It has been awhile since I last wrote in this sacred place, and I hope to write more frequently now that I have returned. Tonight I read an article posted on a sugar filled mom blog that was written by the friend of a bereaved parent. It was titled ‘The Most Powerful Thing You Can Say to Another Mom’ and it was about five words that were uttered by her bereaved friend shortly after the death of her 21 month old daughter. When the bereaved mother was describing her pain to the writer she was quoted as saying “You’re a mom, you know”. The writer made an inference that the most important words she can share with someone who is facing the pain of loss is “I know, I’m a mom”. It is a well intentioned article, but unfortunately the writer simply does not know.
Let me begin by saying that I will not ever question the feelings or sentiments of a fellow bereaved parent, but I will use my voice as a bereaved mother when an article like this is published and beg people to temper their words to the bereaved very carefully. As mothers we do share the common connection of our hearts bond to our children, but when the physical manifestation of their life is ripped from us it is so profoundly life-altering that words alone cannot truly describe it. In the simplest of terms, unless you are a fellow bereaved parent you do not know. And I hope that you never do.
If you have never had to listen to the deafening void from a heartbeat once so strong and vibrant fall silent you do not know.
If you have never held your child’s body lifeless and limp in your arms as you whisper your last goodbye you do not know.
If you have never laid your beautiful and precious child into a body bag and felt as though the sound of it’s zip was literally ripping your heart from your chest you do not know.
If you have never chosen an urn, a casket, or planned a funeral or memorial service for your child whom you have outlived you do not know.
If you have never felt that the crushing pain of your child’s death would literally drown you with nothing more than air you do not know.
If you have never contemplated leaving the world behind because the pain of losing your child is so completely unbearable you do not know.
If you have never managed to discover that somehow, in some insanely miraculous way you did in fact manage one more breath in that moment, and even more in the days that came after, you do not know.
If you have never looked in the mirror and found that you did not recognize the shell of a person that was staring back at you in the darkest moments of your grief you do not know.
If you have never whispered your late child’s name to the air praying, wishing, hoping with all of your heart that it could be heard by him you simply cannot know.
If you have never heard your late child’s name shouted across a playground and thought that just for a moment- ‘what if‘ you simply cannot know.
If you have never felt the whisper of a tear and the immense gratitude as an old friend told you that she thought of your child and said his name aloud you simply cannot know.
This is not the grief Olympics. In losing my son to stillbirth I do not pretend to understand the the pain that is carried by my dear friend who said goodbye to her son after 8 short years of his life on this beautiful earth. I don’t know her pain simply because I have lived with my own. In this sentiment alone I want the world to know that what a bereaved parent truly needs is not found in a platitude about motherhood. What we need comes in varying forms throughout the grief process and believe it or not there are times when it can even be found in shared silence. I understand the need to say something, anything. If I had to choose a phrase to speak aloud I think it would be simply this:
I am here for you.
No more, no less. When you reveal those words I have this advice- embody them. Be there. Whether it is in physical presence or in spirit across them miles. Mean it. Own it. Even if you are pushed away. Take these words and use them to breathe life into the person who will likely find it hard to even comprehend waking to one more day without her child in her arms. Be a light during the darkest moments of humanity. Find a way to offer support and to show that your heart is also breaking, because I know that it probably is. Even so, know that no matter what the circumstance, unless you have lost a child yourself you will never, ever know this pain. And know that this is alright. We do not expect you to know this pain, or to carry it for us. In all honesty we would hand it to you in an instant of we could, but unfortunately it is ours alone to bear. Walk alongside us, even if you no longer recognize the person you thought you knew. We are changed, we are shattered. But in time we will walk again and see the world with an entirely new set of eyes.
I hope that you hear my words. Because unfortunately I know. And I wish more than anything that I did not.