11 June 2016

I can't breathe. An open letter to those who have never buried their own child.

Loss is a very real thing.  Grandparents, parents, siblings.... But what about when someone loses their own CHILD?  What then?

I have something to say to you, and you are not going to like it, but that is just too bad.




My son, Wolfgang H.X. Fritts, summer 1996
My little boy's headstone


Hello, I am a grieving parent.  I have lost two children, one approximately 7.305 days ago yesterday (10 June 1996) of S.I.D.S., my little boy, Wolfgang, aged 227 days and one hour, and one approximately 6.452 days ago as of today to Anencephaly and placental abruption at 21 weeks gestation, my little girl, Brittanney, who lived right below my heart for 147 days.


What I am about to say, you are not going to like it ONE BIT, and that is not my problem, it was inspired not only by a conversation I had VERY recently, but conversations I've had with people over the course of the last approximately 13757 days (collectively combining both losses, because the conversations I've had have just been....... wow.  That's all I can think of to say here is "wow.").  And counting.

Since the beginning of time, since Cain killed Abel, death has been a very real thing, regardless of loss.  It sucks.  We grieve, and as best we can, we try to find our footing again, but never can seem to get it "just the way it was 'before.'"

We all experience things that change us forever:  marriage, parenthood, jobs, interactions with strangers and friends.  But the most life-changing, mind-boggling, earth-shattering experience one could ever go through, is hearing a medical professional tell you, "I'm sorry, there's nothing more can be done," and it's regarding your own CHILD.  A child that you brought into the world (hopefully with the assistance of a trained medical professional).  A child that you bonded with from conception.  You dreamed HUGE dreams for that little person.  You had high hopes for that little person.  You read to them, cherished everything about them, even long before they were born.

They say "love" is hard to describe, and I concur, it absolutely IS.  But there are different definitions of that word.  I love my husband, yes, but my love for my children (and now my step-children, too) is vastly different than the affection I feel for my spouse.  It is vastly different than the affection I feel for my brothers, my Mom, my relatives.  It is vastly different than the affection I feel for my friends.  It is vastly different than the affection I feel for my furry little stooges that keep my life constantly entertaining (and sometimes exasperating).  Love is what brings your child into existence.  Love is what helps that child grow and develop, and love is what brings that child safely into the world.  That love then grows, even further to the point where you feel like you're about to explode, when you see that child face-to-face, at long last.  All that waiting has finally come to an end.  You finally have this squirmy, screechy little person to look you in the eye and you get to tell them, "Hello there!  I'm your Mommy!  Welcome to planet Earth!  I have so much to show you, so much to teach you, and I cannot wait to get started!  Your name is [your child's name that you lovingly picked out over however long of tossing ideas back and forth with your spouse, trying to find the "perfect" name for your little person whose arrival is just on the horizon], and you are wanted, you are safe, you are welcome, you are needed, and you are LOVED."

You count the fingers, the toes, you take in the "new baby" smell, marvel at how tiny the child's features are, and already you're wondering who this little person resembles more:  you or your partner.

Then the day finally arrives, you get to take your little person home and the journey begins.  The midnight feedings, the ever-constant flow of diapers, being peed on, being spit up on, fussiness, colic, post-partum depression, baby check-ups, but you do it all with a smile on your face because finally, finally things are "complete" and everything is just perfect in your life.  THIS is right here what you have been waiting for your whole life.  Things are a bit awkward at first, as you try to figure out a routine that works so you don't lose your mind or your sanity.

And then...

One day....

Out of nowhere....

When things are just fine......

Perfectly normal......

BAM.

Your world comes to a screeching, shattering, gut-wrenching halt, and your life is forever, forever changed.

Once again.

But, not in a way you think you will get through.

You're sitting in a tiny little exam room waiting for the doctor to come back and tell you what is going on with your child that you have watched grow, develop, CHERISH.  Your child that you never in a millennia could fathom ever the concept of never seeing their face again, has died.  And you didn't see it coming.  You couldn't stop it.  No matter what you did, no matter how hard you fought to protect this little human being that you have loved more than life itself, they're gone.

