On the 4th anniversary of my youngest son’s death, I’m sharing this piece beautifully written by Michelle Haxby with those of you that have lost a child. Sadly, I know quite a few of you.
You and I have never met, but yet we visit the same place every day. We both walk down the same unguided dark path. We cling to memories as if it’s our life support. Our minds drift off to that same place, the place that temporarily distracts us from our grief.
You’re the one person who knows the way my stomach feels — the unhealed knot in the center of my gut. You know the hollowness in my heart. Your tears are the same shape as mine, and they roll off the cheek without warning. You smile just like me. It’s a smile that has been perfected so others would stop wondering about your state of health and when or if you would pull through this.
Our deep exhale has been performed countless times, since the reminder to breathe is still necessary.
Only you understand the box in the closet where we keep the little things — the items that most people wouldn’t find a connection to. But we do. We can find that connection. Maybe it’s a ribbon, a stone or a piece of paper someone had written your child’s name on. An article of clothing that was last worn as we try desperately to preserve their smell.
This isn’t the same box with all the newborn items in it. This is a different box than the cutely decorated one that holds baby blankets, hospital bands, old pacifiers and first haircut clippings. This box is kept much further back in the closet, almost hidden as if it’s a secret.
You are the only one in this world who can look me in the eyes and say, “I get it.” Dear friend, how I wish you didn’t get it.
Like clockwork, I lie awake in my bed every night. I know you’re probably doing the same. As lonely as I feel sometimes, I know you’re feeling lonely, too. As indescribable as my pain is, I know you understand. It’s like a silent language that neither one of us wants to speak.
Our children’s stories are most likely different. The paths that led us here are probably nothing alike. It’s what happened in the after that forever bonds us now. It’s the pain of burying our child that makes our scars the same and our paths cross.
I wouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone, but yet to know you exist is somewhat of a selfish comfort for me. It’s the only place I find acceptance — to know that someone out there is just like me. I know with you that my tears aren’t measured and my sadness is never judged. The length of the time I grieve will never be rushed, all the wrong things will never be said and you understand sometimes silence is enough.
My sadness will never make you uncomfortable because our words fit together like a puzzle. Even though I’m a stranger, my heartache brings you to tears. You live with that forever emptiness, too.
So as I pray my nightly prayers, I always include you — the mother I’ll never meet. You’re the other person out there who shares my same grief. I hope you find some comfort in knowing you’re not alone and that there’s someone out there like you.