Earlier today I laid my phone down on the dining room table and walked away to care for the dogs. Since there are five of them . . . this took a few minutes. When I was finished I circled back to pick it up and noticed there was a single sentence, typed in the message bar:
“Mom can you come in”.
It wasn’t there before.
Without hesitation I said hello to my daughter.
“I love you I love you I love you,” I shouted to her in the empty kitchen, “thank you for coming to visit me!”
I then took my time making coffee and continued to talk to her. All the things I say to her daily except this time I knew she was here listening to me.
“I miss you. I want you to come back home. Are you ok? Are you happy? I want you to be happy honey. I miss you. I know you are here . . . I want to hold you.”
I always stand still when I say the last part. “I want to hold you.” I put my arms out and hope that her spirit is slipping between them and she is leaning into me. Sometimes, I can feel a sudden denseness of the air in front of me. It feels slightly warmer, more solid. The sensation is always fleeting, though. I’m left yearning for more.
“Are you happy?” I asked her again and hoped for an answer. I want to know my child is happy.
Pondering the message that was in my phone I asked her, “Where do you want me to go? Am I ready to come where you are? Is it time? Do you miss me so much, even where you are and knowing the whole picture, that you need your mother?”
The months following her death were the hardest I have ever experienced. Truly, an endless nightmare. I did not want to be here anymore. If there had been a way to join her . . . I would have. One that would not send me to a place where I would not be able to see her. I needed to be with her wherever she was and I was willing to leave everything in this world behind. I would have walked up to the ledge and fallen into the abyss without a second thought.
Today, I realized, this isn’t my truth anymore.
‘I’m not ready to go’ flashed across my mind and sliced deep into my heart.
Oof, I thought. What the hell is wrong with you – I chastised myself. If given the chance to see your daughter you’d say no? What kind of mother are you?? You don’t love her very much if you can turn down the chance to see her so easily!
Then I thought of my sons. What kind of mother would I be if it was so easy to leave them behind? At the beginning of this child loss journey I thought dying would protect them from my love. What my love does to my children. Over time I’ve let go of this thought. I know it isn’t true. I no longer feel as if they are in danger because of how much I love them. I know I need to be here for them. But, I realized, there is something else behind my desire to remain where I am. Not just my sons.
I wanted to stay here because I am finding happiness.
I don’t think you know how difficult it is to write that sentence.
The words carry with them a betrayal of the deepest kind.
Yet, I am haunted by my other words. A thought I’ve written about many times: bereaved mothers can’t continue to live only for others. Telling myself that I have to be here for the boys, though true, doesn’t touch upon the fact that we need to find a reason within ourselves to continue to live.
Is it okay for me to say that I want to stay here because I am happy? But am I also saying that I am fine with Becca being killed and gone? Do I have a right to happiness? Should my happiness outweigh my sadness? Is the guilt I feel worth the happiness? There must still be a part of me that measures my love for my deceased child by the pain I feel over her absence. Have I been punishing myself for the last thirteen years by denying most joy that I have felt? Has my love for her turned into a burden for me to forever carry?
Stop it, I tell myself. Just stop. You know better than that! You’ve told other mothers, of dead children, to be gentle with themselves. To not judge themselves so harshly because when we do we always tend to find ourselves lacking. I check off each line in the list of reasons I shouldn’t feel as if her death is my fault. Yet, I feel hollow. I haven’t convinced myself that I’m not to blame. I wonder if I ever will.
Grieving moms will fight against feeling joy. We don’t think we deserve it. Feeling happiness, when our children can’t, is obscene to us. Laughing when we usually cry thousands of tears is foreign and uncomfortable. Pleasure doesn’t belong in the center of extreme heartbreak.
But, we deserve i t, don’t we? If anyone needs to feel a bit of happiness, it’s a grieving mother. We’ve experienced enough pain.
We tell ourselves truths that we think we believe and then we have a moment when we know we actually believe them and were previously wrong. I’d been actively (or so I thought) cultivating happiness in my life. Going through my days in a purposeful manner, yes, but also on a very narrow and controlled path. It’s much easier to keep your world the way you want it if you keep it small. Is that happiness or an illusion? It’s surviving not thriving.
I am ready to be happy. Deeply happy. I love my daughter, with all of my heart, but I am not ready to leave this world yet. Those five words that mysteriously appeared on my phone this morning made me realize this.
And, in truth, I know my daughter wants me to experience joy while I am here. That is what she wanted for me when she was alive and I have to believe that is amplified because of where she is. She knows everything now.
There is another aspect to this whole happiness thing. I believe my happiness here is mirrored by her’s there. My grief is an anchor for her spirit. I envision her, sitting on the edge of the day, shedding tears because I am crying into my pillow below her. I don’t want to be a burden on her soul. I don’t want to be the reason she isn’t investigating every corner of the universe or searching behind each star.
I truly believe as I move toward being full of joy that she moves toward the same thing.
Mom can you come in.
I will honey, I will, just not yet. I have things to do here.
I miss you sweet girl. I’ll see you again, I promise.