People warned me that life in this new category of “still motherhood” would bring about some of the worst things. One thing I heard continuously was that people would say the most atrocious things to me as it pertains to my son or our reality as a forever incomplete family now. It’s been a little over 9 months since I gave birth to Adam and I will admit I have heard some pretty dumb and insensitive things. People not thinking before they speak and thinking they have the perfect words to console me when they fall disastrously short has become a common trend. Yes, there were some looks of “what the hell?” during those moments but for the most part I let them roll off my shoulder. After all, another thing people continuously told me was that everyone will try to understand but no one has any idea what you are going through except for someone who has actually been through the exact same thing, so they really just don’t get it.
Well, I have encountered some feedback that is what everyone said it would be, atrocious. It is eating away at my happiness and filling me with an anger that is consuming my thoughts. The “feedback” which were some awful thoughts on the way my family remembers my son was posed to my husband. So initially I wanted to freak out on this woman. Then I thought I would remain respectively quiet -that respect being for myself, not the woman with the opinions. But now that it has been a few days and I still find my mind caught in some hateful battle and I am seeing how negatively these thoughts affect my interactions with my family, I have to speak up about it.
So here ensues my first ever “Open Letter.”
An Open Letter to the Woman Who Doesn’t Know Anything About Baby-Loss:
I have tried to push your words out of my head. I have bit my tongue at your thoughtlessness and selfishness time and time again. I have looked the other way when I feel irritated by the things that come out of your mouth. But I can’t do that this time. When you told my husband to stop taking our children (his biological, my “step”) to the cemetery to visit their little brother because it was bad for their mental health, and when you said that visiting on memorial day or his birthday was understandable but that the rest needed to stop, and when you called us selfish parents for “not thinking about the kids” you basically asked for this.
When did how we remember our son become your business? When did offering your thoughtless opinion on our visits to the cemetery become acceptable to you? Where in your mind did you find that it was okay to tell a grieving father, mother, and brother and sister exactly how to grieve a loss that you know NOTHING about? I truly can’t fathom how these thoughts came into your mind and out of your mouth thinking, “yes this is a good idea. Yes, I am qualified to share these thoughts.”
I know my husband already told you to mind your own business but you didn’t get it. Adam is our children’s little brother. Documenting our time at the cemetery with him is in no way unhealthy or traumatic to the kids. It is how we, as a family, remember him and is always a positive visit. Our photos and time spent there is something you also know absolutely nothing about. So, let me tell you about our cemetery visits. We go to the cemetery (the kids have ZERO problem with this and actually enjoy it) we get out of the car, go to Adam’s headstone. I clean it off as well as the decorations while my oldest child, Doodle, makes her usual observations about how nice it looks to which I positively respond. Then her little brother (the living one) greets his little brother with some variation of “Hi, Adam.” Then they go and look at all of the other babies and tell them hi. They play in the grass in the baby section, which I love. Because if you stopped to think about it, which you haven’t, how those babies who are looking down from heaven must love that! Having other children laugh and giggle and tag one another while running around in their resting place is the most perfect visit to the cemetery in my mind. We used to read stories, in which case Doodle would read the story to practice her reading skills and Bub listens happily asking a million questions about the story. Then I tell Adam I love him and how handsome his headstone looks and I walk back to the car. Doodle and Bub say their own personal sign of affection to him, unprompted by me I have to add, and they walk to the car. Generally as we pull out of the cemetery gates they turn around and say goodbye to their brother again and tell him “sweet dreams.”
Because of what life has handed ALL of us my children have gotten comfortable with asking questions about heaven and death. This is good thing because they will deal with a lot of death in their lives. But Bub getting excited to take a picture at a headstone, no matter if the headstone is Adam’s or a great-great grandparent is not an issue. It isn’t bad for his mental health. Never in our visits to their little brother do I (nor my husband) feel that our children’s mental health is at risk. And if we did, we would rethink our approach to remembering Adam. And that is key. WE would rethink OUR approach. This reality our family of 5 now is a part of is just that: ours. You, while clearly a part of our life in some way, are not a part of this part of it. How we decide, as parents, to deal with the death of Adam and how we feel is appropriate to remember him with our kids will not be moderated by you. There is no place for your opinion when it comes to remembering our son. You don’t know how it feels. You don’t know the first thing about it or about life after losing a child.
I don’t mean to be rude, but I do mean to be blunt: Where it concerns the cemetery, Adam, or taking pictures we do not need your input. We are perfectly fine with how our children have dealt with and accepted Adam’s loss and how they have a healthy understanding of death and heaven as a result of that.
Obviously, we wish that at 6 and 3 they didn’t have to deal with burying a sibling, but they have. So we move forward from there, because that is where they are. We will visit the cemetery, we will take pictures with his grave, we will do whatever in the hell we feel is healthy and adequately remembers our son/little brother because this is ours, he is ours. None of this is yours so keep your extremely small minded opinions to yourself.
We are doing a great job of life after Adam without your thoughts on the matter.
A really pissed off “still mom”