And when the news is delivered, it's like someone suddenly sucked all the oxygen out of the room, your ears are roaring with the sound of your blood churning about your body because the sudden rush of adrenaline as you try to process what you've been told.  Just one sentence.  Thirteen little words.  "I'm sorry, there is nothing more we can do.  Your child is gone."  You KNOW you heard what was just said, you speak the same language as the doctor that just gave you the news, linguistically there is no barrier.  But yet, you sit there, dumbstruck, disbelieving what has just come forth from this professional's mouth, and you ask them to repeat what they just told you not a second earlier, because you're convinced that you misunderstood somehow.  The doctor, at this point, just looks at you, grief-stricken despite the years of training and sleepless nights working as an ER intern, the years of being on-call, the years of healing the sick, mending the broken.  The doctor just has this look in his eyes that says to you, "I can't believe I couldn't fix this.  I am trained.  I took an oath.  Yet...........  On my table, in my trauma room, I couldn't do my job well enough to make sure this person would be okay because I am just a human being, too."  But what he says is, "I'm so sorry."  And either he sits with you and cries with you as you try to process this thunderous revelation that death has dared knock on YOUR door and steal YOUR child - after all, this isn't something that's to happen to YOU, right, this is something you read about happening in other parts of the world!  Right? - or they choke up and politely excuse themselves so they can go be alone and cry it out and demand to know what the hell just happened?  Why couldn't this life be saved?  WHY SO YOUNG?

Once the initial shock of this statement wears off, you ask if you can see your child.  You need to see FOR YOURSELF, because not seeing will forever be the regret that gnaws at you.  You're taken down a hallway that you've probably seen before when you came to the hospital to have your broken leg set, or that time your spouse was trying to put up the Christmas lights and accidentally stapled his hand instead of the roof to secure the string of lights to the shingles, and the hallway then, during those scenarios, was just maybe 20 feet.  If that.  Today, you wonder, "Did they remodel this part of the ER?  Why only this part of the ER?  Why is this hallway miles long?  Is this some kind of sick joke?  I ain't laughing."

You finally get into the room where your child's securely situated on the trauma table.  You've been in quiet rooms before - libraries, Churches, but this is a different kind of quiet.  This is a quiet that seems to reach out and suffocate you like a black hole.  There seems to be no escaping this quiet.  It is an all-encompassing kind of silence.  The lighting has been toned down a bit, and you think, "It's almost peaceful in here, despite the gadgets and instruments around the room.  Huh."  And you are drawn to that table where your child is, like a tractor beam pulling you in, like a rubber band that's stretching from your child to you, and all you want is to close the distance but you can't get to that table fast enough, even though you're hurrying across the room, because each step you take, it seems like the table is pulling further away, as if mocking you and making you work for your goal of reaching your child.  It's like you're trying to run through a bucket of glue.  Quicksand would be easier to navigate than trying to get just a few feet from the door to the table.

You reach out to your child, you touch his hand, his hair, and you talk to him.  Your rational mind knows that he can't hear you anymore, but your irrational, your PARENT mind, screams at the rational mind to shut up, that it's wrong, that you know there's been a mistake.   Yet, there is no mistake.  The life that was in your child's eyes, those beautiful eyes that lit up when he smiled, it's gone.  It's all gone.  You gently pick your child up and talk to him, begging him to respond to you somehow, but you know that's not going to happen, yet you're a parent and you refuse to accept the reality of the situation that you have just heard in thirteen little words, you've outlived this little person that you helped create, that lived under your heart for 40 weeks.  You sit there, rocking back and forth, talking to him in a hushed tone as if he was asleep and you don't want to wake him, because when he cries, it breaks your heart that he's upset.  But the crying never happens, because he is gone.  What you are now holding in your arms, wrapped in that very sterile white sheet, is a shell of who he was.  Just the physical vehicle of his soul.  His soul is now gone, in the eternities, an invisible veil now blocking you from seeing him.  Mocking you.  Ever-present, ever-impenetrable.  Ever-physically painful.

When it's time to leave, a million things are swirling your mind.  Gotta call the family.  Which funeral home (FUNERAL HOME!) to pick.  Picking a date for the funeral.  And so on.  You just seem to kick over to something grossly resembling "auto-pilot" so you can manage it all.

