Losing my infant son was something I never expected could happen to my husband and I. Nine years later, I’ve come to realize our son has taught me some of the greatest lessons of life and love.
I have learned that your heart can break in a way that can never be repaired. I’ve learned that I will never be the person I was before losing my son. I am different now. I am a mom who will forever be missing one of her children. As I look at pictures from before knowing our first child, I see innocent smiles and a seemingly untouchable happiness. Life was about as perfect as it could be. Our lives changed in the blink of an eye and it has never been the same since. There is no going back to the people we were before our loss. I've come to a place nine years later where I no longer miss the person I used to be. I now see the world through a perspective I never knew existed until our son died.
I have experienced the beauty and heartfelt love that consumes you, and the bond that deepens immensely, when your friends gather around to support you during your darkest days. And, I’ve learned that your heart can literally swell with thankfulness and a love for those friends who have remained by your side all the days, weeks, months and years after. I’ve learned that, in the quiet moments when my mind takes me back to those days following my son’s death and his funeral, I can feel the pain like it was yesterday. And, at the same time, I also feel an indescribable connectedness to those friends who literally stood by my side making sure my basic needs were being met when I was too distraught to do it myself.
I have learned that when people say to me, “You are so strong,” that I sometimes want to yell and scream that I, too, want to be like them again. I want to be unaware of the sheer pain of losing a child. I want to go back to when I, too, believed that I could never survive the unimaginable. I’ve learned that people's intentions are good and coming from a loving place. They are simply acknowledging that they notice my ability to survive the greatest of losses, the loss of a child. I have learned from my son that I possess a strength far greater than I ever imagined possible. A strength that no one knows exists until your world crumbles before you and time stands still, yet the rest of the world continues moving. Time when you are forced to either move with it or be stuck in Neverland.
I’ve learned that it’s ok to feel whatever it is I feel at any given moment of any day. I’ve learned that I don’t have to apologize for the feelings I experience. Feelings, regardless of what they are, are all ok. I’ve learned the importance of advocating for my own needs. I’ve learned the importance of finding my voice.
I’ve learned that sometimes you withdraw from your closest family members because seeing their pain is too much for you to bear on top of your own pain. I’ve learned that, over time, those relationships can be drawn back together again and become even stronger than ever.
I’ve learned that love continues far beyond the grave. I’ve learned that I can choose to let my son’s death strengthen me or break me. I’ve learned that I can honor my child’s memory by living a life that honors and remembers him. I’ve learned that there is a unique strength that develops when you choose to move forward while carrying the loss with you every step of the way.
Janelle Demaree ~ Founder & President, Parker's Place Foundation