We discussed this confession already, but it’s so impactful that I needed to unpack something else. Just to jog the memory, here it is:
“I feel like no one really thinks about a loss for future their children. My parents lost a child when I was little, and knowing they lost them makes me feel guilty. I bet they would have been a better person, who may have done more than I ever could. When I am really sad, sometimes I ask God to switch places with the child, because surely he meant for me to die and not them. I want to be two wonderful people inside the same body so I can give my mother all of her children’s love. The thought makes me feel like what I want to become is unreachable. How can I ever meet those standards? I don’t hear anyone speak about it, so here it is. I hope I am not alone in the ‘It should have been me’ syndrome.”
If I can take a step back and call out something that strikes me, I want to point out something in this confession that is a perfect illustration of the power that grief and love have together. Take a look at some lines I pulled from the quote above.
“…and knowing they lost them makes me feel guilty.”
“…because surely he meant for me to die and not them.”
“I want to be two wonderful people inside the same body so I can give my mother all of her children’s love.”
“How can I ever meet those standards?”
Grief is real. Grief brain is a real thing, having a lasting impact on the way we think and view the world and guilt because it wasn’t us is as natural as crying that they’re gone in the first place. Taken in isolation these seem to be on the hopeless end of the spectrum, holding on so tightly to the absence of one who would have had their own special impact on the world. Understanding though that we grieve hard because we loved harder, these are all love statements. The desire to carry their spirit forward and building up all of the things we envision them to be. The need to fulfill the things a mother would want for her children. The frustration of trying and trying to be more; to DO more.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said a prayer in anger over the last two years, asking God why my children aren’t running and playing with me in their place. Asking why Nicholas reaches down from Heaven instead of a bunk bed when I was a kid. This is real life, and it’s ok to be in that place – just be careful not to view it as the end of your journey; we can be a part of their legacy, but we can’t shoulder it for them.
We have a hard time talking about loss – and all grief, really – for anything more than just a couple of days before we’re told it’s time to move on and it’s 20-freaking-17. I can’t imagine how isolated our parents must have felt thirty-plus years ago, having to fight through this without internet support and closed groups where they can say things they wouldn’t dare in public. Seriously, it hurts my heart to think that my own parents walked this journey without the very things that have brought me some sort of sanity. They were so strong and resilient, and how amazing they are now while dealing with it again in our losses astounds me. They’ve come to some sort of terms with the things that have happened in their life and chose to continue moving forward, which is how we’re here in the first place. That’s the kind of example I’ll fight to be for all of my life.
To moms and dads reading this while taking on the daily fight to keep sight of all of their children, we appreciate you. We love you for your struggle and your strength, for your example of never being too far, for loving with everything you have and not everything you have left. For being mom and dad to all of your children when you can only see and hear and touch so many. And for embodying the power that comes from a struggle as deep and raw as this.
I want to thank you again for this very special submission, giving a voice to a void that is often overlooked. We’ll be continuing our True Confessions series into April so lets set free the things you’ve been holding on to and heal some hearts together.