Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Grieving Mother's Manifesto

These yellow butterflies are in honor
of Alec and Asher... I will never forget you darling boys.

I am a mother. I am a bereaved mother. My child died, and this is my reluctant path. It is not a path of my choice, but it is a path I must walk mindfully and with intention. It is a journey through the darkest night of my soul and it will take time to wind through the places that scare me. 
Every cell in my body aches and longs to be with my beloved child. On days when grief is loud, I may be impatient, distracted, frustrated, and unfocused. I may get angry more easily, or I may seem hopeless. I will shed many, many, many tears. I won’t smile as often as my old self. Smiling hurts now. Most everything hurts some days, even breathing.
But please, just sit beside me. 
Say nothing. 
Do not offer a cure.
Or a pill, or a word, or a potion.
Witness my suffering and don't turn away from me.
Please be gentle with me.
And I will try to be gentle with me too.
I will not ever "get over" my child's death so please don’t urge me down that path. 
Even on days when grief is quiescent, when it isn't standing loudly in the foreground, even on days when I am even able to smile again, the pain is just beneath the surface. 
There are day when I still feel paralyzed. My chest feels the sinking weight of your absence and, sometimes, I feel as if I will explode from the grief. 
Losing my child affects me in so many ways: as a woman, a mother, a human being. It affects every aspect of me: spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are days when I barely recognize myself in the mirror anymore.
Grief is as personal to me as my fingerprint. Don't tell me how I should or shouldn’t be grieving or that I should or shouldn’t “feel better by now.” Don't tell me what's right or wrong. I'm doing it my way, in my time. If I am to survive this, I must do what is best for me.
My understanding of life will change and a different meaning of life will slowly evolve. What I knew to be true or absolute or real or fair about the world has been challenged so I'm finding my way, moment-to-moment in this new place. Things that once seemed important to me are barely thoughts any longer. I notice life's suffering more- hungry children, the homeless and the destitute, a mother’s harsh voice toward her young child- or an elderly person struggling with the door. There are so many things about the world which I now struggle to understand: Why do children die? There are some questions, I've learned, which are simply unanswerable.
So please don’t tell me that “ God has a plan ” for me. This, my friend, is between me and my God. Those platitudes slip far too easily from the mouths of those who tuck their own child into a safe, warm bed at night: Can you begin to imagine your own child, flesh of your flesh, lying lifeless in a casket, when “goodbye” means you’ll never see them on this Earth again? Grieving mothers- and fathers- and grandparents- and siblings won’t wake up one day with everything ’okay’ and life back to normal. I have a new normal now.
As time passes, I may gain gifts, and treasures, and insights but anything gained was too high a cost when compared to what was lost. Perhaps, one day, when I am very, very old, I will say that time has truly helped to heal my broken heart. But always remember that not a second of any minute of any hour of any day passes when I am not aware of the presence of my child's absence, no matter how many years lurk over my shoulder.
So this year, on Mother’s Day, don’t forget that I have another one, another child, whose absence, like the sky, is spread over everything as C.S. Lewis said.
Don’t forget to say, “How are you really feeling this Mother’s Day?” Don’t forget that even if I have living children, my heart still aches for the one who is not here —for I am never quite complete without my child. 
My child may have died; but my love - and my motherhood - never will.


Tina said...

This is so beautifully written and I feel so much of what you have said here. My life is different since losing my girls, I am different, I look at everything differently now and handle things differently. I will always feel incomplete without all of my children here with me. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post! xx

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you for reading. I am so sorry.

apegenti said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. You have expressed in words what i have been holding in my heart and mind for 5 years. I have not been able to relay these sentiments to my family and friends and I deeply appreciate everything you have done and continue to do for all of our grieving families.
April (AZ)

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you April for reading and for sharing a bit of your own heart.

Heather said...


Although I am so, so, inexplainably grateful for my living child, and my mother, "Mother's Day" has taken on new meaning for me. Having recently been told I should move one after the 1 year anniversary of my twins' births and deaths, I can totally and completely relate to this. Thank you so much for sharing, and I may pass it on, giving credit where credit is due, of course, to those who need to hear how I am feeling, as I can never seem to find the right words.
Wishing you peace this coming Sunday.

