“That date” is approaching quickly and I am feeling a growing sense of dread. Dread not just of having to wake up on April 7th and remember the events of three years earlier, but also of how people might react to how I feel that day. In my heart I know that I’m going to be just as sad and confused as I have been on the previous anniversaries of her passing, but I worry that this year people will think, “It’s been three years. Get over it already. Move on with your life.”
These worries are not as unfounded as they may seem. All too often I have been reminded that the majority of people who haven’t lost a child don’t have a clue of what I’m going through. I remember, for example, that after Heather blogged about feeling uneasy about reaching the day Maddie had been gone longer than she had lived, someone left a comment saying it was weird for us to keep track of such milestones, and that we should just ignore them and focus on living.
Similarly, on the day Annie had lived one day longer than Maddie, I was having trouble processing what had happened. It felt somehow like Maddie was drifting further away from us, but someone off-line advised me to ignore it and focus on how big Annie was getting.
To people who haven’t lost a child, those two bits of advice might sound reasonable. But to those who have lost a child they are highly offensive and clueless. It is impossible for a grieving parent to not think about every date or milestone that passes. Our baby may be gone, but she is forever and constantly on our minds. Even though we may keep it to ourselves, we think about how old she would be, how long she has been gone, or what she would look like, every single day. Telling us not to think about these things is like telling us not to breathe.
On Facebook today a number of people put an affirmation of love for their children on their walls that included the following:
“A child is a promise from God that you will have a friend forever!”
Most people likely read that and thought, “How sweet! My kid is my friend forever!” But I thought, “A child is a friend forever, you know, unless he or she dies. Also, if God made such a promise, why did he break his to Madeline and me?”
I felt uneasy the rest of the day, but I didn’t mention my feelings to anyone. If I had I would have been greeted by silence, thought strange, or even called insensitive. At the very least I would have made people uncomfortable.
I know no one wants to hear me talk about Maddie or my pain all the time, and if I did I would have a lot less friends. That is why Heather and I do our best to act as normal as possible each day. But we are nevertheless very sad, devastated, and forever changed by our loss even if we don’t subject people to our feelings all the time.
So please be kind to us over the next few weeks, and do your best to accept whatever grief we feel the need to express even if you don’t understand it. There are some times of the year when it is harder to keep up the facade, and this most definitely is one of them.