Poem: My Third Child is Grief

My Third Child Is Grief
By Sandra Priebe

It’s been three years since my husband suddenly left this earth in the middle of the night.
Jack and I had two children, they are growing and maturing beyond our hopes and dreams.
I’m kept busy guiding and participating in their lives but something else was going on interfering, interrupting and leaving it?s imprint on the days and nights.
It was my unexpected third child, named Grief.

Three years ago Grief was a newborn. I was dazed, stunned, blue
and reeling from the constant demands. I did most of the nurturing and care-taking by instinct
just like I had done with my other babies, but unlike the support I received with my first children,
my mother and friends were not experienced in this process.
They helped with the other children but I was left alone to take care of the third.

I tried a grief support group as I had tried a new mother group with my firstborn.
I went to the grave, I wrote, cried, talked, walked. I bought and took presents to the grave
like a mother buys rattles and busy boxes.
I sorted pictures from the past and moved them from frame to frame, pile to pile,
as a mother arranges the layette or lovingly looks through baby pictures while the baby naps.
I talked about my third child as I had done with my others.
Conversations never intended to end up revolving around Jack,
death, or funerals somehow monopolized social conversations.
Grief needed constant attention, feeding and changing.

Somehow that first year past and Grief grew up a bit.
I was a little more comfortable with my parenting skills
but again I learned that the skills it took to get through the first year
do not necessarily apply to the second.
The first year I developed survival skills and I became more comfortable
with my competence as a parent.

The second year I had to parent a toddler. Grief learned to walk,
she asserted her independence and then re turned to cuddle and cling.
Unlike the first year, I could usually count on a respite sometime during the day.
Grief would take a nap, but when she awoke, she was strong willed and active.
To get through the terrible twos I needed patience, a sense of humor, and forgiveness.
The twos are an exhausting but necessary stage in a child’s development.

Grief was a bit calmer this year. She needs less constant attention, she sometimes plays alone.
She’s becoming more aware of others around her, she?s learning to share.
She’s less anxious when in unfamiliar surroundings and I can leave her for more extended periods.
Then in quiet moments I look at her and know she’s only a baby, she has a long way to go.

When I was a brand new mother I looked at the mother’s of two year old children
and thought that they were so advanced, so smart.
I believed that they had been through the hard pat of parenting
and the coming years would no be as hard as those firs t two uncertain years.
I now laugh at my ignorance and know that I would not even wish it to be so.
I understand how long Grief will need to be nurtured, taken care of, and loved.
She’ll become an adolescent and have the push pull of independence and dependence,
together we’ll see our way through the teen years of turmoil and confusion,
we’ll have the bittersweet college years of well-earned independence and growth
mixed with the homesickness and longing to return to what?s comfortable and familiar.
It is my hope that Grief will become a mature adult;
an independent, self-sufficient, contributing adult.
One that keeps me in her heart constantly visits on holidays, returns in time of need.
As her mother I hope to live an independent, full life. A life that makes her proud, to call me, her mother.

Sandra Priebe
1996

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