In the weeks after losing a child, we wander around in a fog, it protects us. Continually, our minds are trying to accept the truth. This doesn’t happen all at once, but rather in little pieces.
When we start to see more clearly, we notice that all around us are other grieving mothers. We didn’t see them before because we didn’t recognize the signs. Then tragically, one day we do. It’s as if a pair of glasses is placed on the bridge of our noses and suddenly they appear. Like the cheap 3D ones at movie theaters, the glasses allow us to see things that have always been there but were invisible to us.
One newly bereaved mom I know said it’s like a bat signal shining on the underside of heaven. Bringing us all together. A signal you were oblivious to until you lost your child. Now you need it because you can’t do this alone.
I have wonderfully supportive people in my life. A tribe I’ve built myself. Try as they might, they can not understand what it’s like to lose a child. And I’m glad they don’t. The other bereaved mothers, do. We are bound together in tragedy and pain. And healing.
Recently, I had an epiphany. When I meet a grieving mom for the first time, I believe our children meet in heaven. Why wouldn’t they? They are still bound to us. They know what we are doing. When I hug the mom, I am certain Becca hugs the child. They can look at us and know for a moment we’ve found understanding.
My first instinct is to rush in and offer comfort. This is my duty. And my honor. Eventually, these mothers will be charging in to give support. Right now, it’s my turn.
As I write this, I know that my daughter is holding a beautiful girl named McKenna.
McKenna’s mom is struggling. I’ll do what I can to help her here and Becca will comfort her child there.
It’s our life now.
Bereaved mothers carry invisible scars. There is no outward indication of the hell we’ve experienced. Most people can’t look at us and know of our loss.
For a long time I wanted a visible scar. My heart exploded like a hand grenade in my chest when I learned it was my daughter dead on the highway. Shrapnel embedded throughout my body making a deep breath impossible. It exploded inward with no physical damage to see.
I wanted a deep angry red scar over my heart. I needed people to know I lost my child and it nearly killed me. These days, I haven’t felt the need for a scar as acutely. I have, however, felt the desire to have myself marked in reference to my loss.
So I got a tattoo. A line of poetry my daughter wrote, in her beautiful handwriting, runs the length of my left forearm.
“She is here in the beginning and there in the end”.
I know Becca is with me. Always. My tattoo will remind me of this when I am struggling. When I’m overwhelmed with grief. When I don’t think I can survive one more day without her.
I run my fingers across the tattooed skin, feeling every word, because it’s so new. Eleven words that give me comfort every time I read them. They do more than that however.
When someone asks about my tattoo I get the chance to talk about my child.
And that’s all I really want.
Yesterday was the day I dread the most all year long. Anxiety is my constant companion every day, but the ones leading up to the 21st, are heavier with it. Like a calendar, the days stack up on each other, and are closer to the same date years prior. In my mind, somehow this year’s 21st it just a few layers up from the one in which my daughter lost her life to a drunk driver. She’s within reach again. Why can’t I figure out how to grab her from the past and pull her into today? What am I missing?
Today, I start a new decade without her. When I look back over the past ten years I can see the path I’ve walked stretching out behind me. It’s not been so long that the first day isn’t still visible. It is. Will it always remain in sight? Part of me hopes it does. Part of me doesn’t. This is one of the truths bereaved mothers struggle with through the years after their child died. The pain is too much to bear . . . yet we don’t want to forget our child. We don’t want others to forget our child. It’s a very fine line to walk and at times can be sharp as a knife.
Through these years I have met other mothers like myself. We are a diverse group as child loss can happen to anyone. Yes, we walk the same path. However, each journey is different. As unique as our child. The hollowed out look of our faces give us away to each other. We share the same stories about being told to move on. They are in a better place. We fight with the truth our child is gone. We try desperately to keep our child’s memory alive. We search for a reason to go on. We attempt to find a purpose.
I have met some wonderful members of this horrific club I am in. I’ve stumbled and failed. Other times, I’ve succeeded. Have I fulfilled the expectations I had for myself since Becca died? I don’t know. Those first days it took all I had to just breath. I do know I wouldn’t be here if not for the love and support of others. This isn’t a journey we should undertake alone. We need help. We need support.
When I am able, I lift my head from the path I walk and check on those around me making the same journey. If I see another bereaved mother struggling, I go to her and say “what can I do”. Then their are times that I am having difficulty, like yesterday, and I can feel the hands and hearts of others surrounding me and carrying me forward.
As I begin my second decade without my beloved Becca I feel hopeful. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to allow that word into my vocabulary. I hope, in this year, I can look up from my own journey more often and become a part of the world again.