Becoming a parent involves loss. No matter how desired, welcomed, and anticipated the child is, loss is still part of the equation. Even more so when suddenly (read: unplanned) becoming parents to two children, one with a known trauma history and the other with a known history of neglect. For the past few months, I’ve been acknowledging my losses and my joys as I became a parent. Part of me feels angry that it’s taken me this long: 3 years to get to a point of looking at my life in a clear-headed way and seeing that I’m not living it the way I want to. I’m not a modeling a life I want my kids to have. Now part of that is my perfectionistic self, and so I’m working to see that modeling how to work through grief is actually imperative to my parenting; my children will need to learn how to work through their own losses. So here goes:
- I grieve the loss of knowing I won’t have another pregnancy. For so many reasons we are not adding to our family.
- I grieve knowing that I will never have a natural birth or an empowering one.
- I grieve for all of my children’s losses, more of which become apparent to me as I continue to know them deeper.
- I grieve for the family life I’d envisioned, the parenting I’d envisioned, both made so different by the force of prior neglect, trauma, and resulting triggers and attachment issues.
- I grieve the loss of sisterly relationship with my sister.
- I grieve feeling like a competent, reasonable, patient person (though hope to regain that one day!).
- I grieve my relationship with MrH. It’s changed. I know it’s normal. I know we’re deeper now. I still feel sad for some of the losses.
- I grieve the time I didn’t get to spend with Missy and Buddy when they were little. “If only…” I would have done so much more.
I don’t remember the studies, but research consistently shows (as far as I remember) that people with children are less happy than people without. I guess it’s attributed to the daily grind, the daily stress of living with them, providing, cleaning, teaching. At the same time, people with children feel more satisfied on a deep level than people without children. I guess that’s why we do it to begin with, right? I’m becoming better at holding both of those truths: the truth of my feelings of loss and my process of grief, and the truth of the deeply beautiful and transcending moments of my days. One does not negate the other. I know that I have gained a great deal and am (hopefully!) on the path to becoming more whole, more joyful, and more grace-filled. I know that God is bigger than any of these, and I know that He works all things for good. I know all that, and I can still sit at the beach and feel my eyes well up with sadness about Buddy’s neglect; can still walk with a pregnant friend and be overcome with such intense sadness that I want to vomit; can still talk with someone about how wonderful my children are while feeling so lonely it’s like someone is squeezing my heart dry; can still hold my sweet littlest one and be enraged by the unfairness of it all, the loss of it all.
I see the beauty and I feel the pain. And I’m moving closer and closer towards acceptance.
I’m not trying to have a pity party. I’m trying to normalize people talking about grief, about loss, about the hard feelings. Too often we say “oh yes, isn’t it wonderful?” when we really mean “I’m having intense feelings of grief right now and need a few minutes.” So to all of us who have suffered loss for any reason I say: take those few minutes, weeks, months, years. Take the time to digest the losses, to grieve, and to reach a place of authentic wholeness. And trust that in the process, we are teaching others to do the same.