3.9
August 19, 2017

“We know nothing about what is next”—Lessons on Loving & Losing a Child.

 

I cannot sleep tonight.

On my first day of vacation, I was woken by a phone call.

A friend lost her teenage daughter to suicide.

There was a guttural, animalistic scream that came from somewhere inside of me.

A panicked thought of my own teenage daughters was replaced by relief, as I remembered that they were with me, safely asleep in the next room.

I had to tell my twin girls that one of their oldest friends was gone—and that her sister had lost her twin.

For the rest of the day, they held hands.

I obsess over how to ensure this never happens to them.

How to ensure this never happens to me.

Protecting our children from the fear of imagined harm drives us as mothers. When they are little, we shield them from the world.

We dress them to keep them warm.

We feed them to keep them healthy.

We protect the safety of their sleep.

We choose what we read to them, what they watch.

We make decisions for them—and as difficult as it seems at times, it’s really easy.

We control their world, undisputed.

Then, they start making their own decisions—and it becomes complicated.

We lose control. We must now share the responsibility for their safety.

We fight.

We fight over their choices. Rather, we fight when their choices do not coincide with ours.

Have you ever force-fed a child?

I tried once. It was sick and scary.

I had to physically overpower my daughter, while she screamed and spit out the food.

The stories of my grandmother’s suffering when she could not feed her hungry children during World War II permeated my own childhood. I could not let my daughter leave the table without eating, unconsciously repeating my own childhood stories of power struggles over food.

Have you ever fought with your children over what is appropriate clothing against the cold?

As they grow, the fights evolve—curfews and the kind of company they keep.

We fight with our children, driven by the unconscious fear of the unspeakable: that something may happen to them. Something that would devastate our world.

What happens when harm arrives to our children?

We are responsible. We are guilty. Inadequate. Bad mothers. Not good enough. Not attentive enough. Not present enough. Too selfish. Too self-focused.

When we run out of hateful adjectives for ourselves, the judgement of others provides the rest.

So, we fight to control, to make sure that dreaded fear never becomes reality.

And we scream. We express words of anger.

Dissatisfaction.

Disappointment.

When they do not eat. Or eat too much.

When they do not sleep. Or sleep too much. Or sleep at the wrong times.

When their rooms are a mess.

When their grades are not good enough.

When we do not approve of their choice of clothing.

Or their choice of words.

When they do not have enough extra-curricular activities.

Or do not participate in enough sports to get into the right university.

When they are lazing around, instead of studying.

My friend’s daughter will not go to university.

They will never fight over curfews.

Or her choice of clothes.

Or what she eats, or the quantity.

Or over her table manners.

They will not fight over money spent.

Or her choice of boyfriend.

Or her choice of husband.

Or the names she gives her own children.

Or how she raises her children.

They will never fight again.

I cannot sleep tonight.

I cannot sleep, because I cannot control the world around my children.

I do not know how to keep them safe forever.

I cannot keep them from their experiences, nor dictate their feelings, reactions, or thoughts.

I do not know their future, nor how long they will live.

And that is a painfully obvious and unbearable fact.

I know nothing about what is next.

All I know is they are here with me now.

Alive.

Today.

I cannot control their world, nor prevent them from all harm.

All I can do is try and focus on the now.

Focus on what matters.

Try to free myself from repeating unconscious cycles of dysfunction and inherited patterns of behavior, outdated and inappropriate as they are to this particular life cycle.

And love them.

I can love them in every way I know how.

See beyond messy rooms, projected future outcomes, and my own triggers.

Speak words of love often and generously, looking each one in the eye.

So that regardless of how many or how few todays we have left, there will never be any doubt in their mind of that fact.

I wish it did not take the tragic death of a child to remind me of how precious my own children are.

And how fragile, unpredictable, and uncontrollable life is.

But after a day of tears, talks, hugs, and memories, I want to celebrate life.

I want to live in a glorious daily ritual of celebration—never again taking for granted each miraculous moment.

~

~

Author: Galina Singer
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell

 

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Galina Singer Aug 21, 2017 4:02pm

Thank you for reading and your heartfelt comment, Beth. I am sorry if you found the title misleading. And I am especially so so sorry for your loss. The event I describe happened just a few days ago. And yes, I speak of my own visceral reaction. I can only speak of my own experience. But you raise a very valid and important point, and that is: what happens next? And that I cannot just return to the bubble of my own life without supporting my friend and her remaining daughter through their struggle. I think we all need some time to learn to navigate this new reality. My overall message was to love while we can - lavishly, loudly, without restriction.

Beth Norris Aug 21, 2017 3:29pm

It's a good piece as a reminder of how to live in the moment, but I was really hoping for more based on the titel. I feel for your friend because I lost a child to a tragic car accident. You are only focusing on your life and your kids and the uncertainity that may or may not happen in your life. IT has happened in her life. What did you do to console her in the immediate aftermath and in the days, weeks, months and years later (if it has been that long). I thought by the title that either you lost a child or once I started reading, what you learned on loving your friend who lost a child. I think a continued story on how you supported her friend early on and through the major life events would be very beneficial. What would have been my son's high school graduation was a very difficult time for me and how my friends handled it was good and bad. You get the luxury of going back to every day life, but your friend doesn't and how you keep that in the forefront of your relationship would be very helpful to readers who are experiencing this with a freind. Thanks. Beth

Galina Singer Aug 21, 2017 11:58am

Thank you so much Dhyan!

Dhyana Eagleton Aug 20, 2017 6:44pm

Gosh! These are no doubt your girls! How adorable! Powerful, wise voice!

Galina Singer Aug 20, 2017 1:49am

Thank you so much, Nicia, for reading and your kind comment.

Nícia Cruz Aug 19, 2017 9:13pm

thank you for this piece of writing, it is beautiful and a great reminder to everyone. we should love more.

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Galina Singer

From Communism to Consumerism, from Atheism to Spirituality, from Victimhood to Self-Responsibility, Galina Singer has traversed several cultures and conflicting philosophies in search for meaning. The answers came when she took the time to look within, piercing through layers of dogma and multi-cultural conditioning and uncovering her authentic voice. Today Galina investigates reasons behind the depression pandemic and how to take back control over our lives through self-knowledge and self-acceptance. By peeling away layers of societal and family conditioning Galina helps clients to re-discover their authentic voices and wake up to the lives of freedom and fulfilment. Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.