Today is International Bereaved Mother’s Day. In a million years I never thought I would be a part of this group, but here I sit, nearly 8 years into my bereavement of my own daughter. And my grief is still as real today as it was all those years ago when Olivia took her last breath.
You would think that with time, the grief has gotten easier. Or less heavy. But in reality, it never really lifts. It just changes. Sometimes it’s a little bit lighter, but other times it comes in like a wave, and without warning, it knocks me back down like a tidal wave.
When Olivia first died I went into shock. I was there. I knew she had died. But I simply couldn’t allow myself to feel the magnitude of losing her because it would have overtaken me. So instead of grieving, I went into survival mode. I was determined to love the rest of my family well, and to try to make all of them okay so that our family could survive the loss.
That survival mode went on for years. I would continually live almost in a dream, trying to make everyone else okay, while never actually dealing with my own grief or my own feelings of loss.
It wasn’t until I met and married my now husband that I finally had the space, love and support I needed to deal with the loss of my daughter. And let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty! Thank God he’s a patient man who was determined to put the pieces back together for the three very broken people he found in my children and I.
For about a year the grief and the brokenness were almost too much. I was exhausted! I felt like I was drowning in it, and I didn’t know if I would ever be able to come up for air. But with a lot of patience, prayer, and time spent healing, it did get better. And I can say now that I live in a much more real place with my grief, and I no longer try to stifle it like I did in my earlier years.
Today, I am 7.5 years into this loss of a lifetime. And I am still actively grieving. I miss Olivia every single day. And I am still dealing with all the ways her loss has affected me and the other members of my family.
I won’t pretend for a moment to have all the answers for how to live successfully with grief. There are days when I think I’m doing okay, and there are days when I still need to spend a day or two in bed just allowing myself to feel the weight of this huge loss and all the sadness that goes with it. There are also days when I don’t have the luxury of getting to do that, and instead those around me sometimes pay the price for the tornado of grief that’s spinning around inside of me.
I wish I had a lot more than 20 months with my daughter. I wish I had a 9 year old girl right now who was growing up into a beautiful young woman. I miss having my mini-me and I’m sad for all the experiences I will never get the chance to share with her.
Today and every day, take the time to pray for and love on the bereaved mothers around you. You may not even realize some of them exist. You may think they are so strong from all they’ve experienced that they don’t actually need you. But I am here to tell you, they do. They just won’t be very likely to ask for it. They have probably learned a lot about suffering in silence and solidarity because it’s a loss unlike any other. But they shouldn’t have to keep living like that. Give them a hug. Invite them to coffee. Take a little time to learn about the child they lost and maybe even a little bit about the woman they were before they became a bereaved mother. You have no idea how much that would mean for both of you.