Losing A Child: Grieving Over Time

by Shayna Raphael
Originally Published: 
A newborn baby in his mother's arms, wrapped in a yellow blanket and a purple-and-blue striped cap.
Shayna Raphael

Times certainly have changed. As bereaved parents, we cry more, we ache more, we long for what we will never have again. We also love deeper, appreciate the time we have more, and live a life in memory of another. So yes, times have changed.

Time has also changed.

It’s no longer simply how many minutes are in an hour or a moment marking when we wake up or go to sleep. Time controls so many things now, and my child’s death has completely changed the meaning of time. We also hold on to the time we experience things—more spontaneous, not monotonous day after day. Time rules my life.

I think about all the moments and experiences I had with my daughter. Those are so important now. These memories with my child in heaven and the memories I’m making with my child beside me keep me going.

Time includes all these spontaneous moments I wish I had with my daughter—Mother’s Day, trips to the state fair, the pumpkin patch, my first Thanksgiving without her. It feels as if I’m dominated by time. I count down the days to the next “milestone” (she will be gone six months on the 24th) and in between these periods of time, I long for experiences. We have a new dog my daughter would love. We live in a new house that’s one-person too big. My daughter would love it here with her sister. We are planning a trip in December, and my daughter would so enjoy all these experiences with us as a family.

Then there is time and grief. We all wait for that magic moment when we will feel better. We read about time and the stages of grief. My doctor told me the first three months were the hardest to get through. We know lying awake in bed at the same time each night, thinking of the child who has left us, is the hardest time of the day. There’s no exact time when grief becomes more manageable or you miss your child less. Grieving is a road we have to walk alone, no matter how much support we have, what medication we take, or how many counseling sessions we go to. All of those can help, but we have to go through this process. There is no shortcut.

And the “firsts,” we are told the firsts are the hardest. The first time someone asks you how many children you have and you’re caught so off-guard that you completely forget the answer you’ve practiced in the mirror a million times over. The first time you see another mom pushing a stroller identical to yours and your heart breaks. The first time jealousy consumes you when someone announces a pregnancy. The first time you are completely overwhelmed by grief at the most unexpected moment. The first time you drive by the hospital where you said your final goodbyes to your child. Your first holiday with one less family member. Their first birthday in heaven.

Time, no matter how we think about it, consumes our minds. It’s been this many days since she’s been gone, and this many days until the anniversary of her death, and this many days until she’s been gone longer than she was here.

I’m so sorry time has changed for all of us. I wish our lives were back to the carefree moments we had before our child died.

Time does not heal all wounds, but time can create a layer to make these wounds more manageable. I believe the death of a child isn’t something to be healed from. Over time, it can break us down, make us stronger, or some strange combination of the two. I do have more good days than bad, and I am able to see the joy in life, and I also have days when I fall apart. Time will only tell where I will be next week, or month, or year. I want to try hard to let go of the countdowns and hold onto the memories and experiences and time I did have with her.

Time is a blessing and a curse. The longer time has passed the more I am able to find ways to cope, but it’s also a constant reminder of how long I’ve had to live without my daughter beside me. Time can be such a messed up thing.

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