Four years ago, an acquaintance from Las Madres lost her 2-year-old son to leukemia -- her only child actually died in her arms. The loss was just unthinkable. I couldn't bring myself to attend his funeral, but did visit the child's grave later that day -- unfortunately while the gravediggers were preparing the site, thinking the coast was clear after the service. How uncomfortable my untimely visit made the heavy-equipment drivers who were preparing the grounds! After brief quiet moment, I slinked away.
OK, if that's not chilling enough, two years later, a Mom friend from that same Las Madres group died suddenly from a stroke. That was really devastating, she was such a wonderful, warm, bright, energetic woman. I'll never forget the time she brought me a wonderful meal for a "Sunshine Service" when I'd just had a baby (Katrina, I think).
During her service, one of the saddest moments was during the bereaved husband's painful speech: suddenly their 3yo daughter cried out, "Daddy!" and ran to her father for a sobbing hug. It brought the house down. It just doesn't get sadder than that.
I couldn't take it, and left the service...But as I rushed through the parking lot trying to hold off my tears, I ran into, of all people, the mother of the lost child. She comforted me, and my guilt was overwhelming. This woman of all people, is comforting me?!
Well, I'm happy to say that she went on to have another son, who as far as I know is healthy, and her family is doing well. I'm ashamed to say I don't know about the little girl who lost her mother....she's about Julian's age. Which is 9, today.
But I'm the one who couldn't take someone else losing their child, or someone else losing their mother. I didn't even know these people all that well.
Now my own life with my own children has been suddenly cut in half. I don't know if what I feel is grief or loss. The feeling of trauma is more from the past, more insidious, seeping out from what I endured over the years leading up to this -- but the loss is more immediate.
It's not a complete loss like at those funeral services -- my children are still alive and healthy and happy. Is it just my grief about my loss then? Does it make sense to grieve when they're not really gone? Shouldn't I be grateful for the half-life I do get with them? Shouldn't that gratitude push away my grief about losing half their lives?
I couldn't take attending a service for an acquaintance's loss of a son, or stick one out for the loss of an acquaintance. How on earth would I ever survive a true loss of one of my own children?
Today, I just learned of another friend's marriage ending, and I'm in a deep funk on his behalf. This man was so devoted, so adoring -- he cherished his wife and family, something I barely dared to long for, knowing it wasn't possible. If his family couldn't make it, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Maybe my former partner was right that there is something wrong with me. Maybe my emotional needs are excessive as he said, and my feelings and reactions can be explained by the various syndromes and disorders he diagnosed me with. Everyone else was able to stand those funeral services, but I couldn't. And then there are the dreams...intense, short, clear, vivid, starkly symbolic. Recently I had a dream of watching a wedding band slip off my finger and roll away, and I wasn't able to catch it. Ouch. Do my reactions to painful events cross the line into disturbed, syndromatic? I always thought they were just strong reactions.
A onetime close friend said to me, upon learning of my family's ending as I did via Facebook, "At least you get some time to yourself now!" Is that really how simply people see this? I think that was a little insensitive -- what a thing to say to a mother about to lose her children. But maybe I'm too close to it all.
Are my feelings of grief and loss "too" strong to be merely reactions, and cross the line into disturbed? Would anyone say that to my friend as he is losing his family? If he cries in pain or or throws something in agony, will he receive sympathy or diagnosis? Do I take this all too seriously? What's "too" seriously?
I guess the answers are irrelevant. My feelings -- strong, valid, twisted, sick or not -- are there, regardless of what's "right" or "wrong" or if I'm in need of "help" as I was told many times. Today, I'm deeply sad for my friend's family ending....and intensely missing my beloved son on his 9th birthday. I think that's worth a tear or two.