Saturday, October 2, 2010
It's October and I'm still in the season of my daughter's life. And during this period of 11 weeks of remembering her gift of motherhood to me, I've reflected upon where I am on this journey. I've come to a place in this grief, that I think most "normals" (those who have not experienced the tragic death of their children) would expect comes at about 2 to 6 weeks out from the death of Caitlin. I work with vigor and focus. I laugh easily and I "fit in" in social gatherings. Each moment is no longer filled with the presence of acute grief. The desire to be not dead, but not here has dissipated. And the ever-present and overwhelming sadness that engulfed me subsides for long periods of time.
For me, this is how long it took--about three years.
Let me be clear though. I'm not back to my old self. I am quite different. I took some of the old me and threw it out, some was kept, and some of it I'm still working with--molding and shaping to be the kind of mother Caitlin deserves. Though, she' not here on this earth, I honor our relationship of mother and child. Caitlin's life and death catapulted me to new places, literally with a new job and figuratively with new and refined insights, beliefs, and understandings, as well as new and refined behaviors.
I'll speak to one I noticed most recently. With my new work, I'm meeting many new people. When they talk about their children, I listen and sometimes find occasion to respond with "I know what you mean." They might look at me "longways", but I don't notice if they do anymore, 'cause I'm a mom and sometimes, I do know what they mean. I rarely skip a beat with saying my daughter's name. "Yes, when I held Caitlin, I felt . . ." and skip even less time to respond with "and we, sadly, experienced the tragedy of her death." When people say, "you are just like my mom," I say, "thanks, that means a lot, especially since my daughter is no longer here. It feels good to be recognized as a mom." I believe Caitlin should as easily be part of my casual conversations as she is a part of my deeply personal and profound discussions.
I tend to be fearless of possible shocked, saddened, or uncomfortable reactions. I no longer try to save others from emotions that might be painful. This response is not out of some desire that others should hurt as I have hurt, but out of understanding that sorrow lives with joy. I do no one a favor by sweeping pain under the rug. I live as an example that one can experience and survive and yes, thrive, even after the tragic death of my daughter. And I strive to be unafraid to LIVE that. When someone experiences an empathetic response to our story, that's a good thing. If Caitlin's story is part of fostering empathy in others--then that's a good thing. If Caitlin's story prompts an emotional response for someone else, an emotional response of sadness that is all too often considered wrong or bad in this culture of "life's too short to be anything but happy" then we will be participate.
On a related note, I understand that parents of living children do not expect that they should not celebrate their children's birthday each year, and so I expect that others should "get over" me celebrating my daughter's birthday each year--even though she is dead. I don't expect that any mom should get over the birth of their living children, and so I operate on a principle of reciprocal acknowledgment. If parents wish to sign the average holiday card with their children's names, then I may do so as well if I wish.
BTW, I have no complaints of my friends and family. I hit the jackpot there. Sadly, I'm one of the luck few. ((((hugs))) to fellow bereaved moms who must educate each year that their child still matters!