It was July and summer was still in full-swing when the seasonal patio furniture began to quietly disappear from local stores. I knew what was coming, but said nothing. Before long, the signs and bins began going up, and children either delighted or groaned. Parents, too, either delighted or groaned. Back to School clothes and supplies were arriving and the ads were everywhere.
But this annual ritual can be a painful reminder for some. Parents who lost a baby three years ago don’t get to shop for the first backpack, something small and cute with ponies or race cars, to carry home preschool finger paintings. Parents whose child died five years ago will not be walking their kindergartners to school or waiting for the bus to arrive.
If your loss is recent, you might be able to relate to my friend Heidi who shared this story at one of our first support group meetings on a September night fourteen years ago after her daughter Brittany had been stillborn three months earlier in June. “David started school last month. Brittany was due in August and I imagined taking David to school pushing my brand new baby in the stroller. I dropped him off the first day of kindergarten, pulled the car over a block away from school, and sobbed. It’s really hard on David. He’s asking if he’s still a brother.”
What was supposed to be a happy, exciting day for both Heidi and her 5-year-old son David was sad, overshadowed by the loss of a daughter and sister. Parents who have lost a child will always know how old that child would be, and will always be aware of the milestones that child is missing. It just hit me this past week as I sent my girls off to school, that Miranda would have been starting high school this year. A slight pain ripped through my heart at the realization. It didn’t last long, perhaps because I refused to let it. I know there will be more moments like that to come, which is why I let myself feel what I feel and then look to something that brings a smile and relief. Miranda wouldn’t want me to dwell in sadness anymore than your baby or child would want you to.
Monica Novak is the author of The Good Grief Club, the highly-praised memoir about her friendships with six other women that carried them through the ups and downs of grief and motherhood following the loss of their babies in miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. She also serves as editor of Open to Hope’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss page. For more information about her book, and for pregnancy loss and infant death resources, please visit her website at www.thegoodgriefclub.com or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tags: grief, hope