Once the news gets out amidst your peers and total strangers who've heard "through the grapevine" thanks to that "six degrees of separation" thing, the REAL difficulties with communication begin.  You hear it all:  "I'm so sorry," to religious platitude (regardless if you're a spiritual person or not), sentiment that you secretly think with all manner of venom and sarcasm that this person should be writing greeting cards, not trying to make you feel better.

And the ever-frustrating, ever-offensive statement of, "I understand" from someone who clearly has NEVER been there, but dares to compare your loss of your CHILD with the loss of a parent, friend, co-worker, sibling, relative....  None of these people did the offending party help create and bring into the world.  So, no, it does not even come CLOSE to how you feel.  And you try to explain that, and you get blasted for standing up and saying, "You're WRONG.  I'm sorry for your loss, but you have NOT buried your CHILD.  There is NO comparison."

Ain't grief FUN?  Makes social interaction so awkward and frustrating.

And it doesn't stop there!  Oh, no.  It sure doesn't.

You get the statement of, "You can talk to me," or "you can trust me," or "I'm here for you," and you think, "Can I?  Really?"  But you quietly thank the person that said it, and you stash it away in your mind for "maybe later."

One evening, you're needing to talk to someone, to figure things out, just to process what's happened.  You've been trying to find your "new normal" for a good while now, and let me tell you a little secret:  A LOT of times, it turns out those little "you can talk to me, I'm here for you" statements are just bullshit.  Well-intended or no, when a grieving parent comes to you because you made such a claim and then they have to find out how much you DIDN'T mean it, and it does not matter if it has been 30 seconds or 20 years, it hurts almost as much as the deafening silence you're trying to navigate through.

Please, allow me to give EXAMPLES!

When my son died of SIDS, and then just a little over two years after that, I lost my oldest daughter to an open-neural-tube-defect called Anencephaly as well as placental abruption, causing me to have her 19 weeks early, I heard ALL THE TIME "offers" for a shoulder to cry on.

Starting with when my son died, the day after his funeral, not even 24 hours after he was buried, MY OWN MOTHER - well-meant or not, it was COLOSSALLY INAPPROPRIATE to say this so soon after the funeral of my, at the time, ONLY child - came to me and asked if my son's father and I were planning on anymore children, because she and her husband felt it "would be best to move back to Idaho to do that" so they could "keep a better eye" on me.

HOLD UP.

WHAT did you just say to me?!

Are you KIDDING me right now?!  ARE YOU FOR REAL?!  I JUST BURIED MY SON THE DAY BEFORE AND YOU'RE ALREADY BRINGING THIS TO ME?!  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!  But, when confronted about this, later, when I'd had a chance to calm down from THAT little bomb, it was stated, "I don't recall saying that."  Well, bully for you, because shit like that stays with a person WHO'S JUST BURIED THEIR KID.  And it doesn't stop there.  Oh, no.  When I've since tried on my bad days to go to her for her so-called "support" when I've needed it, about trying to process my grief, because guess what, IT DOESN'T GO AWAY AFTER THE FUNERAL!  That's when the REAL agony begins!  Oh, yes.  I get told, "Ugh.  Why are you dwelling on this?  You are disgracing his memory.  I cannot believe you'd do that to your own child." and the subject gets changed.  But, again, "I don't remember saying that to you."

Fair enough.

Damage done.

Trust that was once fragile at best, is now GONE.  Sure, I'll talk about stuff, but not personal stuff.  I don't share much of my life anymore, because I know better.

Fast-forward to 17 September 1998, the day I found out my daughter was dying from a birth defect, sure, it was talked about, and all sorts of "I love you" and "You've got this," and "It's gonna be okay" were tossed at me.  But.... Then... 11 October 1998, when I went into full blown early (TOO early) labour with my daughter, it was decided, by me, to reach out to let my Mom and her husband know what was going on.  As I was on the delivery table, and my partner at the time was with me and called my Mom and her husband, my Mom gave my partner such an earful I could hear her just as clearly as I can hear the music I'm playing right now, as if she was in the room with us, having her rant.  How I "knew better" to "try again," how "God" had made it clear that I shouldn't even have done this because I almost died with my first one, and now look where I am.  

