Grief gets tiring. There’s the crying, the pain and the cloud that follows you around. You just want to hide from the world and bury your head in the sand. But once the grief cloud lifts, and you begin to face the world again, you realize that your perspective in life has changed. You’ve changed. You are different.
Without realizing it, you become an advocate of grief – constantly educating others on your loss – even without meaning to. Even just being asked, “how are you?” opens up a can of worms. Then you face questions that naturally bring up your loss – “do you have any children?” or “how’s your baby?” I’ve learned to navigate these questions with answers like, “yes, one in heaven” or “yes, but our son passed away – he lived for 7 days.”
I think what’s more painful in answering these questions is not what answer I give, but what reaction I receive. The conversation takes a turn and goes from friendly sunshine and rainbows to storm clouds and rain. Not on my part, but on the part of the person I’m speaking with – their face falls, and they don’t know what to say. They fumble through some words, mumbling sorry and their eyes look shocked and sad. I’m used to this. In fact, I know it’s coming and will often come up with a line like, “it’s okay, we love talking about him” or “it’s okay, we’re so glad we got to meet him.” Suddenly we are doing the consoling…lol.
I can laugh about this now, but it wasn’t always the case. It took time to embrace and accept our loss. It took time to learn to navigate through our reality and share our unique family story with the world. It really took time.
Now that most people know our story, the next step to embracing grief is acknowledging our parenthood. It was hard for me at first – yes I am a mom, but did the world view it this way? I quickly learned that not everyone does.
Anxiety arose on Mother’s Day, when I was at church, and the priest asked all the mothers in the room to stand for a blessing. Do I stand? Do I remain seated? What do I do? Thank God my husband prompted me to stand and so I did. Yes. I am a mom.
However, it will take time to educate society on this type of motherhood. I was wished, “Happy Mothers Day!,” only to then have the person revoke his well wishes and say, “oops, I’m so sorry – not yet – I’m so sorry.” I know he meant well and wanted to wish me but then he realized that Daxin was no longer with us…I wanted to tell that person – no, please wish me – it’s okay, I am still a mom, but I decided to let it go.
Then there was a time when my mother-in-law did the dishes for us, and I said, “you don’t have to do that for us, but thank you!” And then she said, “when you become a mom, you will know why I want to take care of you guys because you can’t help but want to look after your children.” Hm…this is what got me writing this post.
Again, I know she meant well, truly I do but I just had to…so I turned to her and said, “I know my parenthood is different but we still had the experience of taking care of Daxin. We were eager parents, waiting for him in the NICU after each surgery, or being asked tough questions such as, are we okay with a blood transfusion for our little one? Do we consent to such and such surgery or procedure? We still cared for him like any parent would for their child.” If this isn’t parenthood, then tell me, what defines parenthood? I was nervous to share my thoughts with her but as I did, I can see that she understood what I meant and her comment meant no harm – our parenthood was just forgotten.
When a mother loses her teenage son, is she still seen as a mother?
I know, I know…everyone sees things differently, but in my eyes, YES, I am still a mom and my husband is still a dad and we are grateful for those who have recognized us as parents.
And again, I became an advocate of my loss without meaning to…
So to every parent of loss out there – you are still parents. You cared for your child since DAY ONE of conception. You poured your love over your child and continue to do so. No one can take the love you have for your child away from you. And no one can take away your parenthood. So, embrace your unique family story!
“Heaven and earth may separate us today but nothing will ever change the fact that you made me a father.” – Uknown