I recently got into an argument with my sister and something she said really stuck with me. Without going into every detail of our quarrel, I will tell you that I told her that she often “played the victim.” After my declaration she retorted by saying something to the effect of “isn’t that you?” Funny, that even though my comment to her was by no means a compliment, and I understood why it offended and upset her, I was still especially hurt by what she said. She intended to hurt me and it worked. But, it also made me stop to think about why it hurt so much.
Do you feel like a victim? After little time and consideration, my own answer to that question was, and continues to be, “yes.” Is it bad to feel that way? The dictionary defines a victim as “a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency.” In a previous post I remember stating that losing your child feels like a natural disaster, a visual that goes hand-in-hand with destruction, so it seems quite fitting to me. My sister intended to lash out at me and hurt me by calling me a victim—she threw it back at me as an insult—but losing my baby son does make me a victim. I did suffer something disastrous that left me with permanent injury, both physically and mentally. I feel it every day. I realize now that maybe it wasn’t the word “victim” that hurt me at all. Maybe it was that my sister, someone I love, knowingly used the most devastating, heartbreaking, horrifying, sorrowful thing in my life to intentionally attack me. She used the pain I have over the loss of my dead son, the nephew she claims to miss and mourn to her friends, to hurt me. I don’t even know what to do with that, as I am completely offended and disgusted. After all, our argument began when I shared that I was upset that she didn’t contact me in a any way, shape, or form on his birthday, the day that we lost him. Was it wrong for me to be disappointed over not getting a call? A “thinking of you/Rylan” text? A reply to the email we sent to only our closest family and friends about what we did that day? Something? Anything?
When you lose a child, is it too much to expect anyone to remember, care, or mourn with you—even just one day a year? Sometimes its hard feeling like the world has moved on—away from our pain, our sadness—away from our baby. I sometimes think it’s easier for others to let go when a baby dies—especially when they are stillborn. To others, that baby was only an idea. There is nothing tangible to make them remember or care or feel the way we do. It is different for parents, especially for mothers, I think. We all believed in our babies, in the possibility of our growing families. Dreamt of the lives we were going to share together. We felt their kicks. Listened to their heartbeats, long before they went quiet. We prepared for their arrival. As mothers, we carried them with us everywhere we went. We shared meals, conversations, music. Our sleeping and waking hours for months. We grew together. We shared our love and our lives—our every days.
On those especially difficult days when people say or do things that hurt me I try to put myself in their shoes. And, some days I get it. It’s hard to know what to say or do for someone when you haven’t “been there.” Sometimes I can slip on those shoes and let it go. Most days I can. But then there are other days where I get tired of putting my own feelings aside and want someone to consider me instead. I want someone to put on my shoes, even if they are beyond uncomfortable. I want a “pass.” I want someone to feel where I’ve been and understand where I am today. I want to be able to put daily responsibilities aside to mourn my baby when I need to, not when it’s convenient.
When you lose a child the hurt and emptiness never goes away. We will long to be parents to our kids forever. The only way to keep a connection to our lost children is to find ways to talk about, remember, and honor them. Most of us will spend a lifetime trying different things to keep their memory alive-in our worlds and in the hearts and minds of those around us. I will never be able to put into words how nice it is to have someone else acknowledge both our son and our experience in even the smallest of ways. I think it helps to balance the emptiness and loneliness that goes hand in hand with loss and tragedy. No one can ever say or do anything to make me feel completely at peace with Rylan’s death—to fill the hole in my heart—I just want to feel like I’m not completely alone in all of this. It’s really all I need.