It’s been a very difficult week. No particular reason why, but as I know so well, there doesn’t need to be one.
I went to a new support group on Tuesday night, one that Children’s Hospital has begun for parents whose children died there. There were only two other families there, and one was a young couple whose 13-month-old son died suddenly in June from an undiagnosed bronchial pneumonia. As I sat and listened to this mother tell her story and share how she was feeling, I remembered feeling exactly the same way this time a year ago, almost four months out from Hudson’s death. In fact, much of what she is feeling I still feel on a regular basis.
When it was my turn to introduce myself, I shared what happened to Hudson and then turned to this couple in tears, saying, “I want to be able to tell you that a year from now, you will be better. But you won’t. It is still very, very hard.” I felt awful saying it, but at that moment, after the week I’ve had and after hearing the raw emotions in this mother’s voice that still echo so very much of what I deal with every day, in that moment, that was my truth.
I know that the people who love me want to see me get better. It is so hard to see the people you love in this kind of pain. I know that a lot of people, whether they know me or not, expect me to be better now that Jackson is here. I truly understand these impulses, because I feel them myself. Not a day goes by that I don’t still feel like posting something heartbreaking here—something that set me off that day, how much I’m still hurting, how desperately I long for my child during nearly every waking moment. But I refrain. Because I want so much not to be in that place anymore. I am so very weary of this grief, so bored with it. I want to just tell it, “Enough, already! Leave me alone!” But it doesn’t. It won’t.
As the support group went on, and we had the opportunity to talk more, I told this young mom that I had to revise my statement from before. See, there are two types of “better.” There’s “better” as in “I was sick and now I am better.” This is an absolute “better,” an antonym of “bad” or “ill” or “unwell.” This is the kind of “better” that I will never be. I will never, ever get over Hudson’s death. It will never, ever be behind me. I will never recover from it. The fact of her death and the grief and the longing and the sadness will always be with me.
Then there’s “better” as in “Yesterday, I couldn’t even get out of bed, but today I am better than yesterday and was able to move around a little.” This is a relative “better,” an antonym of “worse.” This is the kind of “better” that I am now, almost sixteen months since Hudson’s death (again, I can barely comprehend that we are approaching the date when she’ll have been gone longer than she was here—impossible). I can read my posts from last August, when I was at the same point as this mother is now and I can see that I am better than I was then. I can read those posts and I can still touch those especially raw places inside, but I can also feel the scar tissue that is forming on their edges. Time will never heal this wound. But time will keep softening the edges, scabbing over the rawest places. And of course, my precious little boy is giving time a great deal of help in this process, too. But the rawness is always there, just waiting for the right trigger to open up and bleed. Living on the edge of that every day, sometimes trying in vain to bite your lip and power through those moments, is exhausting.
One of the best things that my dear Jess said to me in the wake of Hudson’s death was that she would always be here for me, that I could always talk with her about the darkest moments and days, that she understood that I would never get over this and that she would never expect me to. If you know someone who has lost a child, please understand that this is the very best gift that you can give them. Let them know that you understand that they will never come back from this, that you will be there for them to grieve with them on the darkest days, and that while you will celebrate with them on the lighter days, you understand that every celebration comes with its own sadness, because their children are not there to share it with them. There is truly nothing better you can offer.
I am not better. But I am better than I was. Which is all I can ask for.