Normal: Adj – conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; notabnormal; regular; natural.
While grief itself is a normal part of death, the death of a child is not normal. I messes with the delicate balance of life. We as parents are supposed to outlive our children. There is nothing “normal” about them dying first. No matter the mother you speak to, the country they live, or how many children they have seen pass, one thing is certain… the death of a child is never and should never be considered normal.
When I read today’s topic I bucked the “normal” part right away. I feel like it is the wrong adjective to describe grief for me. To me a better description is “accepting grief” or “acknowledging grief to the fullest”.
This morning as I searched my heart (and google) for the quote that most fit how I felt about this topic I found it hard to put words to. C. S. Lewis wrote in his book A Grief Observed, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” So true he is.
As parents we will acknowledge our children’s fears. Sometimes those fears are founded and other times they seem so insignificant. After a while, and as our children grow, we feel they should be growing out of those fears. We will try to squash the fears, telling our kids there is nothing to be fearful of anymore. I am guilty of this with my own children.
As I look at grief, it is accepted in the days, weeks, months, and up to a year or so after a child’s passing. After that, people are less likely to acknowledge or accept your grief. They feel that it is something that should fade into the background. To so many, grief shouldn’t last forever.
With a fearful child we often try to protect them by never mentioning their fears. We avoid the topic as much as we can. We wait until the last minute to tell our children that they may have to face a fear today. Maybe it is because we are trying to protect them, maybe to protect ourselves, sometimes it is just to prevent tears.
Grief is much the same way. People avoid talking about the missing child. They are afraid to bring up heartache. They don’t want to feel awkward. They don’t want to bring tears.
As I have dealt with the fears of my five year old during his countless doctors visits, medical procedures, and surgeries, one thing is certain. We must acknowledge AND accept those fears. It is in accepting that they are real that we truly acknowledge them. It is the most important step in healing. My views on Link’s fears has changed along the way and as they have so has his own comfort level with them. Today he is not afraid tell us he is scared. We are not afraid to tell him of an upcoming procedure or appointment or surgery.
I think the same goes for grief. When we know that our grief is accepted and acknowledged we can move forward. We can feel free to share our child’s memory. We are more open and honest. We feel more comfortable and loved for who we have become along the way. We feel less judged.
As we walk through our fears and grief, one thing is very true. Both will change over time. Acknowledge that our grief is real and intense and varies from person to person. Accept that we will have bad days and good days. Acknowledge birthdays and special moments of our children no longer with us. Accept the tears of love when we talk about the little ones we no longer hold.
Acknowledge that unlike most fears, grief never quite goes away. Grief simply changes over time. Accept that grieving mothers will never quite be the same as they were before their child(ren) left their world.
Grief changes us.
The pain sculpts us into someone who
Understands more deeply,
Hurts more often,
Appreciates more quickly,
Loves more easily,
Hopes more desperately,
Loves more openly.