Thursday, September 8, 2011

Better? No, But Better

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.


  1. Mandy, your gift of expression is inspiring. Just today I was brought to tears talking about Joe's birthday right before Allyson was born. It has been 5 years for us and it is as hard as ever to grasp that he is gone. I know what you are talking about and those closest to us know as well. There is no recovery from outliving your child. Thank you for you vulnerability, your raw emotion, and the depth of your love...better is what we are moving toward. I love you.

  2. Time is a double-edged sword because to some extent it dulls the pain, but every day takes you further away from the place where you were together. At the begining every thought of Hudson was a shock and an unimaginable spasm of pain. Now as time has passed your body has absorbed her loss into every molecule of its fiber and her absence is no longer a shock but an unbearable ache that will be with you until your last breath. I am sorry this happened to Hudson, to you and Ed, to anyone.

    I can't comprehend your loss, but I will try to understand as best I can to bear witness. And, always, remember your sweet girl. Goodnight Moon is forever Hudson's book for me and I think of her bright spirit as I read it to my children and feel privileged I am able to do so.

    I am so glad Jackson has come to your life. Although he hasn't and never will heal you, he brought the act of mothering back to you, he brings Hudson's faces to you, and I hope he makes you laugh.

    Erica Marcoux

  3. "I know that a lot of people, whether they know me or not, expect me to be better now that Jackson is here".

    Mandy, I cannot imagine that anyone thinks or believes your words above. Of course we wish you never knew this "life sentence" and although Jackson brings you, Ed, family and friends much joy...there will always be the absence of our beloved Hudson. There is no getting over loss, but this loss in

    Here for you, if you need me...always with love, Renee P.

  4. Mandy, it doesn't ever get all better, but it does continue to get better (and yes, even in that better are awful weeks and days and moments). I think part of the getting better is that those weeks are more often days and moments and as you begin to get stronger and more practiced, you recover more quickly from those awful times. At least that is part of how it has gotten better for me. Sorry it's been a tough week. Hope tomorrow is, well, better.

  5. today , six years after the death of my dear friend's son , she wailed," how can this still be so hard?" i wish i could tell you it gets better...she has four other children , two born before and two born after his death. her arms are full of love and laughter, her heart is still empty.

  6. "I know that a lot of people, whether they know me or not, expect me to be better now that Jackson is here".

    I agree with the previous poster who quoted this back to you. I cannot fathom expecting that from anyone who has lost a child. Ever.


  7. I always wish it wern't this way, but how else could it be? It's impossible for there to ever be a time when a parent would be "finished" grieving the miracle of a child. It's cruel-- and, as always, I wish we could somehow bear some of the pain for you.

  8. You give me courage.

  9. Yes, some folks will expect you to be *better* now that you have Jackson. They just don't know. Healing is possible, but it takes a long time. I remember turning a corner six years afterwards. You're only at 16 months after Hudson's death. It's early days. Loss of a child isn't something you get over but something you learn to live with. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to learn, for sure. Don't worry about other people's expectations. You have enough on your plate. Hugs.

  10. Just by explaining better to that mother you did for her what Jess (who is very wise) did for you. What a gift...
    I for one would never, ever expect any mother to be 'better' after losing a child- regardless of subsequent or living children. Life just does not work that way. I just wish it were not a select few who truly understand this.

  11. You are a tremendous writer and (I have to assume) a tremendous person. I cannot fathom the depths of your pain, yet your constant and unwavering love for both of your children inspires me everyday.

    Thinking of you and sweet Hudson.

  12. I wish for more bright days than dark days for you, Mandy. I know the dark days will never leave you, but I pray that the sun keeps shining on you and that memories of that sweet baby girl Hudson warm your heart during your worst of times. I think of you often...and look at Hudson's and Jackson's pictures on my fridge daily and am reminded of our short, precious lives here on this earth.

    Thank you for always sharing, Mandy. Your words impact so many of us more than you could ever know. Love you much.

  13. Mandy,
    If you ever "got over" Hudson's death, that would worry people much more than not doing so. Of course your heart has a permanent crack in it. Your writing is so beautiful, your pain so palpable. I'm sorry.

  14. Mandy, if I ever host a conference for my family and friends called "How to Understand How I Feel", I'll invite you - no, beg you - to be my keynote speaker. You said this so beautifully, as always. I'm with you in those dark moments and am always wishing you lighter ones. Much love, Stacey

  15. You will never be the same and no one can expect you to will always be sad and it is ok cause you have every right to be and Hudson was such a special being..a child of God..even though you may not think this she was and is..

  16. Agree, no recovery. But I believe there is gradual acceptance of one's new reality which allows for the good days to start to outnumber the bad. Thanks for sharing, Mandy. Olivia

  17. Mandy,
    I don't think any of expect your Ed to be "better" just because a certain amount of time has elapsed, or Jackson is here, or for any other reason. We hope that, like Jess, you recognize that we're here to hold you when you need holding, laugh when you need to laugh, and listen when you need to speak. Those of us who love Hudson as much as we love you will ride this road together with you all,no matter where it leads you.

  18. While I can't imagine anyone *expecting* you to be better after Jackson was born, I confess to hoping with great fervor that his arrival would somehow make everything ok. Thank you so much for sharing your painful and raw truth so that we can get a little closer to understanding. Thank you for allowing us to try somehow to share your burden.