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Life Chez Dee Episode #119: My normal

I sat today, as I would normally do, to write a piece. I’d got a few ideas of where my writing would take me today, but as I opened the computer, there was the face of my beautiful boy, Edward. I’d posted on social media about it being bereaved parents’ month, and written a quote from another grieving mother about what was normal after your child dies.

"Normal is telling the story of your child's death as if it were an everyday, commonplace activity, and then seeing the horror in someone's eyes at how awful it sounds. And yet realizing it has become a part of your 'normal'."

What is normal after your child dies? I read that question out loud again to myself, and just stopped. The words played over in my head, haunting my thoughts. Normal is probably the one word I have not actually associated my life with since Edward died.

To normalise is to belittle some of the enormity of it, and there really is no room for any belittling of child loss. The enormity of child loss seeps and oozes and permeates into every single part of your being, every aspect of your life, every encounter you have, every place you go, every birthday, Christmas, or other event, every single normal day. The normal, is so very far from that.

Yesterday stopped me in my tracks too. Again, I went to post something on social media to not only remember Edward, but to keep his memory alive, break the silence surrounding child loss, but also acknowledge bereaved parents’ month. I thought about tagging some of my friends who have lost children, who sadly share the same pain as we do. I began to write their names. More and more names written, and it wasn’t long before there was a huge list before me. I actually turned cold; I felt physically sick. I stopped writing names, and hit that backspace button to delete them all.

There were too many, and there were even more names, of people who I knew that weren’t on social media. How strange it is that all these people have become part of my circle of friends and acquaintances. I haven’t actively sought out those who have lost children, I haven’t made it my mission to connect and share stories, and tears. Have these people drifted in to my life for a reason? Or are there really so very many people sadly living each normal every day without their precious child.

All these children were special, and loved. All these children died. All of us enduring the heartache, all of us debilitated with pain. All of us living each day without, and aching … yearning for our children. All wondering what if, all wondering what would be.

And yet all our children were different, all were unique. All of us have a different story to tell, a different experience, different circumstances. All our children were of different ages. All of us dealing with the pain for others in the family, our husband or wife, our children, our parents. All of us experiencing the pain, but all differing in our experience of it. All of us searching for answers, some of which come, some don’t, and the answers themselves very different.

We smile as our friends talk about the milestones their children have reached, and we delight in their achievements for them, but then sadness tinges our thoughts. Our heart breaks that our child is missing from every important event or occasion in our lives. We post pictures of our children, and explain why the same ones are posted time and again. We know you’re fed up of seeing the same pictures, but we don’t have any new ones; we only have these memories, and that is all.

We understand life carries on, but our confusion and our hurt don’t understand this, and we live with our heartache, and our sadness, alongside everything else which carries on. And we carry on for ourselves, and for our families, and in honour of our missing child. And so it is. This is how it will be, not for days and weeks, but for months and years … forever …we love our children, and that love lasts for eternity.

Normal for us is feeling we have to justify ourselves, why we are the way we are, why we’ve done what we’ve done. We even sometimes have to justify our actions around the day our children died, as others search for a rational explanation as to why this happened, looking to see how it could have been prevented, looking to see if there is blame. You don’t need to do this, we do this to ourselves every day. We search and search for answers, trying to make sense, trying to believe the unbelievable, trying to think the unthinkable. And we have broken down every second of those final hours before our child died, and we have replayed them over and over … checking, analysing.

We smile when we are sad; and we’re sad when we smile. Joy and laughter coexist with our sadness and pain. They are one and the same. This is our normal.

We can’t sleep, we can’t eat, we abstain from social gatherings. We sometimes just find it too hard to pretend, or too hard to have one of us missing, or too hard to answer questions. We live and relive the day our children died, and we relive and replay their death, trying to make some semblance of sense out of it.

We love that our children’s names are said, we love visiting the places they loved, or doing the things they enjoyed doing. I love seeing another of my children, wearing their clothes. I love catching a glimpse of my child in the eyes, the smile, the voice, or the swagger of my other children. We want to talk about them, often, in any and every conversation you have with us. We know they died; what we don’t know, and what we need to know, is that they’re remembered.

We want to keep our children’s memory alive. We want to hear your stories, and your memories. We want our children to be remembered, and never forgotten. We want to hear your thoughts; don’t just tell us you think of our child often, tell us about the occasion when they popped into your head.

We agonise as to how to mark the occasions, birthdays, Christmas, the day they died, the day they were buried. We visit their graves, and we deliberate over which flowers to take to them. Again, I have been stopped in my tracks on many occasions, just thinking to myself how wrong it is that I even have to think about buying flowers for my child’s grave. It’s something even a bereaved parent struggles to comprehend.

We are impatient,, we have different perspectives, we have different priorities. We want you to understand, and yet we don’t, because to understand you would have to experience, and that we wish on no one.

All of this is not normal, far from it, it is not the natural order of things, and yet this is normal to us, the bereaved parents.

“Normal is hiding all the things that have become normal for us to feel, so that everyone around us thinks we are normal”.

To all parents who find themselves in this club which no one would ever choose to belong to, I send so much love to you.

My normal is with Edward alongside me, physically absent, but spiritually ever present. Always x

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