Updated: Jan 13
I know I can be honest with you, because you are me and I am you. There is a truth amongst grieving mothers. We know each other's pain.
As much as I do my best to soldier on and live my best life for my daughter who did not make it to her 18th birthday, I still hurt. After almost five and a half years, I look 'healed' on the outside. I go to weddings, congratulate families whose children graduate high school, and occasionally attend baby showers. The truth is that it's still hard - all of it. I am not only grieving my daughter, but also her future, and our future as a family.
Let me confess a few things to you, Angel Mama:
My heart still hurts every single day, even if I say I'm ok. I have found a way to live with the loss of my daughter that brings me peace and allows me to give my surviving son a 'good' life. On the outside I am doing well, but I'm not over it - not by a long shot.
I have a son and a husband to live for and enjoy life with, but they will never replace my daughter. I could go on to have another 12 children and none of them would replace Katie, so I wish the world would stop saying "at least you still have another child."
I want to be happy for other families as they celebrate birthdays, holidays like Christmas, and milestones like graduations and weddings. On one hand I am sincerely happy for those friends and families who are blessed with children to celebrate with, but if I am honest there is also a part of me that is insanely jealous. And then when I see social media posts about the "poor graduates who won't get a proper graduation due to Covid" I nearly lose it. My child didn't get a graduation because she was dead. Your child is alive and well. Can't people just be happy because of that?
I am terrified of losing another child and pray for my son's safe return every time he leaves the house. Now that I know how easily (and innocently) a child can die, I worry incessantly about my son. Yet, I worry that I am projecting my fears onto him and preventing him from living a normal life and in turn negatively affect him as well.
I sleep in my daughter's bed surrounded with her things; her photos, her urn, and even her clothes and papers. This probably sounds crazy to the person who hasn't lost a child, but this is one way that I can feel closer to her since she isn't physically here anymore.
I fight the urge to tell the world that my daughter died and that she existed. At work, my co-workers always ask about my son, how he's doing, and what his aspirations are. Yet it is rare that someone says Katie's name anymore. Sometimes I want to shout: "I have a daughter too!"
I want want to scream when I hear people complain about their kids. I get it. I remember those insanely hard days when I wanted to pull my hair out. Parenting is hard work! Yet, I think to myself 'I would sell my soul to the devil if Katie would just argue with me one more time' or that I'd love to look into her room full of clothes on the floor, because that would mean that she was still alive.
Living with grief means that we often wear a mask for those around us simply because it's easier than being real with those who just cannot understand. And I truly do not fault them for that. I certainly didn't know the realities of grief and child loss before Katie died either.
Living with grief has also meant that I have found the people like you that I can share these confessions with and I am grateful that I am not alone on this journey.
PS: If you are struggling with this journey through child loss, I created a free 5-part video course called "Living with Child Loss" that you might find helpful. It addressed the struggles of guilt, parenting after loss, and how to keep going. You can read more about it HERE.