I wish I could say I’ve found meaning in my tragic loss of my child.
I wish I could say someday I will.
Oh you beg to differ?
I wish I could say my faith has been strengthened.
It’s been shattered. Or, at best, I’m unsure as to what I believe.
I wish I could say I believe in the power of prayer.
I prayed for one of my babies to arrive here safely… I’ll let you guess which one.
I wish I could say my spirit child is watching over us, protecting us.
He isn’t saving us from harm, but I do hope he feels how much we love him.
I wish I could say I don’t experience jealousy.
I do. Frequently. I’m not envious of others’ children. I don’t want them. However, I do want all of mine.
I wish I could say I’m genuinely happy for others.
In many cases, I’m not.
I wish I could say I’ve forgiven those who said the wrong thing or nothing.
In many instances, I continue to hold resentment.
I wish I could say all of my friends and family have stuck by me through this.
I wish I could say I never pushed anyone away.
I wish I could say I miss those who are gone from my life.
But this loss… It strips you of everything – you come to realize what is left is all that ever mattered.
I wish I could say I’ve appropriately thanked those who’ve been lights in my darkness.
I’m still working on this.
I wish I could say I’ve always responded promptly to emails and texts of support.
I haven’t. There are times when the idea of completing even a simple task is too overwhelming.
I wish I could say I’ve offered the perfect words to others who are grieving.
I try. But I think I fall short sometimes.
I wish I could seal this package with a bow of redemption – if not for one dying, the next wouldn’t exist.
But no one knows, do they? And most families aren’t required to bury one before welcoming another.
I wish I could say after losing my first I’m a better mother to his brother.
Sometimes, I am. Other times, I’m not. It’s a moot point – I would have been a damn good mother anyway.
I wish I could say tragedy’s made me a stronger, more compassionate human.
On my good days, maybe. On my bad days, I’m sadder, angrier, more jaded, short-fused, anxious…
The list goes on. And on. And on.
And on my worst days, I lack the strength to get out of bed and the will to live.
I wish I could say because I know how it feels to lose everything, I’m always thankful for what I have.
In the macro sense, it’s absolutely true.
But when I’m the only adult home, and my living son is wailing his head off, and I’m exhausted and out of ideas, I don’t always stop to consciously bask in the glow of my gratefulness as I know I should.
In these moments, I’m no different from anyone else, really.
And then I’m angry with myself.
Because my son’s death should make me different.
Every moment of every day.
I wish I could say I’ve grieved gracefully by societal standards.
But I haven’t.
Or maybe I don’t wish for this.
Because if we grieve authentically, tell the honest-to-god truth, doesn’t this benefit everyone?
Eventually, every single one of us will experience loss, or even tragedy, on some level.
And maybe it’s better to walk through it knowing that probably no feeling felt, no matter how dark, is unique.
I wish I could say I believe the inspirational grievers, consider them genuine.
Of course I can’t go as far as to declare them disingenuous.
But I continue to be skeptical too.
Because on so many levels, I don’t think it’s possible to come back from something as traumatic and heartbreaking as holding your child, dead.
This isn’t to say that life can’t become worthwhile again.
Much to the contrary, actually. I think one can experience tremendous joy in it.
But child loss, and grief, and parenting a dead child and a living one are really messy.
And sometimes downright ugly.
And I don’t think the struggles in the aftermath can be masked by pictures of living children in crisp, white onesies in squeaky-clean, white kitchens coupled with inspirational quotes about finding purpose in life’s most cruel experiences.
Life, and parenting, in the aftermath looks more like…
An inability to relate to most other mothers – they seem too normal,
A baby screaming and you crying about how you can’t read his cues,
Self-hatred over breastfeeding struggles,
Heartbreak in response to a milestone your other one will never reach,
Obsessive baby monitor checks, because you fear he’s dead,
One too many text messages sent to the baby sitter to check in,
Complete paralysis until she’s responded,
Declarations that your marriage is in shambles because you grieve differently,
Visits with therapists to treat and/or manage depression and anxiety and post-traumatic stress,
Consumption of medications that alter your brain chemistry so you may have a chance of functioning,
Admissions of post-partum depression coupled with wonderment at how the hell you could possibly be depressed when, at one point, your baby arriving alive was all you ever wanted,
Food and vomit, and shit stained onesies on a baby playing in a kitchen full of dirty dishes,
Colorful toys littering most open floor space,
Answering strangers’ dumb questions about your family,
Painful realizations that most expect you to be better, but you’re not,
Subsequent realizations that, on some level, you never will be,
But you also don’t want to be – because grief is really just a manifestation of love,
Smiles through the tears and tears through the smiles,
Family photo shoots in a cemetery.
And in between all of this is the continuation of life and love and laughter and extreme appreciation for what remains.
It’s devastating and also beautiful.
But mostly complicated.
And I’ll never, ever try to spin it differently.