Trigger warning: child loss
It’s been three years since my daughter died, and when I calculate it, it doesn’t take long to figure out that she’s been gone ten times longer than she was ever alive. Ten times. For some reason, that number kills me. Partly because it feels like it was just yesterday that we lost her, and partly because I can’t believe I’ve survived so long without my daughter.
In those immediate days after losing her, even I didn’t know how I would do it. Survive, I mean. After all, how does a heart that is so incredibly mangled keep on beating? It’s beyond comprehension, really.
It’s an excruciating pain to outlive one of your children. There are so many phases of grief you must go through over and over in many different forms for as long as you live. Because as only the broken-hearted know, you never stop grieving.
As I’ve learned recently, this hurt takes on a new meaning once a point in your grief is reached where you start to forget bits and pieces of the one you love and lost.
I’m at this pivotal point as we speak.
I’ve expressed my forgetfulness with other bereaved parents who have tried reassuring me with words like, “You could never forget her; she is your daughter.” But I wonder what they would say if I were honest and expressed to them that I am… a mother who is forgetting her baby.
Would they think I was a horrible mom to her? Would they think I didn’t care enough to remember? Or would they know that the extensive trauma I’ve experienced from her loss has clouded my memory? Because it has.
There is but one day I can’t escape from my memory, and that is the day we lost her. The day she wasn’t her — just a shell of herself in a cold trauma room. Still, this is what I can recall most vividly.
I long to remember her the way she was, the way that I always saw her while she was living, but I can’t always bring this memory to the forefront of my mind. Only the good Lord knows how hard I try, but I fail time after time.
I can’t forget who she was as a person, her memory, or the love that existed between the two of us, but I am forgetting those small details which were unique to her. Me — her mother; I am the one who is forgetting. And truth be told, it’s eating at every fiber of my being.
I’m forgetting the way she used to scrunch up her nose and tilt her head off to the side before giggling. I’m forgetting the sound of her coos, the weight of her against my chest, and her sighing deeply with eyelids that are fluttering. I have to think long and hard to remember and visually see these everyday pieces of her again, and good God, it is so damn painful.
It hurts, because I am her mom. How could I forget her? It hurts, because I don’t want to forget even the tiniest little moment we had together. And it hurts because, though I will myself to remember, I am forgetting the most incredible aspects of her.
To think of her may bring a pain that feels unspeakable in the worst of times, but I’d rather live a million lifetimes with this grief than to not have known her at all. As her mother, she is worth that to me.
Our time together was so brief, but it was also so magical too. There isn’t much that I have left of her, but these memories are the few things I’ve always had to hold tight to. What am I to do if a day comes where I can’t remember her altogether?
My great grandmother became a bereaved parent when her three-year-old daughter died. At 95-years-old, my great grandma still carried that loss with her. And when I think about this, I see a future-me somewhere inside of the bereaved memory of her. I know that when I am old and gray, much like my great grandma, I will still long for my daughter I lost. I mean, how could I not? She is my forever-baby.
Until that foreseeable, far-off time comes, I’m choosing forgiveness for myself day after day. As much as I fight with myself about it, I can’t stop life from happening. And even though my daughter can’t join me, it doesn’t mean that I love her any less for being a part of it. I’m not a bad mother for having only a limited amount of memories that I’m able to retain at once…. I’m just human.
A day may come where my memory completely fades. But in the deepest part of my being, somewhere ingrained inside of me, is a place where my daughter stays.