The Natural Order

I was having lunch today with a friend who I haven’t see in quite a while and we were talking about life events that have had a major impact on who we are now. Of course, I had to talk about how much the loss of our daughter has impacted both me as an individual and our life as a family.  I found myself drifting back, as I occasionally do, to wondering what life would be like now, if that hadn’t happened.

We talked about that- about how life gives us things to live with that effect us and change us (and those we love)  in ways that we could never imagine possible and all we can do is stand there going “hmmm”.  We kind of chuckled about it which is good.  It’s good to be able to do that now and then- just step back and say “hmmm”.  I think there’s a song that says something like that- “things that make you go hmmm”.

She told me that her parents had lost a baby who was 6 months old, her sister, who had a hole in her heart.  My friend was 2 at the time so she doesn’t remember anything.  We talked a lot about that too.  The truth is it probably had a great impact on her life that she isn’t even really aware of.  She said her parents never really talked about it which would be typical for that time.  People don’t talk about it that much now but back then, it was definitely something that just got “tucked away” as she put it.  As we talked more about it, the reality that her parents’ grief would have been palpable in the environment became more evident.

People often say that a parent is not supposed to outlive their children.  It’s not the natural order of things.  To me, it’s as though nature has turned against itself- like a wrinkle in time.   When it happens to you, that wrinkle warps your whole sense of being from then on.  The change is permanent- survivable, adaptable, workable-yes…but it affects everything around you.  Like it or not, it’s a shared experience.

Unfortunately many families don’t recognize that and don’t really talk about it.  It can be really tough to know how to handle it if the other children are little or come along later.  How do you fit in grieving when you are trying to be a parent to your other children?  I know we tried very hard to give our other 2 children as “normal” a life as possible, but it’s tough when you are dealing with so many unknowns and intense emotions every day.  And now I can see that at least our older son was probably effected a lot more than I would have thought was happening at the time, if that makes sense.

The up side of this is that I am a believer in self-forgiveness and that honesty and openness brings great healing.  Life is imperfect and terrible things, like this kind of loss, can happen.  Most of us usually do the best we can so when we make mistakes or things don’t go well, we need to talk to those to whom we cause distress and tell them why we did what we did  and how we will do better.  Working together with those we love, especially through the most difficult moments, can ease that bumpy ride toward “normal”.

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