The death of a child changes everything. You never know when you’re going to walk on a landmine, setting off grief and leaving you sobbing. Even books, television, and movies are forever changed. I’ve wondered if I should start the “Bereaved Moms Book Club” just so everyone knows what to avoid—or at least knows to stock up on Kleenex before diving in.
**WARNING: Spoilers ahead**
Joe and I went to the Dominican Republic for a little getaway awhile back. I was sitting on the beach reading The Girl On the Train. One of the characters accidentally kills her child after falling asleep in the tub with the baby on her chest. Did not see that coming. I found myself fleeing my beach chair and running to the bathroom with tears pouring down my face. I know what it’s like to feel the weight of your dead child against your chest. The shock of it. The fear. The inability to truly process what is happening at that moment.
Related: Hope, Despair, and Being Honest
I read the Harry Potter series before Zoey. Looking back now, I feel like my experience with those books would be completely different if I’d read them after. When I read the passage about one of the characters dying as his mother looks on, I tried to empathize with the mom. That moment broke my heart, but I couldn’t truly understand and feel her pain. But now I can imagine the wail that must have emanated from deep within her soul as she cried out to her son. I can feel the convulsions her body would make as she held his dead body because my body has made the same ones.
Before my latest trip, I was choosing books for the flights and looked through descriptions and read reviews. I chose Little Fires Everywhere. I thought I was choosing a safe route. I was mistaken. It hits all the triggers. Abortion. Child death. Infertility. A terrible and tragic adoption situation. Probably not the best choice as we’re filling out our adoption paperwork!
I’m careful to focus on separating fiction from reality but the trauma of losing my daughter can’t always be constrained. Pain has a way of resurfacing. The memories I’ve tried so hard to push back have a way of fighting to the front. Just know you’re not alone if you find yourself crying into your greasy, popcorn stained napkins in the movie theater. You’re not alone if the pages of your novel are tear-stained and wrinkled. You’re not alone if you’ve found yourself in a bathroom on a beach sobbing over a book. Books, movies, and television will never just be an escape for you anymore. Now you know too much. Now it can’t just be a story because those stories are too close to home.
Related: The Thing About Triggers
My husband and I have a vacation planned to celebrate our anniversary and I’m planning my reading list. I have a tendency to be a bit of an emotional cutter and will likely choose poorly again. So, if you see a girl sitting in her cozy beach chair under a palm tree wiping tears from her eyes, you’ll know it’s me.