Let me tell you something:  Losing a child sucks.  IT SUCKS.  When there's no warning, it is the most brutal pain imaginable, and it does NOT go away.  EVER.  Especially when there are no scientific answers to be had.  When you lose a child to a birth defect, yes, you have warning that you're not going to have your child long.  You have time - precious little time - to say good-bye.  To say "I love you" as many times as you can and even more because it cannot be said enough.  Because you don't want your child to go on to the next life (whatever you believe that to be), without hearing it just one more time, and one more time, and a million one more times.  And a million more, because they are going where you cannot follow them.  

What makes it worse is when the person who just weeks prior had told you that you always have them in your corner if you EVER need anything decides to blast you instead of show compassion, that's not love.  That's brutality to the nth degree.  That is just.... sick.  And for that person to sit and wonder why you basically don't reach out anymore, that's why.  But they "don't recall saying such a horrible thing."  How nice that they can so easily forget the damage they inflicted and you're the one sitting in a crumpled, bleeding, broken heap in the corner wondering how they could be so heartless and then "forget" what was said.

But you're expected to reach out because they told you that you "always" could talk to them, and they "don't understand" why you're being so "mean" when all they've ever done was "support" you.  RIGHT.  And then a year after it happens, you try to talk about it, again, thinking (wrongly, you realize the hard way, thanks to their cruelty, but to them it's "love" and "compassion" and "support") maybe now?  You mention, just testing the proverbial conversational waters, "I can't believe she's been gone a year now.  I miss her so much.........." and the person on the other end of the phone, that person who's sang that "I love you and support you" song, just says, "A year, huh?" and then changes the subject to something else.  And then you realize, no, those were just words, that "support" isn't actually there, that was just something to say to make them feel better about how they've treated you for so long, to be able to have a leg to stand on when confronted about their blatant disregard for your grief, so they can throw that "support" in your face, when clearly it ISN'T support at all, but a fluffy way of saying, "The funeral's over, get over it already."  (another thing my Mom did to me, telling me, "oh, a year already, huh?" and then changing the subject to something else entirely.  But I'm sure she "doesn't recall saying that," either.)

There are others who say things that either they don't realize the magnitude of what they've said, or they just don't know what to say and it's awkward, but they feel like they should TRY to say SOMETHING to help, but it comes out wrong.

For example, the day my son died, my neighbours who lived across the street had his father and I over to just talk.  To try to gain some sense of making the room stop spinning for just two seconds.  That perpetual feeling of vertigo does not go away, just so you're aware.  You'll forever, forever be in a constant state of, "What the hell just happened?!  Is this for real!"  

We were sitting outside, just trying to stumble our way through conversation.  Awkward offers of supportive words, condolences, awkward hugs that you don't want to end because you finally feel something to hold onto while your world is just in a tornado, but that hug, that moment of sincere affection, you feel like you're on solid ground, even if only for just a few seconds.  You grab hold of that person, and you wrap them tight and you just cry while they rub your back and whisper over and over how it's okay, to let it out.  

Anyway, the neighbour's son who was about 17 at the time, was trying to find something comforting to say to my son's father.  Poor guy was fumbling around with different attempts at the "right thing," but the frustrating thing is, there is no "right thing" to say to someone who's just lost their child.  So, this sweet young man says, with all the love and sincerity he could fit into his statement, "Well, you guys are still young...... You guys are both still healthy......."  My son's father just looked at him like he'd sprouted a second head and had insulted him for no reason.  Thankfully, though, he held his tongue, because grief is incredibly tricky.  Grief makes you not think before you speak.  That filter between your mind and your mouth gets overrun by the rush of emotion from having your wound not just bumped into, but STOMPED on by a perfectly innocent attempt at trying to comfort you.  Fortunately, he was able to catch that just in the nick of time before he said the first thing he WANTED to say (that I will not repeat, it was pretty bad) to this young man.  He simply left it as, "I understand what you're trying to say, and I appreciate it.  I just don't think that's really something we're going to be thinking about for a good long time yet.  But thanks, kiddo."  And did something completely unexpected:  HE HUGGED HIM.  My son's father is NOT much of a hugger.  ESPECIALLY when he's angry, hurt, or otherwise not happy.  But to see him share that gesture of affection with this young man, it blew me away.

