Trigger warning: child loss/SIDS
A little over a month after my daughter died from SIDS, famous actress Carrie Fisher passed away from an out-of-the-blue heart attack. And the following day, her mother Debbie Reynolds died from what is known as Broken Heart Syndrome. For those who don’t know, Broken Heart Syndrome is usually linked to traumatic or stressful events, which causes a tear in the left ventricle of the heart. When death occurs because of this, it means the individual literally died from a broken heart.
I was fresh in my grief on this day, and I remember the news of this bereaved mother’s passing sweeping me away like a feather in a storm. To be frank, I was almost envious. Why did her daughter’s death affect her so badly that it killed her? Why didn’t that happen to me?
My daughter’s death led everyone to tell me, “I couldnt do it,”… as if child loss fell to my family by choice. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t even know how I was doing it. What was I to do? I didn’t will my own death… even though every bit of me wanted to be with my baby.
Irrationally, I felt like a less-than mom for surviving the unimaginable. My love for my daughter felt unintentionally lessened by these meant-to-be innocent words, and I felt as if there was something wrong with me that, although my heart was already crumbled into fragments, I was still capable of living and breathing while my daughter was not.
I was a corpse of myself with a heartbeat, and I loathed that repetitive kick in my chest. My days were filled with painful sobs when my eyes first opened in the morning, nostalgic reminders piercing me sharp, and lumps in my throat so thick I couldn’t swallow.
Days turned to months, and months have turned into years, and those pungent pains have become fewer and far between. The hurt hasn’t diminished, but I’m used to it by now. My heart’s scar has become a pivotal part of my life story.
I don’t sob night and day like I used to, but I do allow myself set times to grieve. “You may ugly cry for an hour tonight if you want to,” I tell myself. Sometimes I need it, sometimes I don’t, and sometimes it doesn’t happen on a set schedule the way I plan.
That’s okay, because even in the most joy-filled times, for the grieving parent, there will always be a crescent of sorrow. Everyday moments are already tough. Which means, holidays and special events can sometimes be even tougher. So today, I’m grateful for Bereaved Mother’s Day… and that’s a sentence I never thought that I’d hear myself say.
Bereaved Mother’s Day belongs to me, and it belongs to all of the other women who have buried their children. Today is the day our hurt is exposed — the bandage is ripped off — and the world visually bears witness to the broken beneath the surface.
During a time of year that often forgets loss parents, like me, I’m here to say, we will take all of the recognition we can get. Because once we’ve eaten our final, frozen casserole, or received our last “thinking of you” phone call, grieving the loss of a child is an excruciatingly dark and lonely place to be.
The world wraps our wounds in darkness and covers the ugly in “it’s time to move on,” and we, the grieving, are left with an inability to heal. A sense of acknowledgment is needed, even if that acknowledgement only lasts for the day. There’s no turning a blind eye to us on Bereaved Mother’s Day, because this is our day to grieve, raise awareness, advocate and share our stories of hope and loss.
I am opening the conversation on this Sunday to say, I had a daughter I loved more than life itself, and she died. Her name was Lainey, and I will never fully heal from this hurt. To lose her was to lose so many whole pieces of myself. And to continue living while she’s forever frozen in time, is a continual pain I will carry with me for the rest of my days.
It rips me to shreds when I realize there will be far more women who are tragically forced to get what it’s like to lose a child, who will live on just like me. I wish more than anything I could stop it, for this is a pain I’d never wish upon my worst enemy. But child loss is merely random selection, and we, the bereaved, are just one among the unlucky.
Today I grieve the daughter I love, the life I miss, and the mother I used to be. I do it today so I may regain some sense of “normalcy” next week. If I feel the all-consuming waves of grief start to topple over me, so be it, but I’m planning to choose joy for my “regular” Mother’s Day.
No matter the circumstances, no matter the number of children, and no matter how old are young — We. Are. Moms. Too.
You may ugly cry on Bereaved Mother’s Day if you desire.
This is your day, Mama.
For child loss resources, financial aid services and support, visit our Scary Mommy Child Loss Resource Page to connect with other parents who just “get it.”