Losing a child is almost unspeakable in our culture. There isn’t even a word for it. A person who loses their spouse is a widow or widower. A person who loses their parents is an orphan. But a parent who loses a child is… a parent who loses a child.
One of the first steps in any recovery process is to name it, to own it. Yet I’ve noticed that in subtle and non-subtle ways, there are signs all around me saying “you are experiencing hell on earth, and you will never ever EVER recover.”
This is a parent’s worst nightmare. And as human beings, we get so easily paralyzed by fear. Most parents (including myself, 6 weeks ago) tell themselves, “If my child died, I would die. I would just DIE. I could not survive.” Yet here I am, surviving.
It turns out that when my worst fear became my reality, I changed, but I didn’t die. I feel like there’s a part of me that died – the same part of me that grew when Julian was born. How could it not? Physically and energetically, he was created inside of me. I carried him for 9 months, and when he was born, something was born inside of me too. Now this “something” inside of me has been replaced with a hollow emptiness that is similar to what I imagine an amputee feels. The me I used to be is now missing something profound – but the me I used to be didn’t cease to exist.
I don’t expect to “recover” as in, “get back to the way things were.” But I do expect to move forward. I want to cherish my memories of Julian, and honor his life by bringing those memories forward with me into my “new normal” – which will include joy and love and happiness. Because that’s what I’m determined to create for myself, and my family.
But why do I feel like this is a controversial perspective? Why do I feel that I have to be careful who I say that to, and how I say it?
I plan to explore that more in this blog.
Leanne (Trebilcock) Avila
April 5, 2011 at 10:31 am
I think you pointed to the answer somewhat in your post. People can’t imagine surviving the death of their own child. Therefore, they wonder how can you survive the death of your child? How do you get through it? I think a person’s perceptions color the way they expect you to behave, to feel. It’s like when people were commenting how strong you are — at a time when you felt anything but strong — the reality was that you were just doing what you had to do to get through the situation.
You may not be able to change these perceptions, but you have every right to do what you need to do to move forward in your life.
April 5, 2011 at 11:16 am
thank you for your comments, Leanne. It’s so helpful to me to feel supported, even when most people (thankfully) haven’t been through the same experience.