There have been loads of other things that have been said that shouldn't have been, but I won't go into all of them.  I will just say this:  It's best to NOT say the following:

- "It's been 'x' amount of time, and you're still depressed about this?  Would your child want you to be this upset, still?"  Trust me, if we grieving parents, after not only having been kicked in the face and the heart with those thirteen words from the doctor but seeing that child in a casket, and then that casket being lowered into the ground.....  If we could just find "that moment" when it's "okay" again, trust and believe me when I tell you, we'd so be on that like flies on citrus.  I promise you, there is NOT such a thing, and there NEVER WILL BE such a thing.

A word of advice:  Do your grieving parent you're talking to a solid and don't be a douchebag.  If you tell a grieving parent that you're there for them to reach out to you when they need someone to talk to (REGARDLESS how long it's been since the child died), don't be a dickbag and change the subject or make a snarky comment about, "Why are you dwelling on this?"  ESPECIALLY if you are RELATED TO THE DEAD CHILD!  Not even sorry for how blunt I'm being.  Get over yourself.  If you say you're there, BE THERE.  LISTEN to that parent's tears and questions, even if you've heard them a gazillion times before.  It's likely they're not turning to YOU for answers, they just want the reassurance that SOMEONE is listening.  To tell us that you are there for us and then take that away from us, not okay.  You cannot do that to that person like that: offer your ear and your shoulder, giving the hope that we can just be completely fine with opening up about the most excruciating thing we have EVER been through, that we're not alone facing this, but we've got someone to hold our hand, even if they don't get it, just to be told, "I understand" or "stop dwelling," or "you're disgracing their memory..."  NO.  NOT OKAY!  

- DO NOT take this away from them by insulting them with Hallmark sentiment of "You'll see them again."  Yeah,trust me, we know, we know, but that does NOT change the fact that we have wanted to watch them grow up all these years!

- Watch your mouth.  CAREFULLY.  Yes, grief makes conversations INCREDIBLY awkward, because of course when someone we care about loses someone they love, especially a child, it's only natural to want to comfort that person and reassure them where they believe you when you say "it's going to be okay."  HOWEVER, there are just certain lines that should not only never be crossed, but they should NEVER be considered as part of the tour to even drive by on the outskirts to snap a photo.  Do not EVER say to a parent, "so, you planning on anymore?  When?"  I had this said to me by my own mother the day after I buried Wolfgang.  He wasn't even buried a full 24 hours and she dropped that in my lap.  INCREDIBLY inappropriate, but of course, I wasn't considered AT ALL when this question was asked.  You don't even say it's cousin, "You're both still young... healthy..."  No.  JUST NO.  I mean, God bless the socks off that poor young man that tried to find the "right words," but that was what he came up with.  In all fairness to him, though, HE WAS ONLY SEVENTEEN AND STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL at the time of that conversation, so OF COURSE he's not going to know even REMOTELY what to say!  But there are those of you adults who DO know not to say that, so just watch your mouth.  Because trust me when I tell you, Mama (or Papa) Bear will come out, and you will soon regret it.

- Under that "watch your mouth," there's another statement you don't EVER say:  "I understand, I lost my [mother, father, cousin, sister, brother, grandfather, grandmother, pet cat Pigsty.]"  I can tell you with all absolute assurance, THOSE PALE IN COMPARISON to when you lose YOUR OWN CHILD.  So, unless you've ACTUALLY lost ONE OF YOUR OWN CHILDREN (and I pray you NEVER do), either choose your words more carefully, or just do us all a favour and just SHUT UP.

Let me give you some insight on "I understand," because that, to me, has got to be one of the most aggravating things to hear from someone who DOES NOT understand:

You DO NOT "understand" what it's like to help bring a little person that is half you and half your partner into the world, you DO NOT "understand" what it is like to have HUGE dreams and plans for that little person, just to, in the blink of an eye, have them evaporate upon the last breath of the child YOU helped create.  

You DO NOT "understand" the guilt you feel ALL THE TIME about how you could have done something, anything, differently and that child would still be ALIVE

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like to go to God (whomever that may be to you) and say, "Why MY child?  What should I have done differently?" and you DO NOT "understand" what it is like to be met with silence.  Each.  And.  Every.  Time.

NO parent should outlive their child.  NO PARENT should EVER have to plan a funeral for their CHILD.  So, you DO NOT "understand" what that is like to have to pick out a tiny little casket, you DO NOT "understand" what it is like to see your CHILD'S body cut up from autopsy, alright?  

