I Don't Talk About My Child Who Died For Attention

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Justin Paget/Getty

Trigger warning: child loss

Before I became a part of this child loss club literally no one wants or intends to join, I can’t say that I had the slightest idea of what it truly was like for someone to be a bereaved parent… even in those moments when, maybe, I thought that I did.

If I passed them while out and about, I would freeze up in obvious discomfort as they spoke freely about the child they were missing. I mean, how was I supposed to respond to such an unfathomable heartache? Even more so, how could they act so natural?

In truth, I didn’t want them to bring up the subject — that subject being their child — because I didn’t know how to react. Their pain made me feel awkward and unsure inside. Selfishly, I probably would have done just about anything to bring the conversation to an end for my own sake.

When a grieving parent regularly and consistently mentioned their child, I inwardly and mistakenly believed they had unresolved grief … that after due time, they should have been “getting on” with their lives. Or, at the very least, seeking professional help so they may learn how to do so.

They would post about their grief on social media, and I would scroll past their endearing words that they likely wept over. In my most shameful moments, I wondered if they were doing all of this for attention or as some means to gain pity from the outside world around them with a click of a button.

Without even realizing it, I’d made another parent’s hurt all about me. I judged a pain I couldn’t possibly understand, and prioritized my minor discomfort over their tremendous grief.

What can I say other than to apologetically admit that I was naïve, selfish, and mistaken? I didn’t know back then what it was to lose a child… but oh, how painfully aware I am now. With merely a moment’s notice, I was thrown into this club I knew so little about, humbled right from where I stood, and left to stare face-to-face at years worth of past judgment.

All this leads me to say, I get it now.

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I know how it feels for memories to be the only thing that’s left of your child. I know what it’s like to experience a dark and awkward shift in the atmosphere whenever a name is merely mentioned. I understand that bereaved parents don’t speak about the one they lost out of pity or to make others uncomfortable. Most of all, I get what it’s like to post about your late child on social media, only to be perceived as someone who wants attention, or carries the self-absorbed intention of going “viral” on Facebook.

These things are done out of a selfless love, and I can see why others might not understand.

Society has painted this flawed picture that all tragic stories should come with a happy ever after, so of course a bereaved parent’s grief is a mystery. We’re told when we should grieve, for how long, and what our grief should look like, but how are we supposed to exceed such unattainable standards?

This is a hurt so deep and life-changing that even if we had the will, it is too great to be limited or contained.

This wasn’t something we ever wanted or expected for our own lives, but it’s something we’ve accepted as much as can be accepted. We’ve learned the power that comes from relinquishing our own control and truly letting go… letting go of the world’s expectations, letting go of the stigma surrounding our loss, and letting go of the thick tension felt from others.

I don’t owe anybody an explanation for how I choose to speak or not speak about my child. It is not my fault the world has yet to fully understand grief while I live with it daily. The discomfort of others regarding the sensitive subject of my grief is not my responsibility.

I am just a mother speaking of and mourning my child, one who has every right to do so. I’ve found my voice which carries my daughter’s memory, and I refuse to silence it.

My love for her didn’t die just because she did — it changed.

She is always with me at the forefront of my mind, sitting side-by-side with my children who are still living. To lose her was to be robbed of a lifetime full of wholesome wishes and dreams, but even in the wake of such heavy grief, there are some things in this life that are so pure even death can’t take them away.

I am still hers, and she is still mine. Though she is gone while I’ve been left to live, her memory continues through me. To remember my daughter is to honor my daughter. The options for me are limited in what I can and can’t do to bring her this honor, but whatever I do in memory of her, is also done out of love for her.

For more on child loss, visit our Scary Mommy Child Loss Resource Page for resources, financial services, and to connect with others who just “get it.”

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