March 4, 2010

City Mom: The Desire to be Happy Again

As much as it is a very personal matter for me to discuss the loss of my child, I realize that a lot of people feel that it is too sad or too dark of a part of themselves to share... something that is better whispered or abbreviated in conversation (if not skipped altogether). But for me and other parents who have experienced the loss of a child, it is a very BIG part of who we are. Oftentimes, however, we can't help but feel that we should only talk about our child with our head hung low - but why! In my heart, I feel so blessed and grateful to have had that time with Ethan that I COULD SHOUT IT FROM A MOUNTAIN TOP! (OR THREE!)

But, here's an honest fact: Sometimes it's just hard to talk about in few words, and confessing to a friendly stranger who asks how many children you have that you really have 2 and not just 1 because 1 died, equals a really awkward situation. For me, being asked that question was difficult, but mostly because the honest answer to the question was likely going to make the person who asked it feel incredibly sorry for asking it in the first place. I hated that feeling; that making-them-feel-sorry feeling.

One way to handle this situation is to not answer the question honestly to try to avoid said awkwardness. Not the best solution. I know this, because I did it once. After Ethan died I didn't leave the house for weeks. When I finally ventured out, a woman who had seen me previously in passing when I was pregnant asked with extreme enthusiasm "Ohhh, where is the baby!???" --- I froze. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know how to talk about it, nor did I want to hear myself say it. And then there was that whole making-them-feel-sorry thing I mentioned. So, all I could manage to get out was "He's at home with my husband...".

The conversation ended without further incident. SUCCESS! I had managed to avoid THAT conversation... the one where I had to say my son died.

It was the first time I had been faced with that question, AND OH THE GUILT that set in from what I had said just to avoid the truth. It was horrible. Beyond horrible. There I was feeling that way just for trying to keep someone else, a complete stranger, from feeling bad for asking me a simple question... Why was I doing this to myself?

Feeling comfortable and confident in my own skin again became a new focus for me, and one critical to my healing.

Overtime, I realized more and more that, despite how much I wish it didn't have to be, my son's passing was always going to be a part of me, my story, and my life -- and I had to accept it in order to accept me. Of course I would always feel sorrow in connection with his passing, but even greater, and even stronger than that, was the absolute joy that I felt for his life and for the time that I got to share with him when he was here. It was in learning to fully accept my son's passing and accepting myself as a bereaved parent, that I was able to learn to handle and deal with those questions confidently and with grace.

It is easy for parents who have lost a child to feel emotionally isolated from others who haven't gone through what we have. It isn't always easy to bridge that divide, but sometimes you've just got to wake up, look yourself in the mirror and say "Other people have gone through what I've gone through. Yes, my child's passing has changed me. Yes, it hurts like hell, and at times it still feels like a fresh wound, but I'm not going to feel defeated any longer. I am going to be strong for myself, and strong for my child. I am going to take all that I've learned from this, and I'm going to RUN WITH IT. I'm going to keep growing and flourishing and reminding myself each and every day that I am loved, that I am blessed, and that I am not alone."

And that, my friends, is when I decided to begin my journey to find happiness again.

- and although it wasn't bright, sunny days for a long time... I did begin to see fleeting moments of beauty again against my gray, clouded sky...



  1. Like you said, it's hard to navigate this question without making someone feel sorry for bringing it up. It still, over two years later, feels awkward but I've found the best way for me to navigate it is like this:
    Person asking question: Is this your first child?
    Me: No, my first born passed away at 3 1/2 months.
    PAQ: Oh I'm so sorry to hear that!
    Me: Thank you, I appreciate that. (and then continue with pre-question conversation)

    If I show my appreciation and then continue on, I find it works well to convey that I genuinely appreciate their sympathy yet don't think we need to get too deep into it here and now. Just what works for me and obviously it never gets EASY to handle this, only easier.

  2. Great post Wendi. You write from the heart and I love it.