We talk a lot about the pain of losing a child. We talk a lot about the long and arduous road to getting over the loss of the child. We hear about the anguish and the devastation, the healing process and how life eventually settles. But perhaps we must talk more about striking a balance between moving on and still celebrating the life of the lost child, however brief it was.
October is child loss awareness month and in light of this, a mum who carried her daughter to term and lost her to stillbirth, sheds light on how she firmly believes that moving on after losing a child is truly about finding a balance between accepting the loss and continuing to love that child every single day in every possible way.
Not too long ago, I attended a function with my three children. Some friends who had not met me in the longest time were rather surprised to see that I had just had a baby. They gathered around her and asked me what it was like to have a third child. When they mentioned third child, my firstborn interrupted them.
She’s not the third, she’s the fourth. I have another sister who went to heaven.
There was a sudden drop in amplitude of the cacophony of chatter and an awkward silence filled the air. Other family members tried to glare at my son or hush him. He was later berated for being inappropriate.
This is the very five-year-old who when asked in school to draw about feelings, drew a little lost girl and captioned it as, I felt sad when my sister cannot find her way home.
I broke the silence and said, yes, this is actually my fourth child. We lost one to stillbirth. I know that the conversation got awkward from there. I also know that some may have felt it was absurd that my older child was well aware of the fact that he had lost a sibling.
A five-year-old’s drawing expressing his sadness about his lost sibling.
Losing a child is so unimaginably difficult. But it’s not just the loss that’s difficult. I think the hardest part is finding the balance between how much you want to keep that child in your life. And it gets tricky when it comes to say, talking to your other children about that child.
When I lost my child, I wasn’t given the time and space to grieve and heal. I was surrounded by people who expected me to just put it behind me and move on. I was told that I had to stay strong for my older child, and that crying wasn’t going to help the situation.
It felt as if I had been given a timeline to grieve. And after that passed, I should just pretend like it never happened. I was expected not to talk about the child I lost. And it was indeed frowned upon when I told my older child about losing a child.
But at some point, I decided that I had to take ownership of my own feelings. I decided that nobody had a right to tell me how I should or should not feel, or what was the right way to grieve. And for the record, there is no right way to grieve.
No one, and absolutely no one can imagine what it’s like for the mother who carried the child within her only to lose her.
At the time that she left us, no one had made memories or shared that special bond with her. But I had. I felt her kicks and her movements. She had communicated with me from within and that gives me the right to decide how much of her I want to remember.
I don’t just want to remember the child I lost. I want to celebrate her life and the brief period that her heart did beat.
No one will share the same bond with the child as the one who carried her.
I conceived again just slightly over a year after losing a child. I went on to have another child the following year. I did not let the trauma affect my subsequent pregnancies and I am healthy mentally and physically. To me, that means that I moved on.
But I never erased my lost child from my memory. I started a blog and I write to her as much as I can. I try to imagine what our conversations might have been like and what experiences we might have shared. I choose to believe that some cosmic connection will allow her to feel me through my writing.
I talk to my other children about her and I explain to them what happened. Whenever her birthday comes, we choose an outfit, a gift and a cake for her.
When people ask me how many children I have, I always say four. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a complete stranger, I have no qualms about mentioning the child that I lost.
I visit her grave, I weep and I place pretty flowers for her. But that’s not the only time I weep. In the midst of the happiest of occasions I find tears that I cannot stop for my heart yearns for her presence. I still wake up in the middle of the night and search for her in the black of the night. I imagine her to be the brightest star that twinkles. I cry and call out to her.
I still search for her face in the stars that twinkle against the backdrop of the night.
And to me that’s balance. Losing a child is excruciating but you have to and you will move on. But moving on simply means accepting that your child is away from you, in an unknown place that is believed to be better than where you are.
It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat that child as a part of your life. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.