We are well over a year past Arthur’s passing, and life has become more normal again. I enjoy doing things together as a family and with others. I have a good time being spontaneous from week to week. I cook meals. I delight in my girls. I laugh a lot. The intense moments of grief that marked Arthur’s pregnancy and shortly after his death aren’t as commonplace in my life these days. We are past all the calendar “firsts” without him with us. While there is the occasion I am unexpectedly hit by the grief-train, I have generally experienced the truth that time does heal.
But it does not completely heal.
The pain is not so sharp anymore. And it’s not because I have “moved on” or think less of Arthur. No. I still think of him every day. It’s just that the grief has changed.
I am currently a stay-at-home mom, but that doesn’t accurately describe my day. I like to get out and do things – go to the park, run errands, participate in church bible studies, hang out with other mommas in their homes, visit Daddy at his office, take the girls to do fun things. There is usually one day out of the week that I actually “stay at home” for the day, and even if we are, we are outside walking around our neighborhood. I am extroverted. I love it. But the very social interactions I enjoy are also the source of my everyday grief I experience now.
Other moms at the park or gymnastics, the sweet old lady working at Chick-fil-a, cashiers at the grocery store, strangers standing next to me in line somewhere for something. It is nearly impossible for them to NOT say something when I have a curly-head, blue-eyed, tutu-wearing two year-old and smiley (or sleeping) newborn in tow. Interactions with new people always lead to questions or comments that start a conversation between strangers:
“They are adorable. Don’t you love having girls?”
“Two and a half years, that’s a good age gap.”
“Daddy’s quite outnumbered at your house.”
“Two young ones, you’ve got your hands full.”
And the one I seem to get almost every day in some shape or form – “How precious. Are these your only two?”
The very questions I would probably ask people myself are ones that now pose for me an internal dialogue with myself.
Do I mention that I have a son? Do I tell them that there is actually a sibling in between them? That Daddy’s only slightly outnumbered? That my hands could be even more full?
Do I have the time to tell them the truth? It’s just an innocent question, would they even want to hear it? Or would it be easier to smile and move on? I just came in here to pick up something quickly, we’ve got nap time to get home to. Do I have enough time? I’m tired, do I really want to go there right now?
I wish it were easier. Maybe it would be if I had a shirt that said, “I have a son – he’s no longer with us, but is still a part of our family.” Then people could just know and we could avoid the awkwardness of their lighthearted questions bringing a few tears as I mention his existence in our lives. But that is not how life works.
But just as it was in the thick of heavy grief, as I felt deeply and pushed through it, I also experienced measures of joy. While it brings me a small amount of pain to have these interactions almost daily, I have found that it too has many benefits:
- It feels good to speak the truth. I have never regretted answering those questions truthfully.
- It honors Arthur’s existence, albeit shorter than we had hoped.
- It helps me to move through the grief and heal, as opposed to ignoring it or stuffing those feelings.
- It opens the doorway to genuine conversation about the hard things in life.
Telling people that these girls have a brother, that I have a son who was born, lived, and died has brought incredible depth to my conversations. It brings about empathy and compassion. It even brings connection as some people open up about things that otherwise would have taken years to know.
We bought some Girl Scout cookies from some neighborhood girls, and upon delivery of our Samoas and Tagalongs, when asked about my kids, naming Arthur among my children led to the revelation by the mom and child of an older sibling who was stillborn 12 years ago. How they haven’t forgotten him and how much they miss him. And all I thought I was getting that day was some overpriced cookies. But I stood there on my porch, having the first real conversation with this family, with tears in our eyes as we talked about our sons, their names, and the memories we have of them.
Walking this road of a parent who has lost a child is a complicated one, but has brought more depth to my life and interactions than I ever could have imagined.