On Mother’s and Father’s Day some of us can’t pretend we are ordinary or that life is normal because our child is not here with us.
As we consider these days, our hearts are heavy. They are terrible days for those of us who have lost a child. Other days of the year you can maybe make it a few hours without thinking about your loss; other days of the year you can pretend that you are an ordinary person and that life is normal. But not on Mother’s and Father’s Day.
The real challenge after losing a child is moving forward. It’s almost impossible to envision in that moment of loss, how life can continue after something so horrible. But life does continue, whether we like it or not. There are chores to do and bills to pay. Morning comes again and again. So you pick yourself up and you live, but you are never the same.
We who have lost children understand life’s fragility and beauty. We who have lost children understand that so many things just aren’t important.
At first, we are different because of our raw sadness. But over time the sadness moves from our skin into our bones. It becomes less visible, but no less a part of us. It changes into a wisdom, one we’d give up in a heartbeat to have our child back. We who have lost children understand life’s fragility and beauty. We who have lost children understand that so many things just aren’t important. All that is important are those we love.
It can feel very lonely, being the parent of a child who died. We feel different from those around us, all those happy people with children the same age our child was, or would have been. But over the years, I’ve come to understand that I’m not alone at all.
There is a wonderful story about a woman whose son gets sick and dies. She goes to an earthly idol to ask him to bring her son back to life; “I will,” he says, “if you bring me some mustard seed from the home of a family that has not known loss.” She goes from house to house but can find no family that has not lost someone dear to them. She buries her son and goes back and says: “I understand now.”
That is what I understand now. It doesn’t make me miss my child any less, or Mother’s and Father’s Day any easier. But it helps me make sense of it; loss is part of life. There are no guarantees, ever. Our children, and all those we love, are gifts to us for however long we have them.
I understand now, too, that we are together in this… all of us, in joy and in loss. It’s the connections we make with each other that matter. It’s the connections we make that give life value and help us face each morning. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
Years ago, I chose words to say each time I remember my daughter. And over the years, the words have come to mean more to me. They aren’t just about grief now. They are about who I am, what I have learned, and what I can give. “I will always love you,” I say. “And I will always be your mother.”
God promises that the days when we are at the end of our rope are also the days when His sustaining grace and strength will be most visible and apparent. He doesn’t promise to remove the pain, but He promises that in the midst of it, His grace will sustain us.
God bless you!