One of my friends mentioned the other day, that as a mother after the loss of a child, she feels judged when she admits to having a bad day or for sometimes getting frustrated at the chaos that is so much of motherhood. I know exactly what she means, though I suspect it has less to do with what others think about us and more to do with how we judge ourselves (though let’s be honest, there are enough catty women out there that it is likely that she is right about having been judged a time or two!).
There is no pain like losing a child. And, when, as in my case as well as the case of this friend, there is a strong likelihood that you will never get the chance to be a mother again, that grief goes deeper still. It is something that I wish no one ever had to experience.
When the odds are defied and you are fortunate enough to be a mother again after such loss, you walk into it with a far greater appreciation of just how lucky you are. You also often have the idealistic idea that you will never take for granted what you have been given. And though you never do take it for granted, that doesn’t mean that the skies are always pink and that the birds are always singing in the land of Motherhood!
The reality is that you are not somehow exempt from the frustrations, exasperations, and outright angst that every other mother sometimes feels. In fact, dare I suggest, that you actually feel more of those kinds of feelings?
How can that be when you know how incredibly lucky you are in contrast to what you have lost and what you might have been denied?
The answer is very easy and summed up in one word. Grief. Grief is a long, agonizing process. The process does not end just because you become a parent again. Gavin did not replace Serena. Neither did my girls. The hole that Serena left is still there and even seven years later, I still find myself sometimes struggling with grief.
Grief wrecks havoc on your emotions. It makes you less able to deal with stress. It often includes bouts of depression. And with all this, the parent after loss is trying to deal with the normal difficulties of parenthood. Sometimes I feel like we’ve been set up to fail!
I am most certainly a different mother (and a different person!) than I would have been if I had never lost Serena. In some ways I am better, but in a lot of ways, I fear I am worse. You cannot put your grief on hold just because you’re a parent and being a parent doesn’t magically cause the grief to disappear. As with so much of life, we have to do the best we can with the imperfect circumstances that we’ve been given.
For you parents out there who beat yourselves up for not being grateful every second for what you have, give yourselves a break!
And for those of you who are friends or family to those who have lost a child, well, let’s just say love and understanding go a long way!