Parenting After Loss: Life, Love, and Family

By |2018-12-18T21:48:38+00:00December 18th, 2018|Parenting After Loss|0 Comments

My rainbow is nearly three. He is developing so much and it is a joy to parent him even with the boundary testing that marks this age. As he grows, he is starting to understand – or at least parrot back – more about his brother who died. This has brought me tears, heightened intensity, and moments of enormous pride.

My husband and I have talked a lot the past few years about how Obie (our son who died) will be talked about and included in our lives, but the rubber really meets the road now that our surviving children are starting to truly “get it.” The urge to shield them from anything sad or scary is strong, and it made me reexamine our plan.

When it comes down to it, what do I want to teach my living children about life, love, and family?

Life:

It does not last forever. It is precious, and we should protect it. It is an opportunity, and we should seize it. It is true, and it cannot be erased.

The fact that my baby died does not mean he did not live. He lived, and that fact changed my life forever. As much as I wanted to trade my life for my child’s, it was not an option. My life is the only one I will have, and it is my only chance to protect others, to experience joy, and to share my memories.

As this is true for my child who died, it is true for my children who live. Their lives are precious, and I will do my best to protect them. Their lives are opportunity, and I will help them seize it. Their lives are happening, and when they die it will not erase what came before or the impact they will have on what comes after.

Love: 

It lasts longer than life. It is precious, and we should protect it. It is an opportunity, and we should seize it. It is true, and it cannot be erased.

When a life has ended, love remains. Love is one of the core emotions that makes loss so hard. We have all this love building up and the person we wanted to shower with love isn’t here. Where to put that love is a journey that never truly ends. The love for my son comes out in the ways I talk about him, the ways I support others dealing with loss, and the simple ways I get through the day.

As this is true for my child who died, it is true for my children who live. My love for them is precious, and I will protect it and give it room to grow. My love is an opportunity to demonstrate what love looks like – for the living and the dead. My love for them all is true, and as the years go by it cannot be erased.

Family*: 

It can last even longer than love. It is precious, and we should protect it. It is an opportunity, and we should seize it. It is true, and it cannot be erased.

I am the only mother my son had. And for now, I am the only mother my living children have. They can’t get their mothering from anyone else, so it’s up to me to do the best I can. The best I can doesn’t mean perfection, and it doesn’t mean I run myself ragged trying to live up to some external ideal, but it does mean I keep perspective. My children deserve a special relationship with their mom, and it’s my responsibility to try to sustain it. Families can be complicated, it’s true. But family, to us, is forever.

As this is true for my child who died, it is true for my children who live. Family is precious, and death does not sever the family bonds. Family is an opportunity to have a loving, supportive community and I will do everything in my power to create that for my kids. Family is true, no matter what, I am their mom.

Nothing can change that, no future family state can erase that parent-child relationship. No new bonds that form, no family status changes. These things may happen, but this relationship will remain. When I am dust and memories, the history will still have happened. I mothered them.

 

*Family to me means more than blood, marriage, or legal relations. Your family is your village, whoever they are.

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About the Author:

Elizabeth Thoma
Elizabeth Thoma lives in the Bay Area, California, with her husband, Chris, and two cats, JJ and Pepper. She found out she was expecting their first child Mother’s Day weekend, 2014. With mild symptoms and no significant early warning signs, they adjusted to pregnancy and eagerly planned for their growing family. At the second trimester anatomy scan, they found out they were having a son and that he had an abdominal wall defect, an omphalocele. Ever the planners, Elizabeth and Chris prepared themselves and their families for what the omphalocele meant in a best-case scenario, and some of the possibilities that couldn’t be diagnosed in utero. Their son, Oberon, was born six weeks early and had his omphalocele surgery within his first twelve hours of life. The surgery went well, but Obie was having trouble breathing. At first, the doctors thought it was related to his large tongue, one of the many indicators that he had Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome. When Obie was one week old, the doctors told Chris and Elizabeth that somewhere along the line, Obie’s brain stopped developing. While they could control his seizures somewhat with heavy medication, Obie’s brain would never develop and he would not be able to walk, talk, or even communicate. At this point, they decided to switch Obie to comfort care and try to take him home from the NICU. They successfully broke out of the NICU and Obie rode home in an ambulance. Bringing their son home brought much comfort to their family. Obie passed away at home in his daddy’s arms at 33 days old. Elizabeth found out she was pregnant with their second child a week after Mother’s Day, 2015. Her second son, Everett, was born January 7, 2016. Elizabeth and Chris blog at about their family at Our Little Beastie.

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