Since my daughter died just after turning four years old, one of my biggest fears has been that she will be forgotten. But lately, I’ve been asking myself: What does that really mean? What am I really scared of?
The idea that she will be forgotten is actually two separate fears. The first is that due to the notion of “out of sight, out of mind,” friends and even family will stop thinking of her and, in essence, “forget her”. In reality, this is the natural course of life. I have beloved relatives and dear friends who have passed, and yet I rarely think of them. Does it mean they didn’t exist, or had any less impact on my life? No. Nor does it mean I love them any less. What it does represent is that life goes on, and current matters occupy our minds.
I think my fear is actually rooted in the reality of family and friends no longer talking about my daughter or – from my perspective – thinking of her, which feels as though it further isolates me from the “normal” world. It has been years since she died, and yet the pain is ever present and my daily thoughts are still filled with memories and longing for my daughter.
Other than the news sensationalizing death and destruction to grab our attention for ratings, our society tends to not want to talk about grief or the lingering pain of loss after the funeral is over. So I go about my business and lead two lives: the “normal” one that goes about living a “normal” life, and the “private” one where I still struggle to figure out how to work through the pain of grief while learning to once again embrace the love, joy, and adventures that surround me.
The second part of my fear has to do with me and my memory. With my daughter no longer physically here, memories of her have become precious commodities. Those few memories of specific moments captured in time allow me to momentarily remember not just who she was, but remember life before the pain of her death forever changed me and my world. But with every passing day, and with all the new information coming in, those memories tend to get crowded out and forgotten. All those everyday moments that I took for granted at the time have already faded into the abyss of memories lost to time. It makes me sad that her older brothers say that have very few specific memories of her. It makes me sadder that her baby brother never had the chance to meet her, and will have to rely on our stories and descriptions of her if he ever wants to get to know her.
To combat this fear, I have tried to write down as many memories as I can – even if they are mundane. I keep them in a journal, and some I post to www.aliveinmemory.org to share them with others. This way I can refer back to them and share them with whoever is interested in reading them. Her brothers can read them and share them with their eventual families.
But lately, I wonder if my fear of forgetting my memories really necessary? Does it make me a bad mother that I can’t remember more moments I shared with her? Of course not. Does it mean my love for her will fade with the memories? Absolutely not. While I wish I could remember more specific memories of time that I shared with her, I will try to be content knowing that I will never forget how much I love my daughter, or how much she means to me. I will never forget her personality quirks, her vivid imagination, and endless creativity. And I will never forget how her life – and her death – have helped me grow tremendously in my understanding of this life and how best to live it.Tags: child loss, grief, grief and loss, healing, loss of a child, Memories, Moving forward
I’m only 15 months into this nightmare since my son died, but the fear of forgetting is one of my greatest fears. Thank you for this reflection.