I remember so clearly, I was 12 years old when a dear family friend’s 9 month old baby was diagnosed with a brain tumor. As a child, I did not understand the devastation of the news. I assumed she could get help from the doctor, maybe have a surgery and all would be well. When this sweet girl passed away 9 short months later, I was so sad for the family. They had 4 other children and I remember thinking, “Well at least they have other kids at home to make them happy.” Throughout the years, this family slowly closed themselves away from the world. We no longer saw them as often and the friendship fizzled because the family moved away.
I remember being confused by the way they handled the death of their child. “Why are they so devastated if they have 4 other children to fill the void? I know what it is like to lose someone I love, I lost my Grandma. It is sad, but I am fine now. Plus, their little girl really must have been special and had an important mission to fulfill, because God needed her close to Him.”
As the years went by, I can say that my viewpoint and understanding of their reaction really didn’t change much. I always knew it must be devestating, but I couldn’t comprehend what it must feel like to lose a child.
Heartbreakingly, I now understand that very pain and I wish with everything I am that I didn’t know this devastation. I remember when I came to the realization that I was losing my Hayes, I finally understood that family. Everyone handles grief differently, and in all honesty, I completely understand every single emotion they had felt. Their way of grieving was anger and depression and I have felt both of those and still do often. It comes in waves. Some days I feel grateful for my life and other days, I can’t lift my head off of my pillow and cry the day away. It changes day to day and moment to moment. I respect every emotion because that is my love for Hayes making its way to the surface.
I recently had someone ask me what they should say to a friend that had lost their daughter in a tragic accident. I told her to just let them know you are so sorry for their loss. If you don’t completely understand their pain, do not try to make them feel like you understand by telling them about losing a grandparent or an uncle. It isn’t the same. It is sad, but it isn’t the same. When people reach out to me and tell me they understand because they lost a grandparent, I immediately feel hurt. I have lost grandparents also….it does not even come close to touching the gaping hole that I now feel in my heart. Losing a child is a pain that is unequivocal to any kind of possible pain because this being that grew inside of my body, was connected with my soul on a deeper level than anyone ever and now, that person is no longer there for me to hold, to smell, to touch and to see. This huge part of me is ripped open. My baby didn’t get to do all of those things that my grandparents and your grandparents got to do. Hayes’ life was mercilessly cut far too short. It is not the same!
I also told my friend to please not tell these sweet parents that their child is in a better place. When you lose a child, it is impossible to imagine that there can possibly be a better place than a mother and fathers loving embrace. I believe in God, I know He has my sweet boy in His arms, but I have a belief in my heart that my Father in Heaven is devestated for me because He knows the pain of losing a child. He knows the pain in my soul. He knows my Hayes should be in my arms.
The last thing I told her not to tell this family was that they were stronger than her. That she could never handle the loss of a child. What other choice does a parent have? When you say they are stronger than you, in that moment, they feel like people don’t realize how much they actually love their child. When someone tells me I am stronger than they would be, I feel guilt. I question my strength. Just because I smile doesn’t mean I don’t cry. Just because I laugh doesn’t mean I don’t wail in heart break. And just because I get out of bed each day does not mean I am moving on. Grief is different for every single person. There is no right or wrong way to react. “Grief is the last act of love we have to give those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was deep love.”
I guess what I am getting at is that it is easy to judge when you don’t completely understand. I have been there. All a family wants to know is that their child is still loved because that child still exists. Their child will not be forgotten and Hayes will not be forgotten! Thank you for understanding and allowing me to express every emotion I feel. I am grateful for you. This journey is easier because you all have lifted me and carried me through the pain.