You are my ‘would-be’ child, you who would have turned five (four | three) last week. The children from Kindergarten would have celebrated with you in the morning. The rest of our family would have visited in the afternoon. We would be singing Happy Birthday to you and you would have impatiently ripped open your presents and whooped in joy.
Excitement would be here, given that you just started Kindergarten two weeks ago. You would say ‘I’m a big girl now’. I would walk with you and your sister to Kindergarten every day and I’d pick you up before lunch. Your sister would fight with you over the toys you both want to play with at the very same time. Your Kindergarten teacher would have two sets of identical twins in her class this year! You and your sister would each talk to one of the twin boys that live just a few doors down our street, and soon you would walk to Kindergarten with them, holding hands. There would not be one Kindergarten child missing this year.
Both of you would want my attention, often probably at the same time. It wouldn’t always be easy. Both of you talking at the same time would fry my brain. Your sister would have someone to play with and talk to, someone to stay awake with or wake up in the morning. You would share your toys and books and – of course – also fight over them and throw them around in anger.
You would love sweets, especially lollies and Gummibears. I would hear you scream for ice cream and say ‘mmmmh’ when eating homemade chocolate cake. Your favorite meal would be spaghetti. If you could, you would start the day eating an ice cream and drinking cordial. On special occasions you’d be equally happy if Daddy would make you banana pancakes. At any chance you would want to lick the bowl when I was preparing a cake. But then you would dislike brushing teeth not matter the time of the day.
Mostly I would hug and kiss you, my child, I would hold your hand and feel your soft skin. I would brush your curly locks and bear your screams for me to stop because the brush pulls on the knots. You would want me to braid your hair or make pony or piggy tails.
Oh, my dear ‘would-be’ child…
I would do anything to have sleepless nights, difficult discussions or an angry face telling me to go away if I could…
Anything to have you kick me at night sleeping in the same bed when you’re sick or scared of the monsters under your bed…
Anything to see you learn to ride your bike, even if it meant you’d fall and many times I’d pick you up and I’d sooth your bruises…
Sadly you’re my would-be child, the one that lives in my heart.
The would-be five year old but forever three days old.
Even if you’re not seen by the world out there, you are with me every day, in my heart, in my thoughts, in my dreams, in my sleepless nights, in my quite moments.
You belong to me as I belong to you.
You are part of me and I am part of you.
Your Mama, always.
* I’ve previously heard that some psychologists recommend bereaved parents ‘do not grow up your child in your imagination’. My personal experience and that as a grief counsellor is that it is absolutely normal and common to do so. As painful as those ‘would-be’ thoughts can be, they are also a normal way for parents to live out their dreams and hopes of a life that was cut short, the would-be life of their child.
“It is normal for parents to report that they having an ongoing relationship with their child through their memories and mental life.” (Worden J.W. 2002)
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Nathalie Himmelrich the author of a number of resource books for bereaved parents. As a relationship coach, grief recovery expert and bereaved mother herself she believes that relationships (intimate and to other support people) are the foundation for a healthy grieving experience. She is also the founder of the Grieving Parents Support (GPS) Network and the May We All Heal peer support group.