When Daniel died, I wanted more. More smiles, more birthdays, more words, more experiences. Like any mom, I wanted my child to have a full and healthy life.
When Daniel breathed his last, all I had was four years and five months and eight days. He hadn’t made it to five; he hadn’t even made it to four-and-a-half. We had more sunsets to watch, more waves to play in, more watermelon to drip down our faces. I felt cheated.
My journal reflected my anguish and sorrow. I wrote day after day about how unfair this all was—for me, for my husband, for Daniel’s older sister Rachel, and baby brother Benjamin. And then three months later when his new baby sister arrived, I wept for her. She’d never know Daniel, never be photographed with him, never feel his hand tickling under her chin.
As bereaved parents, there is a place for anguish and anger, especially at the unfairness. This was not how we were taught that life works. Parents don’t bury their children.
Unfair. Overwhelming emotions. I believe in writing through all of that. Get it on paper, scribble, write in big, bold letters, get it out. It’s part of this journey we call Grief.
But we can’t stay in the pit of despair forever. We aren’t made that way. I’m not and you’re not. You have too much to offer the world to live a life of mad.
There will come a day when you will feel the gratitude for having had your child—-even if only for a little while. Some people don’t get the privilege of being Mom or Dad. Some never get to stoke the hand of a newborn. Some never get that positive pregnancy result.
I had four years and five months and eight days. Was it enough?! Heck, no! But it was all I was given. And for that time frame, I was Daniel’s mama while he was on earth. I’m still Daniel’s mommy, just not in the same capacity.
Writing always helps me. That’s why I advocate it so much. So I ask you to take a sheet of paper and think of all the ways your child blessed you. Gratitude does a body good. You can form sentences like, “I’m so glad I got to make a grilled cheese sandwich that afternoon for Daniel.” Or just jot down a word or two, like, Grilled cheese.
Keep this list by your bedside, take it with you in your car. Or have several pads of note paper around the house and in the car so that when you recall a happy moment or an attribute you love about your child, you can record it.
When we look at what we had instead of solely focusing on what we don’t have, we begin to see the world, people, and even ourselves in a new light. We might even smile more, and laugh out loud.
This new light can give us the courage we need to travel on.
Let me know how you share your gratitude for your child’s life.
Your advocate on the journey,
Alice J. Wisler is an author of six novels, cookbooks, and the devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning. She speaks on writing through grief and loss at conferences and has online workshops. Her next Writing the Heartache workshop starts March 30. Check out her website.