You DO NOT "understand" how every breath is a CHORE.  

You DO NOT "understand" that after your child dies, you have to find a "new normal" and lean how to smile and laugh, and be okay with allowing yourself to feel happy about something, but then you immediately feel guilty because you worry that you are forgetting your child's death by allowing yourself to smile when really you should be stoic and grieving and you should not be smiling, because you just put your child in the ground, and why is there anything to laugh about now?  How is that right?

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like to take clothes to your DEAD child and dress them ONE LAST TIME before they are PUT IN THE GROUND.  AWAY FROM YOU, YOU WILL NEVER SEE THEIR SMILE, HEAR THEIR VOICE, THEIR LAUGH. 

You  DO NOT "understand" what it is like to be trained in CPR and FAIL to recall how to do it so you can try to save their life, and you DO NOT "understand" what it is like to live with that guilt that you FAILED YOUR CHILD when they needed you most.  

You DO NOT "understand" how hard it is to look through a catalog of headstones and try to find one you like that you can afford, and you're sitting there contemplating the horror and the absurdity at the same time that now you have to budget in $5k for a HEADSTONE.  And you are immediately grateful when friends rally together to help cover the cost of the $5k stone, and the however much to fly your dead child back to your home state to bury your dead child, and never mind the gas to get there and back, and the money you have to cough up to replace a tire that blew out on the highway in some obscure area where there's hardly anyone around, and you have to explain to a cop what happened and when he remarks about your license, that you're coming from a town he's never heard of and he asks where you're headed, just being friendly and keeping you company while you're trying to make sure your donut's on your car right so you can get to the nearest town to buy a new tire, and he stares at you when you tell him you are on your way to another state to bury your child, and he just says, "shit, I'm sorry, man."  

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like to have to pore over fonts and art to be engraved on the stone of your choosing, and you DO NOT "understand" what it is like to have to come up with a little epitaph for that tiny little person YOU HAVE OUTLIVED.  

You DO NOT "understand" the UNHOLY UNFAIRNESS of one minute you have a healthy baby to cuddle, and the next minute, without warning, that child is GONE.  

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like to not have too many memories of the day your child died because everything happened SO fast, SO fast, and you didn't know up from down from a hole in the wall, let alone how to spell your child's name at the hospital to have them get his information into their system for that damn paperwork, always the paperwork.  Nurses love their paperwork.

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like to make the MISTAKE believing people when they say you can talk to them and trust them, and you take them up on it, and they throw in your face how you are "disgracing their memory" or you are "dwelling on it," or how you should "let them go."  

You DO NOT "understand" that while yes, you believe in God (whomever that is to you) with all your heart, you question that Being if you are somehow being punished for something that offended said Being SO badly, He chose to take your child from you and IGNORE your many questions of "why??"  

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like to lie awake at night, and shout out to your higher power in the silence and beg for an answer, when it is just you and Him, and He STILL does not explain His rationale in taking YOUR child that He gave you, but clearly YOU did something that He didn't like, so He took your shot at being a steward to another person away from you because obviously you weren't doing it right, and He didn't want that child to endure another second of you fucking him or her up.  

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like to cry yourself to sleep in the days before anniversaries and birthdays, empty days that should be full of LIFE and JOY and HAPPINESS and CELEBRATION.  

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like to have a rainbow baby (living child born after losing a child) and be so terrified they will die, too, it hinders and handicaps your ability to bond with that child.

You DO NOT "understand" that though it is VERY difficult to sit in any religious setting, you figure it's really no different than when you have an open wound that's taking for-bloody-ever to heal and you keep poking at it and messing with it, even though you can SEE it is there, and how ugly and raw and disturbing it is and there's no getting away from it, it's THERE.  

