In my introduction to this blog I said I wanted to share some things I have learned in the five years since my daughter moved to Heaven. Within just a few days of losing Rachel I started pouring out my soul in writing. And I’ve continued to write as therapy and as a catharsis on a fairly regular basis ever since. But, when I look back through my journals over these five years, I see how early on a lot of it was raw, angry, questioning God, wondering how I was going to survive. I still am frequently surprised to find myself walking, talking, and acting mostly like a normal person even though my daughter is dead. (I hate that word, by the way, but I don’t really like most of the euphemisms we use for death – like “moved to Heaven.”)
But, because I know some of you reading this blog may be very early on in this grief journey, I want to occasionally share some of my early journal entries. So that you know what you are feeling is normal. So that you know that your confused, angry, frightening worries and fears don’t mean you are going crazy. If you need to scream your fears into your pillow, go out into the woods and yell them at God, or pound them on a keyboard . . . it’s okay. I’ve been there. I lost my child, too. And it’s not fair.
Journal Entry from July 23, 2017
As a parent, when you have your first child, that rush of love, or oxytocin, or insanity is so overwhelming you cannot comprehend that you could love another living being as much as you do this fragile, mewling, damp, unlovely, perfect human placed in your arms that you now have complete responsibility for.
Some parents by choice, chance, or circumstance have only one child. But, many have another or several. And we find to our surprise that our heart is not divided, but, like the Grinch’s heart, it grows to accommodate the people it contains. Amazingly, we love each child with all our heart and one not more than the other.
This does not mean that we always like our children equally. When the nine-month-old sleeps through the night and greets you each morning with a cherubic smile, and delights in his bath, he is naturally more likable than his three-year-old sister who has frequent melt-downs at the mall, insists she doesn’t have to go potty then poops her pants during Communion, and wakes her brother just when he finally settles down for a nap.
And those roles are constantly reversed time over time. And you are nicer to one or the other and they are all crying foul and it’s unfair. But, underneath the bubbling, roiling brew that is the day-to-day life of laughing, and yelling, and worrying, and smiling, and crying, and sighing, there is love. Exponential, well-deep, star-high, ocean-wide love. For each of them and all of them.
And as much as your heart expands to hold each and every one of those children 100%, if you lose one of them, you also lose your whole heart each time. That heart is ripped from your body as surely as if you lost a limb. And, while you never felt the need to apologize to each of your children for loving the others, you feel that you should apologize to the ones remaining for grieving the one you lost. Because that loss is so all-encompassing.
No, it’s not rational. Neither is child loss. But, grief is supposed to be rational? How? How are you supposed to act when a vital part of your being as a parent and as a human is missing?
You’re supposed to lean in to it. You’re supposed to flow with it. You’re supposed to learn from it and come out wiser and spiritually stronger on the other side. You’re supposed to not hurt anyone else on your journey. Apparently. I just made that up actually. Maybe everyone else around you is supposed to be accepting and forgiving and strong until you are through the tunnel.
But, what if that someone else is also your child and he or she is hurting and grieving as well? Is it enough to say, “I still love you with all my heart and I always will,” while at the same time your heart is broken into a million pieces and it will forevermore be fragile and misshapen and vulnerable?
Where’s the fairness in that?
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