Unknown said...

Dr. Jo,

I am always in awe of how you can get the feelings so many of us are feeling out in your words. Thinking of you, my friend, on this Mother's Day...and remembering Chey and Casey, the beautiful much loved babies gone too soon who brought us together.

Rhonda (KS)

Unknown said...

Thank you for expressing what is so difficult, when in the throws of grief. You have written beautifully what I have thought in my mind and felt in my heart for years. May every family who has lost a member find Peace within their hearts, and know that they have angels watching over them. Love and Light.

Beth said...

How perfectly and beautifully written. I wish I had this last year to give to several of my friends who still questioned when I would "get over my grieving stage". Thanks for being the amazing woman you are. ALL of your children are blessed to have you as a Mother, including your Chey...Jayden's Mommy (TN)

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you so much for posting and sharing your hearts sister-friends. We share a pain, an experience that transcends this world. We are inextricably linked and we share the secret.

I hold you and all your children in my hearts...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing so well . . . it cuts to the core of so many mom's hearts, including mine. I've also lost a stillborn daughter & a 16 year old son, and no, we never get over this. There will always be a blank space on my Mother's Day card where there should be two more signatures . . .

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Writingcanvas. I am so very sorry for the loss of both your precious children...

lforster said...

I've been grouchy and on edge for days. The reason didn't dawn on me until yesterday...The missing signature. Every word in this post resonated with me. Thank you.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

You have permission to be grouchy. Indeed.

Sarah Bain said...

Yes, love. Yes. Only you and you alone can say it so well. Indeed. And still. Still. Weeping. Longing. Wanting. Being.

CLC said...

Beautiful post. I feel like you spoke the thoughts in my head, albeit much more eloquently. Thanks for sharing.

Sweet Cadeaux said...

Dr. Jo, what portion of that was a quote from C.S. Lewis? (love it, by the way!)

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Dear Sarah,
Thank you for reading!

This is Lewis:

"her absence (his wife), like the sky, is spread over everything"

Holly said...

Such a good post. It really resonates.

Unknown said...

I just lost my 18 year old son 2 weeks ago. This helped me put my feelings into words. There are additional emotions that I am having trouble trying to express, but will one day be able to share.

Peggy said...

Dr. Jo,

Thank you for posting this. As I sat here and read it, all I could do was nod my head and say yes, yes YES!

How do you tell people how this journey feels, smells, tastes, sounds and lives, if you can't articulate your own self.

It has only...(I say only, but it feels like forever has passed, then no time at all has passed)...been 3 months, 2 weeks, 3 days since we lost our sweet baby boy, Michael, 'Monkey Toes', to that faceless for of Death, we call SIDS/SUID. Some of my days are spent, trying to remember to breathe.

People tell me, or my family, that we shouldn't let this consume us. That we need to move on. That Mickey wouldn't want us to be sad.

How can you tell them that which they ask, is very impossible?

Again, Thank you!

mother to Michael
MISSing you, Monkey Toes!

Unknown said...

I feel like screaming because I could not got those words out of my mouth. I just lost my son that i've been wanting for so long. I feel like i'm in a fog right now that won't clear up ever. Thank you so much for all our grieving words un-spoken.


Unknown said...

I am sorry for your loss, I also lost my son. I loved your poem for Mothers said it all! Its been a long hard road that I can't explain to anyone. I can't even understand what has happened to me.May God bless all the mothers who have experianced the loss of a child.

I would like to post your poem on my sons memorial, with your name as the author if thats ok?

God bless

Rachel Lewis said...

Thank you for this. I've been reading many of your posts, as they are about the only thing giving me some comfort the last few days. We lost our baby Olivia to ruptured ectopic pregnancy 10 months ago. 4 weeks ago, my grandmother unexpectedly died from a massive heart attack. And least week, I lost our 3rd child to miscarriage. I feel numb, and my soul is full of pain, all at the same time. I thought I was through the worst of grief, only to be back in this wretched place once again. Thank you for writing.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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