I’ve had an interaction that has sent me reeling. You know, the kind of conversation that leaves you examining every inch of your life and overturning every thought in your mind. The questions that were asked of me were the most difficult questions I’ve been asked in my journey. I spent some time heavily immersed in self-doubt and asking myself those very same questions: “Do I dwell on Dorothy’s death?” “Have I let negativity swallow me whole?” “Have I lost the ability to recognize goodness in the world?” “Have I let Dorothy’s death define who I am?” I felt like I was drowning in the realization that I was doing “this” all wrong. So, I took a deep breath and dove into reflection.
“Do I dwell on Dorothy’s death?”
In the literal sense of the word, yes. I do dwell on Dorothy’s death. The definition of the word dwell means to keep the attention directed on or upon a topic OR to speak or write insistently on a topic. I definitely do that.
But, I ask you, what parent doesn’t dwell on their child? What parent’s mind is not focused their child? What parent does not speak insistently about their own amazing, incredible child? Am I not to be afforded that same privilege because Dorothy isn’t here with me?
I’m quite comfortable with how much I share about Dorothy and I guarantee I will dwell on Frances as well. I also like to think I figuratively dwell in Dorothy’s memory. Her memory is a comforting blanket that I like to snuggle into and live inside of.
“Have I let negativity swallow me whole?”
In a way, yes, I have. This will come as a surprise to no one, but there is a lot of negativity associated with the death of a child, or any loved one for that matter. There is nothing positive about watching your daughter be carried away by a nurse, knowing you will never look upon her face again. There is no positive aspect to signing the paperwork of what to do with your daughter’s remains. There are no positive memories associated with returning home without your child in your arms. It’s a negative experience. And in order to find the gifts that Dorothy’s death has left us with, Mike and I had to walk through the negative. We had to let it consume us and we had to consume it. That’s how we got through to the side where the joy could be found.
“Have I lost the ability to recognize goodness in the world?” Absolutely not. Anyone who truly knows me that underneath my cynicism and raised eyebrows is a person who loves her life. There is so much goodness in this world: watching my students the first time they realize they are reading, when Edie shows me her furry belly so that I may rub it, the cover of an Ina Garten cookbook, the way the sun shines on the beautiful floors of my new home, anytime Mike smiles at me in that way, or the opening credits of a John Hughes movie. These and so many other moments of goodness are in my life. I also see the goodness in others and I am constantly thinking of ways to recognize the goodness of those who have supported us. I have seen your goodness, your kindness, and your love.
“Have I let Dorothy’s death define who I am?”
Yes and I’m okay with that. I will never stop feeling the pain of my daughter’s death and I’ve accepted that. I will always feel pain, because I will always feel love. My love for Dorothy hurts because I have to settle for sending it out into the void instead of wrapping her up and whispering it into her ear. She will never see me write my love in a birthday card or hear me profess my love at the end of a phone call. That’s why it hurts so much.
It hurts so much because I’ve never seen my daughter with her eyes open. She never felt my kisses on her forehead or the weight of my arms around her tiny body. I have all this love for her that she will never consciously know but that won’t stop it.
Dorothy’s birth and death are a part of who I am. Dorothy made me a mother; a bereaved mother, but a mother all the same. Dorothy opened the door to a world I didn’t want to enter, but now that I’m here I owe it to her and myself to live in this world honestly and openly. I know that not everyone agrees with my beliefs on this. I know they may seem extreme. I am not asking people to agree with me or to understand.
The feeling of losing a child is something you can’t understand unless you’ve been there. I don’t need people to understand exactly how I’m feeling. I just need the support of those who are willing to love me and care for me when I’m not easy to love or care for. The people who support me are the ones who never leave me doubting the way that I love my daughter. I am lucky to have them.
Diving into reflection isn’t easy. You aren’t always sure what will float or what will sink you. But, I will say that it’s a lot easier to stick your feet in when you have someone waiting for you when you surface.