July 21, 2020

I am Still a Mom: Parenting after the Loss of a Child.


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One of the hardest things to ever have to do is parent a surviving child after the loss of one of your children.

There is a conflict between life and death that exists because we want to be with our child who has passed, but we need to live for our child who has survived.

I have been experiencing this conflict for the past five months since my almost 14-year-old daughter passed away.

What helps me right now, in these early stages of grief, is hearing from the parents who have made it through the day. The parents who took it a minute at a time and actually made it through an entire 24 hours. I do not find much comfort in “grief competing” or talking frequently about death and how loved ones pass away, but more in how we are gracefully surviving (if possible) without our child on this earth.

I experience my current duality on a daily basis—probably almost every minute of every day.

Most days, I feel inadequate. I feel inadequate because I don’t know how to be this mom and sometimes, I don’t even feel like one. I don’t feel like I can give my son what he needs because of the grief I am experiencing.

Yet somehow, someway, he is fed, clean (for the most part; he is a teenager after all) and his life keeps moving.

Yes, sometimes he tucks me in at night because I can’t move due to my grief. And yes, sometimes I tuck him in at night because I can. Sometimes we fall asleep in the same bed because I love playing with his hair and it relaxes us both enough to where we fall asleep.

And then there are also mornings like this morning, when I dropped my son off at his first summer landscaping job. I could only describe it in a way that my daughter used to describe her emotions when she was nervous and excited about something at the same time. She was “nervacited,” she would say when she was starting something new, had a big test, was excited for a workout we were going to do, or a new outfit she was going to wear.

This morning, I was nervacited. My child was embarking on a new milestone in their life. You know those times when it kinda feels like you want to throw up but it also feels exciting? That is how I felt this morning; that is currently how I feel as I write this.

I am still a Mom.

I have the ability to feel things that I thought I would be no longer able to feel.

Watching my six-foot-two, 15-year-old son get into a truck full of men about to do an honest day’s work was an amazing feeling.

I am still a Mom.

The way I am a Mom looks and feels different every day, and I have to work on healing and rebuilding. And while the way I am a Mom may be different to him, to me…

I am still a Mom.

The feelings this morning are evidence of that.

I can still feel and I can still share in the joys that my son experiences.

I am still a Mom.

Overcoming this grief will be my life’s journey for the remainder of my life—learning to fill this void that may never be filled.

This experience with my son this morning filled up a little piece of that space for me today. And that is what grieving and healing are about. Little by little, time after time.

Because I now have evidence that I am capable of feeling the slightest bit of joy or “nervacitement,” and I want more. I want to share joy and celebrate with my son, honor my daughter. I want to fall in love and have a life partner by my side. I want to nurture the relationships with my family and friends.

Some days I have more hope than other days—hope that all of these things are possible.

It is only in this moment, right now, that I believe this is possible. Yesterday, I did not.

I will fall short. I will fall back into disbelief, and I will come up for air again. That is how this works.

But for today, I am still a Mom.

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