Trigger warning: child loss
I don’t believe we, as humans, have the ability to control our very first intrusive thought. But we might have the power to change our second and our third. Sometimes we think things, play out scenarios in our head for a moment or two, and it isn’t until we are conscious of these thoughts that determine how we deal with them.
My most unwelcome and intrusive thoughts are centered around the death of my daughter. We shared four months and two days together before she died of SIDS. And her untimely passing has manifested this reoccurring, default question that haunts me: What if, heaven forbid, I were to lose another child?
I went to sleep one night while my daughter alive and well. And when I woke up, she was gone. How I felt, what I saw, and what I’ve had to live with ever since that Sunday morning is every parent’s worst nightmare. It’s unfathomable. But because I’ve already walked it once before, horrendously enough, now it’s not so unimaginable. It hits a little too close to home.
My daughter’s untimely passing has manifested this reoccurring, default question that haunts me: What if, heaven forbid, I were to lose another child?
The pure shock of her death has robbed me of my natural peace as a mother… as if at any moment, my entire world could come tumbling down. And to no surprise, this intrusive thought, in and of itself, makes my chest fold.
I can’t relax when my kids are away from home, even if they are with their dad. If I receive an unrecognizable phone call while their away, I’m paralyzed with fear thinking something tragic has happened.
A year after our daughter’s death, my husband and I welcomed two other babies. And more mornings than not, I would wake up in a state of absolute panic. If they, or my older surviving children, slept longer than what was usual, I would run to them with my body trembling and my voice pleading and praying, “Please, God, don’t let them be dead. Don’t let them be dead. Don’t let them be dead.”
They are too precious, too worthy and too loved to not be with me forever. To lose my daughter was to be stripped of all of the light I had inside of me. I barely survived it once, and my heart couldn’t bear to withstand the continual, added agony again.
I’ve always been a cautious (and what some might call an overprotective) mother, but now I wish my kids and I could take up residency inside a bubble. I don’t want to think about them leaving this nest to a place that’s beyond my control. And at the same time, my heart knows that these thoughts and grief-soaked feelings are completely irrational.
As their mother, it is my job to help them fly. And to be clear, I won’t allow myself to be the parent who hinders her children from living. But that doesn’t mean I don’t hurt immensely at times on the inside. This fear is crippling. It steals good days by intrusively making my mind skip to the what if this happens and what if that happens of worst-case possibilities.
Until now, these words, this “confession” if you will, have been soft-spoken with hesitation and only shared because of a weight that needed to be lifted. I come from a family who preaches that we ought not to speak things we don’t wish to come into existence… the very words stomping on my chest and embedding my fears deeper inside of my core.
But as I’m beginning to realize, without acknowledgment of such fear, we don’t give these intrusive thoughts and feelings a window to climb out of. This hurt only festers when it’s shut in and locked away in this total dark. And hiding away my fear by cloaking it in shame does not free me.
Before child loss stole the “wholeness” that once was my family, I never lived with this nagging, day-to-day worry. Yet, I still lost my daughter. Leading me to believe that sometimes, terrible things in this life don’t happen for any reason at all. These tragedies are just the product of horrible, rotten luck.
The pure shock of my daughter’s death has robbed me of my natural peace as a mother… as if at any moment, my entire world could come tumbling down.
I’m powerless in this big, big world. Micro-managing every situation due to fear has never derailed all negative and tragic outcomes for anybody. But it will keep my surviving children and me on the sidelines from living. Above all of my fear, angst and inner worry, a dull life is the last thing I want for my family.
We know this life is too brief for so many now. Because we’ve lived it, we love so damn fiercely. Our kids don’t know what it’s like to go to bed angry. We make all of our “see you laters” extra special, and the littles never leave the front door without their requested “kissy monster” and bear hugs.
I can’t control my first invasive thought, but I can control my second and third. And to be frank, I do. Because in order to grow, I’m being forced to understand that our worst fears do not build the platform we walk on.
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