I had an interesting conversation with one of my fellow loss moms last week…it’s always nice to talk to someone else who gets it, even if you wish they didn’t have to. It makes me feel less alone and less crazy. Anyhow, in the midst of this conversation she said something about figuring out how to be Bennie’s mom. That is an interesting idea, figuring out how to be a mom. I suppose everyone who has a child has to go through that process. How will I cope with the new life I am now responsible for? How will I manage my days and nights? How will this change my relationship with my partner? With my friends? With myself? Now, here’s the twist. How will I do all of those things but NOT have the child with me? That’s one thing I think people sometimes forget. Even though my child is not in my arms or in my home, he is with me, always, just like your living child. I have to navigate different waters, for certain, but some of them are very much the same. How do you become a mother to a child who has died? That is a tricky question.
I think my best moments are when people that I know, and sometimes those I don’t, tell me what Bennie has meant in their life, or that they thought of him that day, or that he compelled them to do something they never thought they would or could do. Like every parent, I am proud of my child. I love to hear about his goodness, his cuteness, his life. That makes me happy. It is harder sometimes to navigate the “innocent” questions…when you meet someone new and they ask if you have children, or you run into someone who doesn’t know and they ask how he is…those moments are tricky because often, you just don’t have it in you to go into the explanation…or you don’t want the pity…or the sorrow. But to NOT tell them is also hard because it makes me feel like I am not honoring him, not remembering his life. So, often it is a short, “Yes, I had a son who passed away in September” and then a quick, “What about you?”. Most people are willing to let it go at that. Some are not. I actually like the ones who are not…because it makes me talk about it and in the end, that helps. But, I don’t always handle it well.
Anyhow, what does it mean to be a mother, for me, who does not have her child with her? I don’t know. I am learning. I am finding ways to include him in my day…morning prayer or thinking times, saying goodnight before we go to sleep, having his pictures around me, working on the foundation to keep his joy going…and finding ways to be ok with the fact that I am not always thinking of him, which at first made me feel VERY guilty and like a horribly bad mother. ‘Grief is supposed to lessen over time. I get that in my head. It’s sometimes hard to make my heart understand it. I think, ultimately, I am lucky because I have the very best of angels. I wish he was here. That seems like a better idea. But to be the mom of an angel, that’s pretty awesome too.