For the second time in just a few short months, we’ve been drawn to our televisions by a tragedy too horrific to even fully grasp. Once more, we learn of the loss of a child, one who was only 8. And as I write this on Tuesday evening, a second fatality of the bombings in Boston has been identified, a young woman who was a child to her mother.
I’m an author and pretty good, really, at putting words together. I have thousands of readers now, which I mention here only to underscore my first statement. I’m pretty good at putting words together. And yet I don’t know if I can adequately convey to you what it is to lose a child.
For those of us who are mothers, we who carried our babies under our hearts for nine months, our baby remains our baby, in a very real if emotional sense, always.
It’s tragic when the victims of these senseless acts of violence are children, not yet even teens. But every life is precious, and every person lost was at one time a newborn babe held in his or her mother’s arms.
And every death, every life ended by violence of any kind, is the loss of someone’s baby.
It’s the hardest thing in the world to endure, the loss of a child. It’s unnatural. We’re not supposed to bury or children. And yet, some of us do.
When your child has died you miss him or her every day for the rest of your life. The raw and bleeding wound of loss does scar over, eventually. You can remember the good times without shattering into a million pieces, eventually.
But at first the grief and the pain are so immense you don’t know how you can manage to live through them. And yet you do live through them. The initial shock of having that knock at the door, of hearing that news, is very much like being stabbed in the heart. It is a sharp, jagged tear to your flesh, a burning, raging fire in your soul.
Almost immediately, there are details to be seen to, and ritual to be observed. Numbness descends and you find yourself going through the motions, taking that next step, doing that next thing. You have a list, and a schedule, and you don’t think, you just…do.
Sometimes those first few days and those rituals are like escaping into a bubble, where as long as you have something to do, the agony, and the reality, are held at bay. You can’t fall apart; you have to take care of your child.
It is the last thing you will ever be able to do for him or her.
Then of course comes that awful moment, when the ritual is over and you are left alone with your loss. You fall apart then, because you know that it’s over: the nine months of gestation, the pain and joy of delivery; the birthday cakes, and the report cards and the Christmas mornings.
They are gone, forever.
If you’re a person of faith then you do take comfort in the knowledge that death is not the end; you’ll see your child again, in God’s presence. And in time, the pain dulls, so that you can remember the good times and the bad, and fall apart less often. You can remember, and you can smile.
But the hole that is in your heart is never filled, and that sense that something is missing in your life is constant. And when you watch your television and hear of the loss of someone else’s baby, you ache for them.
Because you know, and in a sense that defies logic, for a space of time, you are them.