“Don’t worry! I’m sure it will be okay.”
After a child death experience like ours, it’s difficult if not nearly impossible at times, to push aside fear and worry. I have spurts of excitement about the future mingled with moments, days, and sometimes weeks of worry, doubt, fear, and questioning.
I worry about life, death, accidents, illness, missed signs; every sniffle, tummy ache, headache, snuggle goodnight, kiss good morning, doctor’s appointment, ultrasound, and step out the front door. I never know exactly what the future will hold, but I do know that if my fears were to become reality I’m quite certain I would break.
Even scarier is that part of me knows the breaking would be a choice.
A choice that would come from that same place of fear, doubt, and worry. It would stem from the place where my faith, hope, and excitement was shattered again. I would go there because broken would be the only thing that made sense.
Here is what others need to understand.
When you watch your child die, worry is a natural byproduct. When you make arrangements for your child’s funeral, comb through pictures of a little life that has ended, smell shoes that still hold his stink, place socks gently in your nightstand that still hold his chubby foot outline, and wrap yourself in his blanket one last time before wrapping his cold mortality in it, fear and worry become more a part of your life than ever before.
It’s not a lack of faith. It’s not a lack of appreciation for life, hope, joy, and happiness. Worry is part of heartache, part of grief. It is the cost of love. It is not fixed with statements of “Have faith!” or “Don’t worry, it will all work out!” or “I’m sure it will be okay.” or “Remember, everything happens for a reason.”.
Those cliches don’t work because we know. We grieving parents know the truth. Do not doubt our gut instincts. Do not question our concern. When I express my fears and hear this in return, I instinctively want to respond, “The last time I listened to those reassurances, I wound up burying my son. Can you guarantee my concerns are a lack of faith now?”.
Worry is not present only in the absence of faith. Faith is what gets us through when things go sideways. It is what has kept me from staying curled up in a deep, dark pit for the last 22 months. It does not eliminate the worry I have for my family, for their health and well-being. I just need to be mindful that the worry doesn’t consume me. So, I need to let it out. To discuss it, to write about it. Not for reassurance that it will be okay, but so I don’t drown in it’s depths.
If you hear the fears of a grieving parent and feel the need to respond, know that you can’t fix it. You can acknowledge that you’d likely feel the same if you were in our place (which we would never wish on anyone). You can acknowledge that you can only imagine our hurt. Or, you can simply give us a hug, a smile, a nod, or anything that let’s us know you aren’t afraid of us and who grief is molding us into. I know the deepest ache, the deepest pain that can be felt in life and that changes a person.
And I worry.