Before my daughter died- before she was gone from this life forever- I had never really experienced grief. That's not to say I had never lost anyone I loved: both sets of grandparents died, my aunt died too early from cancer, my "adopted" grandparents died. Losing Mia, though, that grief has been a hundred-fold harder. I've been astonished by it.
Before Mia died, I remember a common theme uttered by grieving people. A common thought is often that everyone else has moved on while they can't. I used to think this sounded legitimate and lonely, yet I'm ashamed to say that I might have believed this person needed to move on if they milked it a bit too long. It would make me uncomfortable. I really didn't know how deep grief could go. I had been fairly naive to the impact of a deep loss up until now. I am so sorry for that!
My inexperience with grief has caused me to wonder, Why does this hurt so much?? It even surprises me now to think that it took me about three months to even accept that Mia had died. I texted a friend that I just can't wrap my heart around it. Her death was unspeakable. Unimaginable.
Why does it hurt so much?
A good friend just explained it to me this way: "She was part of you, Ruth. A baby is an extension of her mother."
That statement explained so much of the hurt. I had to let go at a very unnatural time- at the closest point of my bond with Mia. I've had three conversations in the past couple weeks that illustrate the "Letting Go" of motherhood:
A friend who had decided to stop nursing her child reminded me of how difficult it is. When a mother is nursing her baby, she is the only one who can meet that need. She spends countless hours skin-to-skin with this precious one. Oxytocin rushes through mother and baby, bonding them together with mutual love. Her baby watches her every move, knowing from whom its life-giving food comes. When that stops, anyone can care for your child. A mother loses her exclusivity. Baby doesn't wake up as much at night to share those isolated feeding times. Through her tears, this friend helped remind me how difficult that separation is. She's had to let go of that close physical bond with her baby.
A few days later, another friend told me that her boys seem to be bonding more with their dad, her husband, lately. They aren't glued to her side anymore; they're also in school. She feels like she might have forever lost that influence a mother has over her young child. Although she's glad they gravitate towards her husband, she was hurt that they care more about what their father thinks than what she does. She's had to let go of her powerful influence over her children.
Another friend(who also lost her baby to SIDS) told me a similar, yet much different story. Her child died five years ago. Every birthday she had planned a loving celebration to remember him with her family. This year, a loved one told her very honestly that he didn't need to have a special party to remember their son anymore. When she told me this, my heart broke. I could imagine how much it must hurt to have to let go of that remaining remembrance of a child with her loved ones. We talked about having to cherish memories in our mothers' hearts, even when others don't take the time to talk about them. Years later, she has to let go of memorializing her child with her family in this way.
At some point, mothers need to let go of their close bond with their children. The bond changes; new ways of bonding occur. Children become more independent. Parents watch them grow, achieve, graduate, get married, have their own children. This process was meant to happen over years- a lifetime.
Mia was ripped away from me when she was closest to me. It hurts deeply. One of the most hurtful and raw feelings I have had was that of missing out on raising her. What if I finally get to see her again, and she's an adult? What if I never get back this time? Early on, that thought would send me into a near anxiety attack. Randy Alcorn, author of the book Heaven, says that we might be able to make up missed opportunities in Heaven. Will I be able to watch Mia grow up and develop?
I have no nice way to wrap up these thoughts on the loss of a child. It is so nice to hear people talk about Mia and validate the value of her life. A friend wrote me early on about her tender observations while holding Mia- her skin, one of her legs that wouldn't stay in her blanket. Those memories are so precious to me. I'm not ready to let go of her memories. I will always store them up and love her in my heart. Oh, I'm not saying I always have to be sad. But I can imagine a little bit of what the Bible means when it says in Luke 2:51 that Mary "treasured up all these things in her heart."
From the time a mother carries a life in her body, her bond with her child is deeply formed. It can hurt so much to let go at any stage. God gave Mary the strength to watch her son suffer a cruel death. He will give me the strength to let go while I still treasure up Mia in my heart.