The Pain and the Pretending

I don’t talk about my dead son for sympathy votes or for attention. I don’t talk about him to make you feel awkward. I want to talk about my son because he was, and always will be, my son. Parents typically love talking about their kids. That doesn’t change just because they go up to heaven. What’s worse is when people try to pretend that my son never lived or died. They don’t ask any questions, they glaze over any mention of him and move onto the next topic. I don’t expect people to understand how this makes me feel but oh how I wish they did.

The people who ask me about Josh, about our story, about how we’ve been coping, they don’t realize what they give me when they do that. They give my son’s life significance and value. They are acknowledging the trauma and anguish we experienced and realizing that all of that doesn’t just go away with time or with a new baby on the way. They are reassuring me that my son, who was alive for such a short time, will never be forgotten.

Everyone grieves differently and copes differently, but I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who wouldn’t happily offer up memories of the one they loved that died. to someone who asked. Sure, we may not want to relive the most traumatic parts of our story all of the time, but I jump at the chance to share Joshua’s journey, his fighting spirit and his handsome good looks with anyone who is willing to listen.

The fact is, only one year and three months since Josh has passed, and rarely does much time go by without me thinking of him. I may be shooting the breeze at work or on a play date with friends and Josh is still always forefront on my mind. Joshua feels like an invisible part of me, that I wish so badly people could see and feel.

Our society loves to give platitudes for grievers, to diminish grief and to wrap every tragic story up in a happy ending bow. We love hearing the triumphs that come out of tragedy, but often what people don’t realize is that even though something amazing can bloom out of something horrific, it doesn’t take away the pain. Even if I give birth to a healthy baby in a few months, it doesn’t negate the longing I will always feel for the son that I never got to raise. They don’t see the incredibly long and arduous journey that we’ve had to live through and continue to live through to get to a “better place”. The world likes to pretend that strength can be found without moments of weakness or that courage can be cultivated without facing terrifying times. But the road to triumph, to courage, to deeper faith and empathy for others, is often wrought with pain we never thought possible to endure and permanent scars we carry throughout life. Let’s not ignore the depth of someone’s pain filled journey, just to find the rainbow at the end of their story.



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