Sticks and Stones
“Sticks and stones can hurt my bones but words will never hurt me.”
I recited that rhyme often as a child, and as an adult I repeated it to children I knew. I lived by it’s words – I never let what people said about me interfere with how I lived my life, and I let hurtful words wash right over me.
And then my son died. And words became a weapon so powerful they could knock me right off my feet.
After Aidan’s death, the population of our world divided: The people who supported us, and the people who did not. There are friends and members of our families who have still not said one word to us in the nine months since Aidan’s death. No cards, no flowers, no text messages, phone calls, emails. Nothing.
And there have been other friends and family members who have felt they had the right to judge us, to tell us how to grieve. I have heard many things that I wish I had been spared. Sentences that I know will ring in my ears for a lifetime. I have been told that I need to get over my son dying. That I am not dealing with things properly, that I am not grieving the right way. I have been judged, made to feel ashamed, made to feel abnormal and not good enough, by people who claimed a mysterious right to voice their opinions.
Those people have fallen by the way side, a trail of rubbish discarded down a long and bumpy road. I have chosen to stay close to people who love me, and who love my son. I have chosen to only spend time with those who help me to keep Aidan’s memory alive by talking about him and supporting me in the things I do for him. I wouldn’t say I ever had a multitude of close friends, but I can count them now on two hands. Those people are more precious to me than the world. They have cried with me, laughed with me and grieved with me. They miss him too.
Every grieving Mother deals with the loss of her baby or babies differently. Those who have not suffered a loss can be quick to offer opinions, harsh in their judgements, cruel with their words. They will never really understand the enormity of our loss. They will never really grasp that to lose a child is to lose a lifetime of hopes, dreams and plans. That in losing a child, you have lost the person you were and the person you were going to become.
And for that, I am thankful. I am relieved to be alone in the strength of this grief amongst my family and friends. I am relieved to be able to say that I know very few people who truly understand. But it is beyond my comprehension why anyone would say hurtful words to a grieving mother. I am unable to grasp what possesses people to make judgements and tell us how we should grieve. I have been left behind by many people, I have turned away from many people, and what I know now is this; the people who are absent are not missed.
As I approach bringing Aidan’s little sister into this world, I know that there will be people who will push aside the rocks they have been hiding under and come crawling back to revel in the joy that my daughter will bring. I know that already, she is perceived as a way of ‘moving on’ and ‘getting over’ Aidan, as though he was a chapter of life that could just be erased. But I can not and will not try to erase my son. My love for Aidan is unconditional, unbreakable. It will last for a lifetime. Longer than fragile friendships, longer than the pain of cruel words. It is my love for Aidan that gets me through difficult days and gives me the strength to focus on the wonderful people in my life, rather than the ones who try to bring me down. And when my daughter is born, I will surround her only with people who can celebrate her for the unique little person that she is, whilst recognising that she is the second child in our family. One of two beautiful children, who are loved and cherished, equally.