over it. Don't act-surprised. As awful a burden as grief is, you know intuitively that it matters, that it is profoundly important to be grieving. Your grief plays a crucial part in staying connected to your child’s life. To give up your grief would mean losing your child yet again. If I had the power to take your grief away, you'd fight me to keep it. Your grief is awful, but it is also holy. And somewhere inside you, you-know that.
The goal is not to get over it. The goal is to get on with it.
Profound grief is like being in a stage play wherein suddenly the stagehands push a huge grand piano into the middle of the set. The piano paralyzes the play. It dominates the stage. No matter where you move, it impedes your sight lines, your blocking, your ability to interact with the other players. You keep banging into it, surprised-each time it's still there. It takes all your concentration to work around it, this at a time when you have little ability or desire to concentrate on anything.
The piano changes everything. The entire play must be rewritten around it.
But over time the piano is pushed to stage left. Then to upper stage left. You are the playwright, and slowly, surely, you begin to find the impetus and wherewithal to stop reacting to the intrusive piano. Instead, you engage it. Instead of writing every scene around the piano, you begin to write the piano into each scene, into the story of your life.
You learn to play that piano.
You're surprised to find that you want to play, that it's meaningful, even peaceful to play it. At first your songs are filled with pain, bitterness, even despair. But later you find your songs contain beauty, peace, a greater capacity for love and compassion. You and grief--together--begin to compose hope. Who'da thought?
Your grief becomes an intimate treasure, though the spaces between the grief lengthen. You no longer need to play the piano every day, or even every month. But later, when you're 84, staring out your kitchen window on a random Tuesday morning, you welcome the sigh, the tears, the wistful plan that moves through your heart and reminds you that your child's life mattered.
You wipe the dust off the piano and sit down to play.
And today, I am playing that piano because he matters. Even if no one remembers him or was touched by his birth except me and my family, he mattered. I love you baby boy!
Happy 7th Birthday Robert Allen!
Until I can hold you in my arms,
I'll hold you in my heart.