Parenting after loss is hard. It is complicated; it is complex. Yes, there is plenty of joy and happiness, but there are also moments that catch you off guard and take your breath away with grief that takes you completely by surprise. I had a moment that meant so much more to me as a mom to each of my children.
Browsing the section at the front of Target, I am always on the lookout for cute holiday decorations to put on Silas’s grave. During my last time, I was lucky to find one last “Happy Valentine’s Day” sign to brighten up his final resting place. I was thrilled to send this to Omaha for him! I brought it home and prepared to ship it. As a stay at home mom, something distracted me and I started working on another project. Soon, I noticed that our daughter Sadie was being abnormally quiet, so I decided I had better find out what she was doing. I discovered her with a Sharpie in her hand, coloring all over the sign that I had chosen just for Silas. My voice caught in my throat. I couldn’t speak as my daughter looked at me innocently. Anger was rising from my heart, while my adoration for my daughter was stifling it down. I ended up removing her from the situation and shutting her in her room, where I knew she was safe. I locked myself in my room, curled up in a ball on the bed and sobbed for about 15 minutes.
I felt like I was an utter failure as a mom to each of my children. I felt like I had failed Silas. I felt like this gift of love from the depths of my heart had been ruined. I had failed Sadie, with my poor reaction. The ache in my heart for what had just unfolded and the guilt I was feeling was too strong, so the tears fell onto my pillow without reservation.
It took the perspective of someone else who knows my heart and loves each of our children to show me the beauty in what had just occurred: Sadie had drawn a picture or a message for her big brother. It wasn’t ruined, it wasn’t tarnished. It was even more beautiful a gift than it was originally. I composed myself (somewhat) and greeted Sadie with a hug and an explanation of what Mommy was feeling: that Mommy’s love for her and her big brother was so strong that she just needed a moment alone to process it.
This is the paradox of parenting a child after the loss of another, isn’t it? Here I felt like I was doing one of the only things that I can do to show my continued love for my deceased child, but here’s my living child changing it, making it even stronger and better. Watching her discover something new each day is inexplicably beautiful, but there is a pang in my heart that I’ll never see her siblings do those things. I adore her with every fiber of my being, please don’t think any differently, but I also love my children who are not here on Earth with every fiber of my being. It is a complex situation. Some people may think that I’m being ungrateful for what I have at home, while others may think that “You have a living child now. Move on.” The truth is, I couldn’t be more grateful! For any of my children! I am their Mom…what an honor! I’m never going to move on. Each of my children has changed me and moved me into the person and mother I am today.
If you find yourself in need of support in navigating pregnancy and parenting a child born after a loss, in all it’s complexity there is a place for you. We are proud to announce that there is now a HEALing Embrace Pregnancy and Parenting After Loss Facebook support group. This is a safe space to share all your emotions related to your pregnancy and parenting experience. Just like our HEALing Embrace Grief Support page, you will find validation and support for where you are. You can find it here: https://www.facebook.
Know that you are seen, embraced, and validated as your grief journey continues to unfold, change, and become increasingly more beautiful.