I attended a mother’s grief retreat over the weekend. The group of 36 or so women included many ages, backgrounds. Some are fresh to the loss, some have been traveling many years. Zoey was the youngest, but children of every age were represented.
Many of these women had never taken time to grieve. They had other children or grandchildren to care for, jobs, houses and apartments to deal with. I feel I’ve spent the last year of my life actively searching out healing. I did not have other children to care for. I don’t have a high stress job. I had nothing else to focus on except myself and honoring my child. I am by no means saying I was doing “better” than any of these women. I could just feel the relief from those women—finally taking a moment for themselves. So many of them had to continue to fight for their children even after death—fighting with hospitals, searching for justice, defending themselves from judgment. Struggling with guilt. It made me realize just how truly blessed I have been. I was amazed at how many people felt they had no one. That the people in their lives that were supposed to just be there were absent. That their pain was compounded by the people who should be showing them the most love. It is shocking and heartbreaking.
While we all came from different places, lost our children at different ages and in different ways, we are all connected by an all too familiar pain. At the opening, one woman broke down, sobbing. And you could feel her pain. We all felt it—really felt it. We all know that soul-crushing weight bearing down on your chest—on your life. We’ve all found ourselves on the bathroom floor sobbing that way. Or shoving it down so we could look strong. I’ve always scoffed when people have told me I am courageous. But the truth is, it does take courage to admit you are in pain. We try to be strong, to show the world we’re tough enough to take this. And showing your vulnerability in front of others is not easy. That’s not what we’re taught to do. I’m so proud of these women. They are all beautiful, courageous, strong mommas.
We were in a safe place to talk about our children. We were in safe place to tell stories of their lives. And their deaths. Of how we are coping. Or not coping. Of the guilt, the fear. The tears when nobody is watching. No judgment. Only love. It was also a safe place to celebrate our children. To say their names. And to hear their names. To share our pride in them. To be reassured that we will always be their moms.
It was tough hearing story after story. To look at another woman and see your pain reflected back at you. But I have to focus on the healing aspect of us being joined. And knowing our children are joined now too. This weekend was the first time many of these women spoke about their pain. If they got nothing else from the weekend, I hope they at least feel they are no longer alone. We’re there to pick each other up from the mess. Or to just sit in it with each other for a minute.
Bless you sweet mommas. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. And for sharing your children with me.