I know you haven’t seen me much the last six months. I just want to tell you why, and that I’m sorry, really sorry, if my silence has hurt you.
You’ve done everything right, as if there’s a protocol for “friend who has lost child.” You haven’t said anything offensive, or done anything that hurt my feelings. After losing a child, my pain scale has been skewed. Honestly, I can’t think of anything anyone could do to me that would even register as hurtful. It’s trite, but I can honestly say, “Friend, it’s not you, it’s me.”
I worry that my presence will be a reminder of what I brought into your life. Had we not become friends, my loss wouldn’t be your sorrow as well. You would never have needed to tell your children about something so awful. You wouldn’t have had The Hard Conversation. At first, I wanted to hear stories of where you were when you found out, or when you told your children about their friend. It made me feel like my son was valued.
And then … then I just felt guilty. Had you not known my boy, if our children hadn’t spent time caring about each other and having kid fun together, you wouldn’t need to be comforting yours. You wouldn’t feel sad for me. When I come to mind, your first thought wouldn’t be, “I just can’t imagine.” I felt guilty for bringing this burden into your life.
Selfishly, it’s difficult to see my boy’s friends doing their boy things. I see them, or see pictures of them: celebrating birthdays, spending time with their families, running around in too-short pants because they’re growing so fast. I see them accomplishing things, making you proud, and think, “That should be me. That should be my son. That should be my moment.” I see a lifetime stretching out ahead of them and grieve every moment I won’t have with my son. Your joy is hard for me.
I’m afraid of making people uncomfortable. I want to be normal, do normal things, but there’s the elephant in the living room that we all have to step around. Will we be the awkward dinner guests, pretending to have fun while everybody silently wonders if we’re OK, if we’re thinking of him? I don’t want you to have to choose your words carefully, nervous you’ll say something that would inflame my still gaping wound.
And not to play the martyr card, but a lot of days are still really, really hard. It takes most of my energy to get dressed, get the kids where they’re supposed to be, remember where I put my *&$%ing car keys, fix dinner, try to clean, be available to my husband – all the normal mommy things we all do, every day. Holding enough of myself in reserve to have an adult conversation takes planning when I’m stumbling through each day as it comes.
Today, though, I was reminded of a few things. It’s Easter Sunday, friend. Today is the day we celebrate hope. Today is the day we do the eggs and the empty tomb to remind us there is new life. I think about the confusion, and then the joy, of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb. To know the person they loved so much was alive? What would that have been like, having that grief obliterated with the hope they would see Jesus again?
In my church, the Roman Catholic Church, the mass of Easter Vigil starts outside in the darkness. We hear the story of God bringing life from the dark, empty universe. We light the Paschal fire, and pass that light from candle to candle, slowly filling the sanctuary. We hear the ancient chant of the Exsultet, telling us the story of God’s covenant with His people. And then … then the lights come up as the bells are rung and we sing the Gloria. This Saturday night when I heard those bells, my heart soared. For the first time in six months, I felt a stirring of hope. Celebrating that my Lord was victorious over death reminded me that my son isn’t really dead.
I was also reminded of my place in His infinite plan. It’s not that my suffering, or yours, is meaningless. We just don’t see the bigger context of this moment in God’s Eternal Story. And your love for my family shouldn’t bring me guilt, but gratitude. I’m still sorry my family’s loss is part of your story, too. I’m sad that as humans we have to experience this grief. But I also can’t assume to know what you’re thinking, or to know why our stories have intersected.
Please know that I think about you all the time. I want to reach out, and I fail. I know that you would be happy to chat, to hang out, to visit, to listen. I know you would. I know you wonder how we’re doing. I know you think about my son often. I know you pray for us. And I know that today, I’m a little more hopeful that it will get better. Thank you for your friendship, and thank you for being patient. I am grateful, more than you know.
This. This is why I have hope: