Unless you’ve lost a child, you cannot understand the pain. You hear that often. And sitting from this side, I will tell you that it is true. My family was not immune to loss—I experienced it at a young age, but this is different. Unlike anything. Unlike the loss of my pets, my cousin, my grandparents, my dad. All of those things hurt. And they still do. I still miss people. I still wish they were here, but there’s a different ache when it’s your child.
I understand the heartache of another mom even though our losses are so very different. There’s a common thread. And I easily slip back to the first days. And the feelings of being crazy. Irrational. Depressed. So while we all may grieve differently and we all may have a different relationship with our children and our grief, we all are in the same club.
If you’re not in our club, first let me say I hope you never join it. We don’t want anyone else. We’re all full. If you could outlive all your children, that would be fantastic. If you’re not in our club please don’t feel like we’re trying to exclude you. I often gravitate towards my other club members more than my old friends. I worry that if I let you in on too much of my crazy, you’ll get scared or back away. I still love you and appreciate the bond we have—it’s just different now. And some of the things you worry about make me roll my eyes (I need to work on my empathy too!). We’re just in different places. But we can still be friends. We just may serve a different need for each other now.
Those of us in this club need a little more grace than usual. We feel anger, guilt, and jealousy just like you but they are often heightened. We have irrational fears. And until we can learn to control our reactions to those emotions, they can get a little out of hand. If we’re raging about something, give us a little space. Understand that this will pass and we’ll probably be crying in a minute. The waves of emotions can knock the wind out of you—please give us time to catch our breath. We often have no control over what emotion boils up. And we can’t always avoid the triggers. And while I believe we can work to improve our reactions to things, that path is windy and muddy and not easily traveled. And we won’t be perfect. We won’t always be able to see the light. We’ll just need you to give us a little understanding. And maybe a hand to hold while we trudge through.
If we’re talking, please listen. No need to fix us. Just listen. Like I said, it’s often easier for us to open up to our fellow club members so if you hear us talking to you, it means we trust you with our heart. When you open up but someone responds by turning away or if they try to explain away your feelings, it puts another ding in our already broken heart.
And sometimes, especially in the darkest times, we just need you to be present. Just be there.
Understand that if you mention our child, it is music to our ears. You are not reminding us that they died. Trust me. We know. Every moment. And one of our fears now is that our child is forgotten by others. Or that people don’t think they are important enough to mention. So please, remember our child on her birthday, or Christmas, the anniversary of her death or when you know everyone else’s child is headed back to school. We already know these things hurt, but a small gesture of kindness from a friend is healing. And don’t just limit it to holidays, anniversaries and occasions. I’m so thankful to my friends who just send me texts on a random day saying they saw an anchor and thought of Zoey or picked up a plastic turtle with big eyes that reminded them of her. Or they had a dream and she was there in pink sparkly boots.
Our children will always be gone from this earth. So please remember us long-term. It’s easy to be there until the memorial service is over. It’s much harder to stay throughout the rest of life. We know we’re scary. We are your worst nightmare. But we didn’t ask for this. I so wish that Zoey was here and we were living a boring, but beautiful life together. This is a life-long journey—no matter what else happens—and it will always hurt. Please consider walking beside us as we make our way.
Zoey’s death changed everything. All of us in this club need a little extra love. We will forever. Imagine what it would be like for you to be the one who lifted someone up one day? I see a lot of talk about random acts of kindness. You could be that for your lost friend. You could be the one that gives their weary soul a moment of rest. The stitch in their heart that heals them just a little more.