“Will it always hurt like this?”
Those words, my husband asked in shaky breath, as we stood by our son’s casket. He was looking into the eyes of another child loss couple, who’d lost their daughter years and years before.
A silent pause. They looked at each other, toward us, to the floor. No words. But the man’s eyes told the truth his voice couldn’t speak.
The truth about child loss is that you will always grieve, there will forever be a void – a hole, where they once were. The truth is it is the darkest pain you’ll ever face.
You will spend what feels like an eternity in a cloud of sadness. The weight of it will be tangible, heavy, burdensome. The truth is you will cry more than ever before -and maybe ever again- in your life.
There will be days you won’t want to get out of bed. Facing reality will be too difficult. Sleep becomes both a gift and a torture. Dreams are the only place you see them now. But nightmares come too. The truth is you’ll never sleep the same again.
People will surprise you. Their words will hurt and heal you. They will let you down. You will lose friends. You will connect with other loss parents the moment you discover the shared grief. You will avoid people, confuse some and cling to others. The truth is relationships become more difficult, but all the more precious.
Everything will be compared to before. You’ll live in both worlds, when they were here and what life could’ve been. And sometimes you’ll get lost in the now. The truth is you’ll never stop wondering.
You’ll break over the little things because you’re too consumed with holding together the big things. Spilled milk might send you to the floor. You’ll forget things too, like paying bills or even what day of the week it is. You will feel as if you could crumble away any moment. But people will keep saying how strong you are. The truth is you’ve never felt weaker.
Time becomes your enemy and eventually your friend. In the beginning, time is a thief. Time hisses with every tick. You mentally will time to cease. Everything is remembered in time. One day, one week, one month, one year. And you will never stop counting. But the truth is time really does heal.
There will be guilt for every first – after. You will laugh and instantly feel sick, violated. It will feel foreign in your throat. Laughter will be awkward, even painful, and then it won’t. The truth is laughter will be more welcome than you can believe.
Triggers are never what you expect. You’ll brace yourself for an expected low and get through it. And then find yourself sobbing in the grocery store because you forgot your child was gone and bought something for them out of habit. The truth is there is no way to prepare for all triggers.
Some days will feel like starting over. Grief is like walking on a treadmill, in that sometimes you work very hard but get nowhere. Phases don’t follow a perfect path. Some days all progress is gone. But the truth is one step forward and two steps back is still movement.
The truth is you are forever changed. You will never be the same. There will be times you don’t recognize yourself.
You will appreciate more. Moments matter, every one. Sunrises are breathtaking. Joy is possible. The truth is you will gain more perspective about life because of death.
The truth is, child loss is unique. Everyone grieves and heals differently. You’ll learn to empathize more, relate where it brings it you comfort, and forgive yourself when you don’t meet another’s standards.
Child loss is…everything and nothing. Impossible to summarize or fully explain. Life-altering. And that is the truth.