Death of a Mother’s child, death in part of the Mother
“Parents shouldn’t have to bury their children”. It’s been said over and over again. But we do and there’s not a thing we can do about it. The child dies of illness, accident, overdose, suicide, whatever the case may be and we as a parent feel the tearing and shredding of our soul. We yell and scream until our vocal cords are raw. We look at folks who are going about their daily routines and we want to grab them by the throat and tell them, “look at me in my pain, and stop laughing and enjoying your life. Don’t you realize my life is changed forever and I’ll never have what you have or what I had before?” We want everyone to feel the gut wrenching turmoil we face on a daily basis with no end in sight. We lose all sense of rationality for a time. We want everyone to understand that we are hurting beyond belief.
Then the rationality comes back ever so slowly. You might see a new baby and think about how your baby was at that age. You see children playing and laughing and you remember all the times your child laughed at play. You hear about the successes of someone else’s child and you say all the right things, but realize you are playing at life and using a façade to keep from running away and crying your eyes out. The tears don’t come as readily as they did in the beginning but they are there just waiting to flow like Niagara from your eyes.
The loss of the child is a loss of part of yourself. It’s a physical loss of part of you, or at least a part of you that once was. That child relied on you to nurture and bring that child to life. That child was yours and yours alone for the first 9 months of his/her being. You went through pain to bring that child into the world as a living being. The child that was part of you is now independent of you and a being on his/her own. But… is that really true?
The child you bore is now a person who needs to be honed into the shape of a productive human being. A human being which you hope will enhance the world. You do the best you can to teach your child about what is expected of him/her. You guide the child by your own behaviors and beliefs. You hope the child is an extension of you and learns what your culture feels is right from wrong. In essence, you are attempting to make the child an extension of yourself. You will be gone at some point in time but you hope all your teachings will continue in the acts of the child you bore.
Then comes the death of that child.
Part of you is now dead. Perhaps not to others but certainly in your own mind you feel the great loss of the flesh and blood of your child who is no longer here to touch, kiss and hug. The child you took so much care of prior to his/her first breath will no longer breathe. The child you tried to protect and insulate from the brutalities that life could throw at him/her is no longer in need of your protection. A part of you is gone along with the physical being of your child, your baby, the one you protected for so long.
You feel that you’ve lost an appendage. It’s as painful as though you really did lose part of your body. It’s like an amputee who has phantom pain. The appendage is gone but you still feel it is right where it always was. You just need to look harder, or longer, or more intensely and it will be back where it belongs. Then you realize, that it never will be back. It’s gone forever and you have to accept the fact that part of you is gone and you will never be the same.
“You need to move on”. “You’ll get over it”. “Life goes on”, “Time heals all wounds”. You realize that people are stupid, they have no idea until they go through it what death does to people. Losing a child is not like losing any other person. The death is personal, not abstract. It’s part of you, you’re mourning along with the child. It is your body that has also experienced the death. You feel intensely a sense of loss of part of self.
The child, the extension of you, has taken from you that part of your feeling of immortality. You don’t have the child to continue your thoughts and beliefs. That child will not be able to impart wisdoms you gave them to their progeny. You’ve ceased to exist, at least that’s how it feels at times. Rational thought? I don’t think so, but definitely a layer of regret that you didn’t realize would be part of the death of your child.
So you go on, and do all the things you have to do. You continue the façade of a life you never knew before but it’s part of you now. You smile, you laugh, and you carry on, carrying on. Maybe you don’t laugh as loud or smile as bright, but you do the best you can just like you did when you were raising the child who is no longer part of the breathing world, but part of the memories you hold close to your heart.