I remember the first couple of weeks and months after saying goodbye to my precious Jonah at 30 weeks gestation due to a heart condition as extremely difficult and filled with so many ups and downs, I felt like a marionette doll living someone else’s life, because there’s no way that much sadness could be…
Parents today feel a lot of pressure. We try to make the right choices from the very beginning. From pregnancy care decisions to what our babies eat, where they sleep, what they watch or don’t watch, etc. The list could go on and on. We all want to make the best choices we can and be the best parent we can be to our children. Whether you have other living children already, or go on to have other children after your loss, parenting after losing a child adds a new level to the pressure we feel as parents. And with the pressure of parenting after loss, comes guilt when we feel like we aren’t measuring up.
Parenting After Losing a Child
As bereaved parents, we wanted the children we lost so badly. We wanted to parent them and watch them grow, and we would have given anything to have that opportunity. After losing a child we are painfully aware of what a privilege it is to be a parent.
As bereaved parents, we put tremendous pressure on ourselves to be perfect parents. We wanted to be a mother or father so badly and we feel like if we are given the opportunity to do so, we have to get it right, all the time.
When parenting after losing a child, we feel like we should never take a moment of it for granted, and always feel nothing but grateful. We know firsthand how lucky we are to have healthy, thriving children with us. We put pressure on ourselves to maintain these high standards of parenting because we know what a blessing it is to get to parent at all.
Parenting is amazing but hard
Losing Aiden changed my perspective on every aspect of my life, including what a gift the opportunity to be a parent is. But the reality is, no matter how grateful I feel, no one can be a perfect parent all the time. I try my best and give it my all, but no one is perfect. Parenting is hard. It is an amazingly, beautiful job. But it is hard. Parenting after losing a child is even harder.
I think all loss parents would agree that we hug our kids a little longer and a little tighter. We give them a few extra kisses when we tuck them in at night. And reflect a little more often how lucky we are to have them, that we get to be their mom or dad. We realize what a miracle it is that they were born healthy and are thriving. Loss parents love a little deeper because we know the pain of losing a child. We love all our children, those in our arms and in our hearts, with all the love we have. But being a parent is still hard.
Putting pressure on ourselves when parenting after losing a child
After Aiden died I wanted so desperately for the chance to be a mother. When I got pregnant with my daughter, I promised myself that if this baby was born healthy and lived, I would never complain about how hard parenting is, how tired I was, or how much I needed some time to myself. If I ever had the chance, I would be the best mother ever. Never taking a moment of it for granted.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to be a mom to my two living children. I know how lucky I am to have two healthy children I get to call mine. Every day I try hard to be a good parent because I know how precious these little lives are that I have the privilege to raise. I know how easily that life can slip away because I had to watch the life slip away from Aiden. I try hard to be a good parent, but I’m not a perfect parent. Nowhere near perfect.
There are no perfect parents
Just because I feel so incredibly grateful for my children, doesn’t mean parenting is easy.
Just because I’m grateful to have children alive to wake me in the middle of the night, doesn’t mean I don’t get tired.
Being grateful beyond words for my healthy children doesn’t mean I never lose my patience or feel frustrated.
Being a bereaved mother has given me a deep sense of appreciation for my children and the incredible experience of being a mother. The sweet moments watching my babies grow and thrive still takes my breath away on a regular basis.
But parenting is still hard. Parenting after losing a child is even harder. I have hard moments and hard days. Ones that test my abilities and my limits. I still make mistakes. I lose my patience, mess up, say the wrong thing, react the wrong way.
Let go of the guilt, hold on to grace instead
But I’m trying to let go of the pressure and guilt of parenting after losing a child, and give myself grace instead.
Grace to apologize when I make a mistake and try to learn from it. Grace to ask for support or a break when I need it. Giving myself the grace to fall, but get up and try again tomorrow. Grace to know that even though I am trying my hardest, I’ll still make mistakes. And grace to remind myself that my children know how loved they are, even on the days I feel like I failed.
Bereaved parents carry so much pain and hurt already. We don’t need to cause ourselves more hurt by trying to be perfect parents in honour of the children we lost. Then feel guilty when we don’t meet our own unattainable standards.
I am practicing giving myself grace because I know I’m doing the best I can. I think we all deserve a little more grace. Especially when navigating the difficult path of parenting after losing a child.
Related Post: Grief with a Heaping Side of Guilt