A neighbor brought my attention to an article about a widow and her arduous path back to recovery from that loss. The widow wrote a self-help book, the title of which, as a bereaved mother, completely turned me off: "A to Z Healing Toolbox," by Susan Hannifin-MacNab. Part of the article described the book's content and what really got me was, "Have a plan. A, B, C, . . . " Don't get me wrong, I'm sure this book that's won awards is great for suffering widows. But my neighbor thinking we have so much in common, threw me for a loop.
My neighbor has admittedly never suffered bereavement of husband or child. She thought I might be supportive of the author and offer encouragement to her. She meant well, and I'm very fond of this neighbor. My way of thinking is, if she's recovered enough to write a self-help book, she wouldn't find it particularly timely "help." But there's a bigger reason I was turned off by my neighbor's suggestion. That is because I am prejudiced. After experiencing the loss of both (my beloved husband and children), at the same time, I passionately feel that losing my children was far, far more difficult to recover from. To me it's like comparing apples and, not oranges, but broccoli; the difference between widowhood and child bereavement being that vast a contrasting experience for me.
Child bereavement to me, was like being flattened completely out by a steamroller running over me. l felt as though I'd lost my very life. There was no more "me" anymore. My identity so wrapped up in being young Michael and Lisa's mother; when they died, it was as if I'd died, too. Down, down down, buried far below in the ground. How do I get up? Which way even, is up? Do I even want to get up? Why should I get up when my children are no longer here? What's the use? What's the point? They don't need me anymore! Or do they. . . are they crying for me and wondering, "Where's Mommy???"
Far from needing a toolbox of handy "A to Z" helpful suggestions, back then I just needed to get the desire to even breathe again. That took a long time. God provided helpful people that gently, ever so gently and kindly, encouraged me, prodded me to get up again and want to continue breathing. With help, I got out of the protective cocoon I'd been in, unable to take another memory-trigger slamming me back down. By allowing God's assurances that my children were happy and that I'd see them again sink in, feebly holding onto that wavering faith, I was able to withstand the years of being in a slugfest of daily pain that advanced and retreated depending on my strength to withstand the punches that came from out of nowhere. I didn't know back then, how to prepare for what I didn't know was going to happen to me!
Widowhood was tough, too, to be sure. But the main difference for me I think, is that I didn't feel as though I'd lost my very life when my husband died. Sadness and pain were there, triggers were there but the intensity of the loss was as different as night and day. I didn't have the horror of anguish, feeling as though I'd failed as a mother because I couldn't save Michael and Lisa from dying. There wasn't the inner turmoil and despondency that my children's lives were grossly, unjustly, unfairly shortened. All the consequent woulda, coulda shoulda's were infinitely more numerous and torment-laden in regard to being child bereaved compared to widowhood. There just is really no comparison, even though I deeply loved my college-sweetheart husband.
Appropriately, today's church sermon was about Jesus turning water into wine. The upside of severe suffering is that we have the potential after recovery, to become more sensitive to the slightest nuance of joyfulness. After undergoing child bereavement, we bereaved mothers can joyously look forward to Reunion, and restoration of our children; our very lives. Something as inconceivable in the beginning of our grief, as Someone turning water into wine. Soldier on! Donna