You DO NOT "understand" that going to a religious meeting is the same basic principle - you're poking at the wound in your heart that is NEVER going to heal, that wound is suspiciously the exact size and shape your dead child, but you figure since your higher power won't answer your question as to "why" at HOME, maybe He will on His turf.  But he never does.  And you sit there and you are trying to follow along and you see children and hear babies crying, and you see parents telling their children to "listen to the nice man in the pulpit, little Sally, he's talking about [higher power], and he's saying [higher power] loves you!" and you sit there and want to scream, "No, He doesn't!  He's a bully!" but you do not.  YOU SIT THERE.  IN SILENCE.  CONSCIOUSLY restraining yourself from saying what you really want to say to Him on His turf, lest you make a scene and get hauled away in the county bracelets, because DAMMIT, YOU WANT ANSWERS!  But those answers never seem to come, no matter where you go, or who you talk to - spiritual advisor, counselour, spouse.  The answers never come, and you are left to forever shape your lips in that one simple word:  "why?"

You DO NOT "understand" because you have NEVER been there, but you claim you "understand."

You DO NOT "understand" the truest definition of guilt in all its raw, UGLY form.  

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like to have few memories because that child didn't live long enough for YEARS of memories to be had to comfort you in your darkest times.

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like that those few memories, a whopping 227 DAYS of memories, and that is ALL you get, and because people do not like to talk about your dead child, you are left to cherish those 227 days of memories by yourself, but you are not left alone to cherish them, you have other obligations and things and responsibilities, so you are forever trying to find the time to conjure one of those 227 days of memories to mind, doesn't matter if it's day 1 or day 60, or day 97, or whatever, the longer time passes and the less people LISTEN to you because YOU have to bring it up just to hear your child's name, because no one else bothers, those memories are going to fade.  No matter how desperately you try to grab hold and not let go of the one thing you have left to get you through one second to the next.  And it is like you are failing all over again.

You DO NOT "understand" what it is like to beg your baby to wake up, twitch, sneeze, SOMETHING, to show a sign of life, but there is only emptiness staring back at you.

Oh, but we forgot, we'll "see them again one day."  Yeah, that's gonna make it ALL better again.  Silly us, dwelling on the pain like this.  Yeah, because God has yet to give us a clear answer why He felt the need to rip our children from us.

But, we'll "see them again."

And to hear my own mother tell me a few years ago (and if asked, I'm sure she'd tell me, "I don't recall saying that to you...."), I'm "disgracing their memories" by talking about them.

There are absolutely no magical words of wisdom going to make a parent's pain go away.  Trust and believe that, but one of the QUICKEST ways to insult a grieving parent is to deny their pain by comparing it to another loss that isn't even close.  One of the QUICKEST ways to insult a grieving parent is to tell them to "just let it go."  Or, "Stop dwelling on it."  I assure you, we are NOT "dwelling" on anything.  How is it "dwelling" if we can't escape?  We just haven't figured out how to just bounce right back like you think we should!  I assure you, that is impossible.  It is NOT fair to expect such a thing.  And it is NOT disgracing the deceased child's memory by TALKING ABOUT THAT CHILD.  To NOT talk about them and to DELIBERATELY change the subject when that child is brought up, and to DELIBERATELY tell that parent, "You need to stop dwelling on this," THAT, RIGHT THERE, is how you disgrace that child's memory!  

SOMEHOW I have survived for this entire time, but I do not have a clue as to how, other than just not talking about it.  Truth to tell, I don't DARE.  Truth to tell, though, I've tried, just to be met with aforementioned dickbag sentiment and judgment.  Truth to tell, it's just easier for me to not say anything.  Honestly, this is the most I've talked about EITHER of my kids and how I've felt since day one of either loss in, well, ever.  

A lot of parents have the luxury of loving, supportive people in their lives who don't wait for the parent to bring up their child, they go out of their way to bring the child up, too.  It makes the parent feel better.  I promise.  If you talk to them about their favourite memories of their child, it triggers something in the parent's mind about Little Jane's favourite time of year, or Brian's favourite colour. 

IT GIVES THE PARENTS A CHANCE TO HAVE A WAY TO ACKNOWLEDGE FROM OUTSIDE THEMSELVES THAT THEIR CHILD REALLY DID EXIST AND WAS REMEMBERED AND LOVED BY OTHERS, TOO!  

I promise you, if you bring the child up around the parent, it's the best, most joyous comforting feeling EVER.  If the parent brings the child up, obviously they trust you enough to do so, so it's best for you to not be a douche and judge them.  Just saying.  Listen to them.  Let them share their precious little human with you.  Memories are all we have, you have to understand.  Memories are all we can bring to the table.  

