Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother’s Day after the death of a child

Related to a previous article, The Last Crane, comes this sadness on Mother's Day:

How can I celebrate this day? How can I celebrate myself? Every day I open the door to my daughter’s room, sit on her tidy bed and wonder how any of this is real. How is it possible that all I have left is her collection of albums, stones and crystals, and her closet full of untouched clothes? How long will they serve as proof that she was here on this Earth, that she was real?
As the days go by, my daughter’s proximity to me fades, the reality of her absence becomes more concrete. This would be okay if it were because she had graduated high school, gone off to college and started her life, but that’s not what happened. She stopped existing at 15. She stopped.
I don’t know how to celebrate Mother’s Day without the consolation prize given all mothers — that our babies are gone, but we have laughing toddlers in exchange, that our toddlers are gone, but we have curious, bright-eyed preschoolers in their place, that the messy, carefree days of preschool meld into the primary years, when interests and personalities emerge and blossom, giving us teenagers who are whole, unique people. The fact that our kids grow up into actual people distracts us from the pain of their fading childhood. Except, of course, if they don’t grow up.
I am two mothers now — the mother you see walking beside my remaining daughter in the all-too-real world of chores and homework and trivial things and the mother you don’t see — the mother bereft, imagining that my daughter is two steps behind me, just out of sight.
There are too many mothers like me, rushing here and there, pretending we’re fully in one world when, really, we’re in two.
I look whole and normal, but deep inside there’s an emptiness where my heart used to be. I can’t walk with my surviving daughter without imagining the shadow of her sister right beside us, rolling her eyes, glancing at her phone.
I wish I could go back to when my kids were 9 and 6, when Mother’s Day was about hand-drawn cards and breakfast in bed. I can almost smell the burned toast, taste the mint tea. Dwelling on the past is the only thing that allows me to feel something other than numbness and despair. The others who walk this path of intense grief tell me it gets better. Eventually, I’ll start feeling what I’m supposed to feel. I’ll move more fully into the world of living children. Until then, I’m as much a part of my dead daughter’s world as I am my living daughter’s.

Read the rest at WaPo.

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