As 2023 drew to a close, I was once again reminded of the pain that child loss brings. This year, 2024, will be year 5 that Adalyn won’t be here for. I have so many questions about her and often feel as though my mind is spinning as it searches for the answers that can’t be found. Grief is my constant companion. Much like my shadow, it is always there with me, it’s just more visible in certain light. In the last 5 years I’ve become the master of disguise. I can fake a smile, fake a laugh, put on a brave face that can even fool those that know me well. It’s a mechanism of survival. I can physically be in a room with someone and most of the time they have no idea that my brain & my heart are somewhere else far far away. It’s how I cope with the reality that I’ll never be whole again and the reality that Adalyn is never coming back.
When I first lost Adalyn, I remember reading a post in a grief group about it being the 5th anniversary of the loss of her child, and I remember looking at my mom with tears rolling down my face saying, “one day that will be me”. I knew that the day would come when it wouldn’t just be last week or last month since I saw Adalyn, one day it would be 5 years since I last saw her, held her, heard her laugh, or saw her smile. In that moment, 5 years seemed like an eternity, and it was one I had no idea how I was going to survive. June will bring that anniversary for me. It has, in fact, felt like an eternity and it is one that I truthfully don’t know how I’ve survived. It’s been a slow process of living one moment at a time and putting one foot in front of the other. It’s been a journey through the fiery depths of hell, a battle with the devil, a living nightmare, and an utterly painful realization that I will never be whole on this earth again.
The years have brought joy too, but it is not the joy I once knew. That kind of joy only exists in a blissful state of ignorance. Once your world implodes you can never be part of that bliss again. It simply doesn’t exist for someone who has lived the “unlikely” or for someone who is living a life that had defied the “natural order” of things.
Losing your child breaks you in ways you can’t begin to describe. It changes you so much that even you don’t recognize the person you once were, and you struggle to know the person you’ve become. I fight daily to cover up the anger I feel. I’m angry that Adalyn’s life is over, I’m angry that Dane doesn’t know who I am, I’m angry at our justice system for the lack of justice it’s so far managed to provide, I’m angry that child loss doesn’t come with a physical scar so that the rest of the world can know just how broken I truly am, I’m angry at people who want to give advice about how to handle the pain of losing a child but get to tuck theirs in bed at night, but most of all, I’m angry that I can’t control this kind of anger. I fight daily to swallow my tears when triggers lurk everywhere especially as Lilly approaches the age that Adalyn was when I lost her. I struggle to find my connection to this world now. Part of me is forever frozen in the past while another part of me fights to find my place in the present.
Grief has become so familiar to me that at times I am scared that it has become part of my identity. The truth is that it has become a huge part of my identity. It is just as huge a part of my identity as being a mother is. I am a bereaved mother. I will be a bereaved mother for the rest of my life. The soul crushing feeling that it should have been me instead will be mine to carry until my days here are complete. There is no getting over or moving on from the loss of your child. Time cannot fix this; it does not take the pain away. There is no timeline for grieving the loss of your child. Being a bereaved parent means that grief will be a constant companion of mine for my lifetime here on earth.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned as a bereaved mother is that grief is not supposed to fade into the background of my life. My grief reflects my love for my daughter. I love her fiercely and without end. I suspect that my journey with grief will be the same. My grief from losing Adalyn is a by-product of the blessing of being her mother.
I don’t know how I’ll survive the next 5 years or even just the next year. I know I will because somehow life goes on. There will be good days and there will be hard days. There will be days that seem unbearable but, on those days, I will give myself grace and remember that grief is the price I am paying for love. I wouldn’t trade any of my time with Adalyn for a life spent not grieving. Adalyn was and is one of the greatest blessings of my lifetime. She is a part of who I am. She made me a mother, a better person, and a kinder soul.
Instead of waiting for my grief to subside, I will work on learning to accept it as a reflection of love for my daughter. When my gratitude falters to give way to my grief II will continue to seek God amongst my pain and sorrow, believing that he cries with me, and I’ll ask him for his grace. I’ll put one foot in front of the other and I will survive moment by moment.