And another thing, the guilt a bereaved parent feels is very, very, VERY real.  DO NOT minimize that guilt with placating b.s like "it was just their time," or "it wasn't your fault."  Trust me, no.  Just NO.  When I spoke of guilt earlier, I was NOT exaggerating.  Ask ANY bereaved parent, and they will tell you the myriad of "I should have done x," or "What if I would have done y differently..."  Trust and believe guilt comes in many forms, but when it is pertaining to your own child's DEATH, it NEVER goes away.

For me - MY BABY DIED.  TWENTY YEARS AGO.  TWENTY.  YEARS.  AGO.  MY BABY.  BEFORE HE WAS EVEN 8 MONTHS OLD.  MONTHS.  NOT YEARS.  I HAD ONE THANKSGIVING.  ONE CHRISTMAS.  ONE NEW YEAR'S.  ONE VALENTINE'S DAY.  ONE EASTER.  ONE MOTHER'S DAY.  ONE.  I HAD A TOTAL OF TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-SEVEN DAYS, and ONE hour before he died.  He was brought into the world on 27 October 1995, at approximately 11.13 in the morning Central Time.  He died on 10 June 1996, was pronounced dead a little after 1p, but I know he took his last breath in my lap.  There's a sound a dying person makes it is called a "death rattle."  It is a sound one NEVER forgets once it's heard.  It is the most haunting, terrifying, PAINFUL thing to hear, because you know that's it, there's no coming back from that.  It is a sound that haunts me all this time later.  It is a sound that no matter how loud I play my music, I still hear it (to be honest, that's why when I'm listening to music with my earbuds, that's why I blast it so loud.  Trust me, it doesn't work to drown out that sound, it's always there).  It is a sound that when I go to sleep at night, I still hear it.  IT IS A SOUND I CANNOT SCRUB OUT OF MY EARS.  IT WILL ALWAYS BE THERE.

The nightmares I have are a constant thing.  The nightmares this time of year and in October are the most difficult because they involve my children.

I am not kidding.  I am slowly losing my few memories of them, and it is KILLING me.  I see a baby, I PHYSICALLY HURT because I miss mine.  Yes, I am happy for friends and loved ones that have babies or about to have babies, but that does NOT mean I am not still destroyed that I have to see them changing and one day photos of the new babies when born in just a little while.  Yes, I get something for the parent-to-be, and yes, I do get something for the child-to-be, that is NOT me being fake, but it does NOT mean I was NOT sobbing and bawling and throwing a fit inside my head when I was given the news about the impending arrival because I miss my own.

There is a REASON I - and likely a lot of other grieving parents - do not talk about the grief.  A BIG reason.  Because we're always facing, "I understand" by people who have NEVER buried a child of their own, and we get told religious platitudes.  Yes, I believe in God, but that does NOT make it okay to rob me of my grief by throwing in my face religious text or the word "someday."  SOMEDAY IS NOT NOW.  SOMEDAY IS NOT THE LAST TWENTY YEARS AND ALMOST 18 RESPECTIVELY.  SOMEDAY is an abstract term, NOT a definitive time frame to count down to with a calendar and a clock.

Be so thankful you have NEVER endured this, but people I am sure would surround you because of who you are.  People would find the most random excuses to bring up a memory of your child.  I DO NOT HAVE THAT.  I HAVE NEVER HAD THAT.  And now my memories are fading because I have NO ONE to help me keep them ALIVE.  NO ONE EVER, EVER just randomly brings up my kids, if they come up in conversation, it is because I bring them up!  And I HATE IT because that, to me, is just making me feel like it's a "taboo" subject to them, like a bad breakup that happened however long ago, or a pink slip at work.  THIS IS A PERSON THAT REALLY DID EXIST, AND HE WAS MY PERSON THAT DID EXIST.  WHY CAN YOU NOT ACKNOWLEDGE MY LITTLE PERSON?!  

Trust and believe it's actually HEALTHY to talk about that child, the good times, the LIFE that child had.  The laughter.  The joy.  FAMILY.

Do with this as you wish, but be careful next time you're in the presence of a bereaved parent.  Watch what you say and how you say it, because that person's already fragile and traumatized and vulnerable enough.  Don't be a fucktard and make it worse.

Sincerely,
A bereaved mother

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