“You are so good at including her. I feel like we don’t do enough,” she muttered with a sheepish expression and pain in her eyes. I had just described to a fellow loss mother one of the ways in which my husband and I weave our deceased infant daughter’s presence into our daily lives. As this friend of mine stood before me, her body language spoke volumes; she was questioning herself and certainly feeling inferior. She, too, had lost an infant, and in a single breath, she both praised our efforts and chastised her own.
In the wake of our daughter’s death, my husband and I began seeking “loss friends” in hope of finding camaraderie with other parents who had outlived their children. In what can only be described as bittersweet, we quickly discovered that we were far from alone, that even locally, we are just one of many families learning how to live without their children.
As we have built relationships within this community, we have come to admire the myriad of ways in which loss families choose to honor their children.
But beside this admiration lives temptation – to make comparisons, to feel guilt or pressure when other parents are honoring their children in ways that we are not. How easy it is to feel that we are not doing “enough”.
But what does this mean exactly? What qualifies as “enough”?
I grappled with these questions for quite some time. Particularly in the early days of my grief journey, I worried about the exact sentiment my friend had described – feeling as though we had fallen short.
It had been over two years since my daughter’s death when I had this conversation with my friend. I was genuinely surprised to learn of her fears, as, ironically, I had always admired the things that this mother had done in honor of her son. She and her husband had done things that I could not imagine mustering the ambition to pursue. And yet in her eyes, her larger scale efforts paled in comparison to the small, day-to-day ways in which we remember our daughter.
Since becoming a loss mom, I have observed families choosing grand gestures in the names of their children, such as founding charities or raising money for relevant causes. Some pursue artistic callings; some dedicate their remaining life’s work to others touched by child loss. And still, others are perfectly content to remember their children privately, honoring them in ways that are invisible to others.
Speaking with my friend that day inspired a sort of epiphany for me. I realized that it matters not whether I choose to remember my daughter silently or boldly, nor whether I serve others in her name or simply find a way to just be. It does not matter if anyone else can see how we honor her.
What does matter is that we tend to our own hearts, that we find what feels comfortable to us.
We need to allow ourselves the freedom to grieve our children in our own manner, without the weight of guilt or comparison or pressure. We have endured enough as loss parents. Let’s free ourselves from self-doubt. Let’s remember that the love we have for our children is big, no matter the size of our gestures.
Rather than asking if we are doing “enough”, let’s ask if we are taking care of ourselves today.
Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash
Sarah Burg is a wife, writer, and mother of three beautiful children. Following a heroic battle with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), Sarah’s second daughter, Willow Grace, died in her arms shortly after birth in June 2016. Willow’s death has transformed Sarah into a writer with a reason, and she hopes to offer healing and kinship to the child loss community through her words. Sarah also blogs at The Rising (www.sarahjburg.com), where she explores life after loss.