Content Notice: death of a child
This article first appeared on Your Tango and has been republished with permission.
Without a doubt, the death of a child is one of the most traumatic events one could ever experience. Some would even argue that it's the most devastating of all losses.
I should know. In September of 2008, my husband and I lost our firstborn baby boy, Liam, to a congenital heart defect. It's safe to say that our lives changed forever that day.
The changes have occurred in so many ways. The following is a list of some of the most crucial:
1. I worry on a constant basis.
After experiencing the unimaginable, you grow very cautious. I hug my kids just a little bit tighter before dropping them off at school. I panic with any mention of aches and pains. I have butterflies at their doctor's visits. I just want them to be OK.
I'm fully aware of the "worst case scenario." I also know that I would never be able to survive another tragedy.
2. I don't "forgive and forget."
The cliché "you know who your friends are" really rings true for many of us after burying a child. My husband and I were frequently disappointed by those in our lives. Some people would say the wrong thing. Others would say nothing at all.
Still, others criticized the way we grieved. It takes a toll on relationships. Some become strained and some are lost altogether. It's another sad side effect of the excruciating journey.
3. I never feel as if I fit in.
I was fortunate enough to become pregnant a few months after the loss of Liam. Since I had no other children visible to the eye, I would cringe with the inevitable question, "Is this your first?"
I was always very honest. Just because Liam had died, it didn't mean he was no longer my child. It's often a very uncomfortable situation. The bereaved parent becomes sad. The other party doesn't know how to respond. And how could they? They have no idea what it's like to be a part of the club no one would ever want to join. Although my husband and I have some great family and friends, our loss will always set us apart.
4. I cry at the drop of a hat.
There are certain triggers. Anniversaries and birthdays can be particularly difficult. On numerous occasions, I have heard another mom and dad call after their own "Liam." Otherwise, my grief can hit me out of nowhere. I remember recently bawling as I heard a song on the radio. Other days, I may feel just "off."
5. I know to cherish every moment.
Simply put, there are no guarantees in life. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. All of my children have taught me to appreciate each moment. I'm very grateful.
6. I'm more guarded.
I'm very cautious of who I let into my life. I don't trust very easily. I'm walking wounded. I have built a wall that will never come down.
7. I feel guilty.
With time, I have learned to be gentler with myself. What happened to Liam wasn't my fault. However, I'm his mom. If given a chance, any parent would switch places with a sick child. Sometimes I wonder why it wasn't me instead. I also feel as if I let my baby down.
8. I don't take things for granted.
A successful doctor's visit is something to celebrate in my household. I know all too well how things can very suddenly go wrong. I also make sure to say a quick prayer before every vacation. I'm grateful when we return safely. Every day with my family is a blessing.
9. I will always feel incomplete.
Our family and friends were all overjoyed when we announced our pregnancy. Many thought that we would go back to being "normal" again. While our two living children have continued to bring us much joy, that hasn't happened. It doesn't matter how many additional children we have; he/she will never replace Liam.
10. I will always ask why.
Not a day goes by that I don't think of Liam. In a similar vein, to this day it's incomprehensible that he's gone. I haven't accepted his loss. The term "everything happens for a reason" does not apply to a parent has lost a child. There are no answers.