A Letter To My Daughter Who Died
Trigger warning: child loss
Five years and some change ago, I held you in my arms. You were stunning; five pounds and three ounces of perfection evinced in dark hair, red lips, and ten skinny toes. Twelve hours earlier, they’d told me you had died. And even though everyone was crying that morning, save for you, they’d have to tell me again.
The nurse suggested I write to you. “Tell her who you are,” she offered, her hand glazing my shoulder. We were different now, her and I. What I’d just done, what she’d never hope to do; the ugly word that severed me from the other moms on the playground, (the ones whose babies are born alive,) already cleaving me from her embrace. I remember looking at her, and then at you and thinking, “Who is that now?”
It was good advice, nonetheless. I wrote to you almost immediately: the week we arrived home from the hospital, the night before your memorial service. I wrote when I returned to work and when I returned to the doctor, when I returned the set of pink onesies with the matching hat. From chairs I’d hoped we’d share, from rooms you’d never know, and while it helped me immensely the formality began to seem strange. Your absence from my life, once so foreign, became a limb. Familiar and problematic and appreciated, as much as any appendage can be.
I kept writing, sans salutation, about everything. Life and how it happened since you died. What hurt and what helped and what didn’t anymore. Sad things, happy things, normal things, until I realized I hadn’t answered that question in awhile. The one I find myself attempting to do today, in a letter: since losing you five years ago, who am I?
You’ve made me better and worse. Better at things like appreciation and gratitude and all the ones I’m supposed to say, but others too.
I care more but also a lot less-about screen time and curse words and punctuality. I have less patience, less logic, less time. You’ve softened edges and hardened others; leveled walls I’d love to keep and burned bridges I should have long ago. My perspective has shifted immensely. Sometimes it can be isolating, morbid. Always it is better.
Because of you, I have no comfort zone. Open heart open wounds open arms. I have harbored life and death, and I have begged for both. I am a nerve exposed. Feeling feeling feeling. I find you everywhere: in the gunshot victim, the burning tree, the frail rhinoceros. I throw money I don’t have at people I don’t know; parents like me, children like you. And it isn’t help so much as commiseration. I see them now. I want them to know it.
Sometimes we eat ice cream for breakfast. Sometimes we stay up late because it doesn’t matter. We give longer hugs because it does. I confuse people. They don’t know what to say, they don’t know what to think. They don’t know.
There is no bubble anymore. No illusion. There is only this life, this person here without you. Your mother.
And I miss you. So intensely sometimes that it scares me. And I love you, so much that nothing else ever does.
All My Love,
July is Bereaved Parents Month. For more child loss resources and support, check out our Scary Mommy Resource Page to connect with other parents who just “get it.”
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