There are things about grieving the loss of a child that are very ugly. Thoughts we have may seem cruel to outsiders. Honestly, they seem cruel to us, too. You don’t see the world through the shattered glass which covers our view now. The spidery cracks change the image we see. Like a kaleidoscope, when we move just a bit, everything looks different. Before, we knew how things appeared. In the after, we see sides and pieces we hadn’t realized existed.
Yesterday, I was taking a box of pictures out of my car to finally put in the house after my recent move. As moms usually do when photographs are near . . . I started to leaf through a few bunches of them. I came across a photo from the late eighties that started my mind down a very dark road. I’m not happy my thought process took the path it did, in fact, I’m a little ashamed. But pushing the shame aside, and examining the thoughts I had, is more important than any attempt to remain kind in appearance.
One of the biggest questions we have when we lose a child is why. Why? Why my child? Why in this way? Why did this happen? Why am I left living without my baby? Even if we were to be given the answer . . . would it be acceptable enough for us to completely understand and agree with the reason? To be alright with their absence? Never.
Yet we still ask.
The picture I found both instantly made me angry and guilty at the same time. I remember the day it was taken. If I close my eyes, I can hear the delicate laughter of two little girls. Second cousins who had basically grown up together. Both daughters of young single moms. Five year old girls who were more like sisters than anything else. When I read my daughter’s journal, after her death, she had a poem written about her cousin mixed in with those about life. Their relationship shaped them both, almost.
You see, one of the girls took Path A while the other, Path B. The girl who took “A” went to college, worked two jobs, and was building a future for herself. Path “B” led the other girl into a life of young motherhood, drug use, and criminal activity.
In the past, I’ve written about my inability to understand why my daughter died and my uncle who molested a large, unknown, number of young girls, still lives. When I verbalize this thought most people understand. Yes, they say. It’s unthinkable that a young innocent woman should be killed but a pedophile, recently released from prison (who has undoubtedly molested since) remains alive. It’s completely understandable that I think this man should have died long before my child, isn’t it? But what of my dark thoughts that Becca’s cousin should have died before her? Is that as easy for you to understand? Or does it make me a monster in your eyes?
As I held the photograph in my trembling hands, my mind ran a mental checklist and ticked off the accomplishments of both girls. I know both girls. I have loved both of them. Each was a small baby, held in my arms, that I kissed as she slept. So why does my mind keep saying it wishes the other had died in the place of my child?
The night Becca was killed, I sat a mile from the crash scene in my parents red pickup truck, waiting for my friend to come back after seeing my dead daughter. Waiting to hear if the woman that had been killed was really my child. I kept praying, pleading, begging that it not be Becca.
“But there is a dead girl up there. It’s someone’s daughter if it isn’t yours,” a voice in my head told me.
“I don’t want it to be Becca!!” I screamed.
The voice replied, “Then it’s another mother’s child down there.”
“I don’t want it to be anyone’s child,” I wept.
“It’s your child, or it’s the child of someone else. Which would you prefer?” it said to me.
Neither I kept saying to myself. I couldn’t imagine another mother finding out their child was dead. Yet, I can look at the picture of a child I loved, cared for . . . and can say, I wish it had been her, instead. You have no idea how difficult it is to have this thought and to have to admit to it. But there it is. My truth.
I don’t think I am a monster. I certainly don’t wish this young lady dead now. I haven’t talked to her in years. I don’t have much communication with my family so I am unsure as to what her life is like now. I hope she is doing well, I really do, because having a life is an incredible gift to waste. She’s friend requested me a few times on a popular social site but I’ve declined each time. It’s painful to see Becca’s friends attain life goals she’ll never get to . . . somehow, seeing this young woman do so would be utter anguish. Again, I’m not proud of this. It’s just my truth.
My daughter’s poem surfaces as I look at the photograph of two beautiful light haired little girls. Especially this part:
“She was my sister,
not by birth but in my heart.
Our days together consisted of
Play-Doh, swing sets, and Barbies.
And it was like the time would never end.”
Oh my Becca, I miss you so much my beautiful girl.
I'm a mother, artist, and writer. A decade ago I lost my daughter. I find writing, and painting, heal me. Sharing my story of loss and healing lightens what I carry. And, hopefully, my words help another along the way.